There are some key factors that will influence the method of CD printing you choose. These key factors are:
How many CDs will you need to be printed?
What purpose is the product intended for?
Are you able to afford the project’s budget?
What kind of artwork are you planning to put on the discs? Are you looking for photographic images or block colors?
These factors will help you decide which CD printing process is best for your project.
Let’s look at each process individually and discuss its pros and cons.
Digital CD Printing
The CD printing process uses a printer that works in the same way as an inkjet printer, which is something that most home users are familiar with. Many home printers are equipped with a CD tray that can be used with pre-manufactured CDRs having a printable surface. An inkjet printer designed for printing CDs will be used by a company that prints CDs professionally. These printers are equipped with an automatic loading mechanism that allows for unattended printing of up to 200 CDs. The printer loads the discs that have not been printed and then unloads them onto spindles.
These printers are slow, but they don’t have any fixed setup costs. Digital CD printing is possible with one of these printers. This is acceptable if you order less than 100 discs or 200 discs if there is an imminent deadline.
The inkjet printer is capable of printing CDs with professional looks. To protect the printed surface, a layer must be applied of clear lacquer to the discs. This will prevent moisture from coming in contact with the ink by allowing it to dry between handling and exposure to damp environments. This will increase the project’s time. There are printable discs that have a unique surface that is water-resistant. However, they are more costly than regular printable discs. This decision must be made based on the urgency of your project.
CD Screen Printing
For artworks that have large areas of color, CD Screen printing is the best option. A rotating bed with five stations that can apply different colors of ink to the screen allows for screen printing. The base color can be applied to the entire disc area. This allows for a maximum of six different colors in a screen-printed CD design.
The ink used for the CD screen printing process has UV sensitivities. As each color is applied at a station, the disc rotates under a UV lamp until it reaches the next station. The ink is cured by the UV lamp and only takes a few seconds.
Screen printing uses excellent mesh screens, as the name implies. Each color of the artwork is assigned a separate screen. A film is made that has areas of ink not allowed being applied to the disc. An initial coating of the new screen with a thermal adhesive is applied. The screen and film are placed on top of one another using guide marks. The screen is exposed to bright, hot light, and the thermal emulsion is cured. The screen is then rinsed with water, and any remaining emulsion can be washed away.
Once the screen has been fixed, it can be moved to its final position. After all, screens are prepared, printing can start. An automated robotic arm system loads the CDs onto the machine. The CDs are then placed on a plate that holds the disc in place. Each station adds ink to the mesh screen. A rubber squeegee blade is used to press the mesh onto the disc’s surface. This forces the ink through the fine holes in the mesh and onto the disc’s surface. Each station applies ink simultaneously to one disc after the first five discs have been inked. Screen printing machines can print over 3500 discs per hour, so large orders can be done quickly.
However, there are high fixed setup costs for films and screens. You can reduce these costs by printing the artwork in fewer colors. A single color print on a silver disc is the most economical print. This CD printing process is not feasible for orders exceeding 100 discs due to the fixed costs.
Because of the fine mesh screens used, CD screen printing can produce unique CD prints at high resolution. However, it is not recommended for printing photographs because of the subtle color gradients. The screen printing process is unique because of the availability of fluorescent and metallic inks that can add an extra WOW factor to your CD prints.
Printing CDs using Lithographic (Offset),
The lithographic printing process is quite different than the screen printing process. Both printing machines are set up differently. The advantage of lithography is that water and printing ink does not mix as well as oil and water.
The artwork image is printed on a lithographic CD-printing plate with a laser. The surface of the printing plate is rough and has been pre-coated using a thermally reactive oil.
To remove the thermal emulsion from printing plates, the printing plates are treated with chemicals. After the printing plate is prepared, the artwork area is inked receptive to water repellent. The CD printing plate areas that aren’t to be printed attract ink but not water. The plates are then attached to a rotating cylinder using the lithographic printer.
Each rotation of the printing plate involves a set of rollers that apply water to it. The water attracts to the rough surface where ink cannot be applied.
The ink is then added to the printing plate by passing it over the rollers. The ink attracts to the surface of the printing plate. The ink is picked up by a rubber blanket wrapped around the cylinder. The CD artwork is transferred to the rubber blanket cylinder and then placed on the metal platen. This process is fast, with many parts happening simultaneously and multiple discs being printed together.
As for screen printing, the ink is UV-sensitive so that it can cure immediately when exposed to UV light.
Because it can print areas with subtle color gradients, lithographic printing is ideal for printing photographs. However, it is not ideal for printing large areas of solid color as there may be ink coverage discrepancies that can cause a “patchy” print on the CD.
Like CD screen printing, lithographic print has a fixed setup fee regardless of the number of colors used. Print runs of 100 or more are economically feasible. The lower the unit cost, the more discs printed.
Check out these CD Printing Artwork Tips
It is essential that you present your supplier with a high-resolution image. The higher quality of the final product, the better. You should ensure that all images, including photographic images, remain in their original format. It is not enough to convert a 100dpi low-resolution image into a 300dpi file template. You will not be pleased with the final result if you print the original image poorly.
Before you start printing the final production run, test prints your dark images to ensure that they print well. The supplier should have a Pantone code for each color in the artwork if the image is going to be screen printed. This will ensure that the print looks exactly as you expect. If you have an existing printed disc and are interested in a reprint, you can ask your supplier for color matching. This service is offered by most suppliers and will ensure that your product matches previous projects.
The following information is summarized based on the intended use of your CDs.
Digital printing is the best and most economical method of printing CDs if you need to print a small number of discs. Digital printing is an excellent option for those who don’t want to compromise on print quality, but it also comes with no set-up fees.
Lithographic printing is best if your image is printed from a photo.
Screen printing is the best CD printing method if your image has more than one solid color area. Screen printing is also required for metallic and fluorescent artwork.