This approach of DVD printing utilises pre-manufactured printable DVDRs. The discs will either have a white or a silver printable surface which will be receptive to an inkjet printer. Printable DVDRs are widely obtainable in high street stores or online and even good quality discs are inexpensive.
A Digital DVD printer works on the same principle as a computer inkjet printer. The cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink cartridges are loaded to the printer and a printer head makes some passes on the printable disc surface depositing the ink in line with the artwork file. It is possible to print extremely detailed high res images using this printing method nonetheless it does have a couple of drawbacks:
The digital DVD printing process is slow in comparison to other printing processes – Commercial digital DVD printers are just effective at printing up to 200 DVDs unattended and each print usually takes up to a minute depending upon the complexity of the artwork.
Each disc needs to be finished with a level of clear lacquer – that is to protect the printed surface from potential moisture damage when handled. This adds more delay to the process.
However, this DVD printing process does not have any fixed set up cost which makes it ideal for brief runs of less than 100 DVDs which really is a service that’s very much in demand with the advance of the digital download.
DVD Screen Printing
Screen printing is a tried and tested printing method that’s been used in the commercial printing industry for decades. DVD screen printing is an adaptation of this process, modified to allow printing onto a disc. This technique is perfect for printing areas of solid colour using vibrantly coloured inks mixed from various proportions of base cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink. Additionally, there are fluorescent and metallic inks readily available for use with this process.
A screen printing machine features a large rotating platform. The platform is split into 5 printing stations with a UV lamp between each station and the next. DVDs with a foundation coat of any colour may be printed on, allowing for a maximum of 6 different colours in the artwork design.
The printing screen, from which the method gets its name, is a very fine mesh screen which will be initially covered with a thermally reactive emulsion. Another screen is required for all the colours featured in the ultimate artwork and a celluloid film is also designed for each colour. The film is black in the areas where in fact the colour is required on the disc, and clear where it is not required. The film is attached together with 咭片 a screen and placed into an exposure unit. A hot, bright light is then briefly switched on on the the top of film. Where the light and heat feel the clear portions of the film to the screen beneath, the thermal emulsion on the screen is hardened. Where the film is black, the warmth and light do not pass through the film and therefore the emulsion remains unchanged.
The screen is then transferred to a spray booth where it is sprayed with a fine water jet. The water washes away the emulsion which has not hardened leaving a screen where ink can pass through the mesh only in certain areas where that colour is required in line with the design. The screen is then fitted to its station on the DVD screen printing machine. The other 4 screens are prepared in the exact same way and the device is then ready to print.
The DVDs are loaded onto the printing machine automatically. They’re presented on spindles and each disc is lifted by an automatic arm with soft rubber vacuum cups. The DVD is positioned into a metal jig which holds the disc securely to avoid any movement whilst it will be printed. The metal jigs are arranged around the device and the DVDs are loaded, printed and then removed once printing is complete. A DVD that’s been printed and then removed is replaced at the next machine rotation with a new unprinted disc. This technique continues before production run is complete.
At each station a different coloured ink is placed on the disc each time a rubber squeegee blade passes on the screen. The screen is pressed down onto the disc surface and the ink is forced through the mesh by the blade. When the ink has been applied the blade returns to its starting position ready for the next disc. The device platen rotates one position and the freshly printed disc passes under a UV lamp. The UV light from the lamp cures the ink instantly and the disc moves to the next station where the next coloured ink may be applied without the chance of smearing of the previously applied ink. The printing and curing process is extremely fast and a contemporary DVD screen printer is effective at printing significantly more than 3,500 DVDs in a hour.
The requirement for screens and films for every single different ink colour in the style to be printed onto the DVD, means there are fixed costs associated with this process. These costs may be minimised by limiting how many colours involved in the DVD print design. It is perfectly possible to style an attractive disc using only a single colour print onto a printable silver DVD. The fixed cost, however, does make it a less viable process for very small orders of less than 100 DVDs.
Lithographic DVD Printing (Offset printing)
This technique, as with DVD screen printing, is a well known printing method for producing high res images in some recoverable format or card stock and has been adapted to suit DVDs. Lithographic printing is the best process for producing DVDs with a photographic print or artwork involving a subtle colour gradient but is not perfect for printing artwork that’s large areas of solid colour because of potential coverage issues which might result in a “patchy” print.
The lithographic DVD printing process involves creating a metal printing plate which will be curved around a roller. The basic principle at work with this process is that printing ink and water do not mix. The printing plate surface is treated in certain areas such that it attracts ink, the rest of the areas are treated to attract water and not ink. The result is a printing plate that may be introduced to ink which only adheres to it where required. The ink on the printing plate is transferred or “offset” to a different roller that includes a rubber blanket wrapped around it. The rubber blanket roller applies the ink to the DVD which will be held firmly in invest a steel jig on the device bed.
This technique is equally as fast whilst the screen printing process and so many a large number of DVDs may be printed every hour that the device is running. Once more, you can find fixed set up costs involved here and so the fee to print orders of less than 100 DVDs is high.
DVD Printing Process Summary
In summary, if your project is just for a small run of discs then digital DVD printing is the best way to go. There is certainly no print quality compromise with digital printing over the other 2 processes and even though it could be the slowest process, this isn’t really relevant if you’re only having 50 discs printed. There are numerous companies specialising in 24 to 48 hour turnarounds on short runs of discs who use this printing method exclusively and own it down to a fine art.
For projects where the total amount of discs required is more than 100 and the artwork features bold, solid colours, then the DVD printing process of choice has to be screen printing. The metallic and fluorescent inks readily available for this process make for some truly eye-catching and distinctive designs. If the artwork for the discs is a photographic image or includes a subtle colour gradient, then the printing process best suited to this kind of artwork would be Lithographic printing. For screen and lithographic printing, the more units ordered, the cheaper the system cost becomes