Automated Disc Printers
Automated disc printers-also known as autoprinters-can automatically load and print on CD, DVD and Blu-ray discs without human interaction. Most autoprinters are a combination of a disc printer with a robotic loading mechanism. They are responsible for creating the visual presentation of the disc without the intervention of a user or the need for outsourcing. These disc devices are a print-only operation; no burner drives are present in comparison with publisher and duplicator counterparts.
Consumer versions can be built small enough to fit on a desktop and have the capacity to handle short-run volumes at a disc input of approximately 50 to 300 pieces per run. More professional autoprinters will need more space to operate-they can take up a few square feet, weigh more than 100 pounds and operate at a disc input of 300 to more than 1,000 discs per session.
Print speeds are highly variable depending on your system settings, however most printers generally take between 30 and 120 seconds per print for a full-coverage disc.
CD, DVD and Blu-ray autoprinters can be connected with a computer through the use of a parallel or USB connection. Additionally, network software packages can be installed to allow multiple users to submit and print jobs over a local area network.
The printer's robotics consist of a picking arm to transport the disc from input to output functions. The only effort the user must put forth is stacking the discs in the input bin and unloading them once the process is complete. The lift arm of the transporting mechanism rotates through the use of screws or belt drives. This technology however, is always evolving to produce faster disc throughput.
CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays are gently picked up from the lift arm's gripper hub feature which grasps the center hole of the disc. A disc release button helps control the function of the gripper by determining its lock and release moments. A sensor built on or near the lift arm will confirm correct alignment properties to ensure printing within the designated disc area. These moving parts work together to help combat imbalanced printing, double feeding of discs and other errors that may interfere with the printing process or physical properties of the discs.
Aside from the mechanics, the actual print technology may vary for each automatic machine. Inkjet and thermal printing are the two choices of leading manufacturers for the consumer market. Inkjet is a high resolution, cost-effective option that renders vivid color and sharp text. Thermal autoprinters are a more expensive choice for unmatched color consistency of media requiring full disc, photographic quality. This type of printer will result in a larger investment for the consumer.