Using an inkjet printer or inkjet disc printer to label CD, DVD or Blu-ray discs can be a convenient and economical way to produce full-color, photo-quality disc labels. There are manual inkjet printers capable of printing on discs currently available for as little as 100 dollars. Usually, they come with a full ink cartridge, so consumers can start turning out high-quality color prints for a fairly small initial investment.
However, a rude awakening may take place when that first ink cartridge runs out. This can happen pretty quickly as these cartridges usually hold a very small amount of ink, usually less than 10 milliliters of each color. Consumer models of inkjet printers generally yield between 300 and 600 pages before one color in their ink cartridge runs out and the whole cartridge must be replaced. This will happen more quickly if you tend to use a lot of one color on a regular basis, or if you do a large project where you print several versions of the same image—like a disc label—which tends to draw down specific colors faster than others.
There are cost-cutting generic brands and services which will refill a spent cartridge for less than the cost of a replacement. But there is no guarantee these options will provide the same quality prints or have the same yield as the specified cartridges. In addition, using one of these options could void your printer warranty.
Some manufacturers offer printers which use separate black and color cartridges, or printers that use individual cartridges for each individual color in the printer’s color system. It is generally less expensive to replace these cartridges as needed than it is to purchase a cartridge that contains all the colors in a printer’s color system when one color runs out.
Still, the convenience of individual cartridges is limited by their size and capacity. Their size is limited by printer design and function. In a consumer-sized printer, the ink tanks are often positioned directly on the same carriage as the printheads, so they have to be relatively small. Larger tanks would slow down the carriage and force the printer to have a larger footprint.
The most convenient and economical solution is a continuous ink system. Continuous ink systems can deliver a substantial volume of liquid ink to a comparatively small inkjet printhead. These systems have separate inkwells for each individual ink color used by the printer’s color system, and each inkwell can be refilled separately as needed. These inkwells can even be refilled without interrupting a job in progress.
For added convenience and savings, the inkwells in a continuous ink system have a greater capacity than most ink cartridges. The Aleratec RoboJet Disc Autoprinter with Continuous Ink System yields as many as 1,800 photo-quality prints before any refills are required. (Actual yields when printing on optical discs will vary and are also dependent on usage and print patterns.)
Because of their size, inkwells in continuous ink systems cannot be positioned on the same carriage as the printhead, and are positioned on the side of the printer housing instead.
Industrial grade printers have used these continuous ink systems for some time, but manufacturers have resisted making them available in consumer printers because they make high-profit cartridges obsolete.
There are continuous ink systems that can be purchased separately and installed to your inkjet printer. These options can be messy, time-consuming to install and will typically void your printer’s warranty. Also, you may not enjoy the same print quality that is achievable when using the inks specified for your printer.
If you are considering a continuous ink system because you want to cut the cost of high-volume printing, be aware that not all inkjet printers have printheads designed to handle high volumes. You may find the savings from a continuous ink system compensate for the expense of having to replace your printer or printhead, but be prepared to invest some time reinstalling your ink system.
To guarantee economical, high-quality disc printing, you need an inkjet disc printer with the continuous ink system built-in. These systems are designed to produce superior print quality and require no installation.