Thermal Printer - Page
at the REPLItech North America 2000 show announced the "Inscripta"
"...Inscripta is ideal for businesses of all types who
duplicate their own optical media such as CD-Rs and DVD-Rs and need an efficient
and highly professional method of labeling the discs. It prints high-resolution
text, graphics, logos and photos in any combination using monochrome black or
two-color ink ribbons. Theres no doubt that specialized ink-jet based
CD printers like our popular Signature III CD Color Printer handle a large percentage
of applications. But for users who need totally waterproof discs, lowest possible
cost-per-copy and very high print speeds, Inscripta does a wonderful job.."
Mark Strobel from Primera Technologies had commented.
Since we had tested Primera's Singature
III CD printer it was very interesting to see how thermal printing technology
also works. But first lets see the Inscripta features...
- General features:
The Inscripta Thermal CD Printer supports only 12cm optical media
such as CDR/W, DVD-R, and DVD-RAM (no support for 8cm CDs). You can print text
and graphics onto most standard and inexpensive lacquer surface media types,
eliminating the need for special printable-surface discs. The printer is very
solid structure, has a rugged all-metal case, so it is equally at home in office
or production environments. Manufacturer's suggested list
price is $2995.00 (MSRP).
can also be mounted inside a full-height drive bay in OEM autoloaders and duplicators.
You can print in one or two colors at both at 305x305 and 605x305 resolutions.
Its print speed is faster than inject based CD printers. Each panel takes around
10 and the two-color disc is printed in 20 seconds...
Inscripta prints in a variety of monochrome colors or two colors.
The monochrome ribbons come in the following colors: Orange, Red, Wine, Shamrock
Green, Forest Green, Royal Blue, Brown, and Black. The two color ribbons are
red/black, blue/black and green/black. There is possibility for custom colors
on a special-order basis. One-color ribbons, which have a minimum of 700 prints
but can last as long as 1200 to 1500 prints depending upon coverage, cost $39.00
(MSRP) each. Two-color ribbons, which have 350 prints, cost $59.00 (MSRP) each.
Primera also offer its branded Tuff-Coat Thermal CD-R media,
based upon Maxell, and work with both one/two-color ribbons. The available capacity
is 650MB (74min) and come in both silver and gold surface. The price is for
100 pieces is $70.00. Inscripta can be used for OEM integration into autoloaders
and duplication systems. The printer's outer case can be removed and the printer
fits inside a standard full- height drive bay. Printing takes place entirely
within the printer, so the CD tray is not in the way of picking mechanisms during
printing. A TTL-level interface port controls tray in/out and other printer
Primera provides some useful accessories such as the Extra Print
Head/Ribbon Assembly (used for "hot-swapping" with another loaded
ribbon) priced at $995.00 and the Thermal Print Head Cleaning Pens at $18.95
(package of 5).
The Inscripta is only available for Window platforms (Win9x,
WinNT/2k). The Primera doesn't offer support for both MAC and UNIX since the
audience is pretty much limited. However, Primera offers the Inscripta's SDK
programming specifications readily available to anyone who wishes to support
it in both MAC and UNIX platforms.
Why Primera doesn't offer a full-color ribbon for Inscripta?
Primera answers: "
There are many reasons, but here
are three that are most significant:
a. Full-color at 300 dpi or even 600 x 300 dpi looks very grainy.
Most users today won't accept 300 dpi printing of photos, PMS color matches,
and graphics. If you need to print these types of images, consider using the
Signature III CD Color Printer instead. It uses ink-jet technology and prints
at an incredible 1200 x 1200 dpi - the best available today for CD printing.
On the other hand, 300 dpi prints text and solid colors wonderfully. Look at
your collection of music CDs. You'll see that most use only black and one other
color, using the silver or gold disc as a third "color."
b. Full-color thermal transfer is very expensive: about 30
cents per disc. Ink-jet is again a better choice if full-color printing is desired.
One-color thermal transfer is very inexpensive: only about 5 cents per disc.
But if highly durable and waterproof monochrome or two-color printing is what
you need, thermal is a better choice than ink-jet.
c. Print head life. In order to print all three colors on top
of each other (required for thermal transfer printing), an incredible amount
of head pressure is required. This dramatically shortens print head life..."
How many prints per ribbon are there?
Primera answers "
It depends upon which ribbon you
use. The monochrome ribbon will do at least 700 prints. However, most users
will get more than this due to the built-in ribbon saver mechanism. It lifts
the head in non-printable areas. This stops the ribbon from advancing and thus
can save a significant amount of ribbon. The most ribbon saved is when the user
prints only at the top or only at the bottom of the disc.
The two-color ribbons print a fixed number of prints: 350 each.
Ribbon saving does not work on two-color ribbons because each disc printed will
use a full panel of each color regardless of coverage. This is the other reason
why color printing of any type with thermal transfer is expensive. The best
application for thermal printing, in terms of cost and image quality, is one-color
black in 600 x 300 dpi print resolution..."
How long does the print head last?
Primera answers: "
Inscripta has been tested for
5,000 passes and found to have no measurable head wear. So, we expect that the
typical print head will last even longer. Although the printer is warranted
for one full year, the print head is warranted for 90 days since it is subject
to wear and tear. None of us can control how many discs are printed by a
particular end-user in a year's time! A disc counter is built into the printer
for warranty purposes. Keeping media clean and dust-free is highly recommended..."
Why do some CD-R and DVD-R discs print better than others?
Primera answers: "...There are two main characteristics
that affect print quality on a disc: (1) surface flatness across the entire
disc, including the edge, and (2) type of finish.
The flatness issue is pretty straight-forward: the flatter the disc, the
better the printing. If a disc is not flat, you may notice print voids across
the surface. Since a thermal print head IS completely flat, it simply can not
print into "valleys" on a disc surface. Another problem from some
disc manufacturers is that the edge of the disc is raised where the mold used
to make the disc separates. An edge that is raised by only a couple of thousandths
of a millimeter will affect print quality. The other factor is surface
coatings. Some lacquer and/or varnish finishes, applied as a final step during
the disc manufacturing process, are simply not compatible with Inscripta's resin-based
2. Package/First Impressions
Thermal Printer - Page
with the main unit, our special package included:
- Power Adapter and Power Cord
- Printer driver and software
- Black monochrome and blue/black ink ribbons
- Warranty statement and registration card
- Quick start guide
Let's take a look at the main printer
the front you can see the CD tray button which opens or closes the CD tray for
loading and ejecting CDs. The button also is pressed and held while power is
applied in order to perform a self-test. Also, the printer can be reset while
unit's power is on by pressing and holding this button.
The Ribbon Catridge eject button is pressed to remove the ribbon
catridge for ribbon replacement.
The LED status light indicates that power is ON. It is solid when
the printer is busy processing data, blinks slowly when it is requesting a new
CD, and blinks fast to indicate an error, such as the ribbon is out, wrong ribbon
installed, tray movement error, tray lift error or memory error.
the back there is the parallel interface port for Windows-based PC connection.
The printer's auxiliary control is for OEM connection to an autoloader or robotic
duplication system to control tray in / out and other printer functions.
Above the auxiliary control there is the Image Placement values
label. These values must be entered into the vertical and horizontal boxes during
the Tab calibration option. These values have been optimized specifically for
each printer during final assembly and allow images to be centered on a CD when
printer provided worked best with the adjusting values shown on the left. The
vertical value was "0" and the horizontal "-7"
3. Installing Ribbons
Thermal Printer - Page
- Preparing for use
enjoy your CD printings you should firstly install an ink ribbon to the printer.
With the power on, you eject the tray and then you pull it forward to totally
remove it from the main unit. Then you press the Ribbon Catridge eject Button
and pull the Ribbon Catridge carefully out. The brochure says that you can "hot
swap" the print head. What does this mean?
is another innovative and exclusive feature of Inscripta. As you probably know
by now, the ribbon is housed in a removable cartridge which also contains the
print head. Without removing power, you can swap the cartridge (this is "hot"
swapping) and put another spare cartridge in its place. There are three major
advantages to this:
1. In high-production environments, you have no down-time when
a ribbon change is necessary.
2. When and if a print head needs to be replaced, you can swap in a new cartridge
and keep printing while you replace the worn-out print head.
3. Users who use both one-color and two-color ribbons can keep one cartridge
each loaded with the different types of ribbons and quickly swap back and forth,
you turn the Ribbon Catridge upside down and lift up the front and the rear
hold-down bracket by pulling the bracket up and pressing backwards. Notice that
the shaft of the Ribbon hold-down bracket is allotted on the gear side.
Insert the ribbon in the slots towards you. Place the take-up
reel in the slots located in the end of the printer as shown in the picture.
left is to close the Ribbon Hold-Down brackets and to insert the Ribbon Catridge
back into the printer till it docks securely.
The next step is to apply to the power to the printer and to connect
it to the computer. Applying the power is rather easy .What you have to do is
to place one end of the adapter cord (adapter supplied with the printer) into
the power jack on the rear panel of the printer.
plug the power cord of the adapter into an available wall outlet. Once the power
cord is connected, the printer will automatically turn ON as indicated by the
LED status light illuminating and blinking every two seconds. This is the printer's
normal "waiting" for data mode.
The printer is equipped with a standard 8-bit Centronics-type
parallel port. This port is the means through which receives data from the PC.
To connect the device to the PC simply obtain a parallel cable (preferably IEEE
1284-compilant) and connect it to the printer (don't forget to snap the fastening
clips into place). The other side of the cable connects to the computer at LPT1,
LPT2, or parallel connector:
4. Intergration with Composer system
Thermal Printer - Page
Intergration with Composer
Inscripta optical printer can also be used as printing device
attached to Primera's Disc Duplication system. User has the chance to write
and print his favorite CDs in a few steps, using the recording software (Prassi
PrimcoCD Pro) provided with the Composer CD Duplicator by Primera. The next
picture shows the duplicator and indicates the input ports on its rear panel.
SCSI Port is for connection to your PC's internal SCSI card. It receives data
that is to be recorded on a CD. The Control Port is connected to COM1 (or COM2
or COM3) of your PC with a serial cable. The Printer Control Port is connected
to the mini-DIN plug on the rear panel of the Thermal CD printer. Lastly, the
Power Input Port is for +24V power connection.
The next step is to attach the optional printer stand (required
for the printer installation) to the Duplicator by locating the connecting tabs
and inserting them into the slots on the rear panel of the Duplicator. The thermal
CD printer is mounted on the left side, as shown below. Make sure that the Printer
Control Cable is routed neatly out the back of the printer Stand so that it
can be connected to the rear panel of the printer
Note that you should place the Output CD Bin in the spot shown
in the pic so that the printer's tray will be free to open.
What's left is to place the Tray Support bracket on the upper
side of the duplicator. The bracket provides extra support to the printer's
CD Tray when the robotic arm picks a disc.
the Tray Support bracket over the locating guide and tighten the supplied screw
into the hole near the locating guide. Then place the Thermal CD printer on
the stand and calibrate the printer position by sliding the printer forward
on the Mounting Plate so that the printer's tray can be fully seated without
binding or being stopped short of being fully extended (open). That's it, the
printer is ready to use after installing the recording software.
5. Driver installation and setting up
Inscripta Thermal Printer -
and setting up
installed the optical disc printer using the package included driver CD-ROM.
The installation was successful and the printer was normally identified as
Optical Disc Printer
Let's take a look at the printer's properties. Among the general
properties, what are interesting are the advanced printing preferences:
paper size box (image size) has two choices. According to the manufacturer,
the default is Optical Disc for printing onto lacquer-finish CD-Rs, DVD-Rs
or other 120mm round optical discs. This option allows a 113mm x 113mm (4.449'')
radius circle image to be printed. The printer software clips the image to
fit the disc. Also it takes out an inside radius circle of 45mm (1.77'').
The inside radius diameter can be changed within the Calibrate tab which we
will see later.
The other choice is Custom. By selecting this option, you can
specify the print area for a custom-sized media such as business card shape
CD-Rs or 80mm mini-discs. To change the custom page size, press the custom
image size button and a size adjustment dialog will appear. You can enter
your print dimensions in increments of 0.01'' or 0.1mm. Select inches or millimeters
with the appropriate button. The copy count box allows you to select the number
of copies to be printed.
printing resolution can be set to 305x305 dpi (default) or to 610x305 dpi.
The 610x305 dpi choice is preferable for fine-small text printings or photo
printings onto discs. However default resolution prints and rasterizes faster.
Ribbon type box selects the type of ribbon that you will be using for printing.
You can choose among Monochrome and 2-color ribbons, according to the type
of ribbon which is currently loaded in the printer. The Monochrome Ribbon
gives a single color output. The 2-Color Ribbon prints all the black objects
and their shades using the black panel. The objects colored differently will
be printed with the color panel (red, blue or green) of the 2-color ribbon.
Intensity box controls how much heat is used to transfer the ink from the
ribbon to the disc. The applied heat is adjustable from 0 to 95. The default
setting is in the middle (46-47).
you can also select is whether the loading -eject functions will be controlled
manually. Primera suggests the Manual Load option when you are printing multiple
copies of a single design or if using the auto - loader. If you select the
manual load option, you must press the Tray Eject Button after each new disc
is loaded. Have in mind that you should select the Manual Load option when
you have chosen to print multiple copies, so the printer will not print all
the selected numbers of copies in the same disc! The Manual Eject option will
not allow the printer to automatically eject the disc after printing. The
user should then press the Tray Eject Button.
Next you can see the Image Placement Options. These options calibrate the
position of the printing image and adjust the non-printing center size of
the disc. You can set the Horizontal Print Offset, the Vertical Print Offset
and the Center Size values. Note that the Image Placement values labeled on
the printer's rear panel must be entered into the Vertical and Horizontal
boxes prior to printing. These values have been optimized specifically for
each printer during final assembly and allow images to be centered on a CD
case you don't want the printing image to be centered, you can change these
values. Adjusting the image 12 pixels will move it 1 millimeter. Increasing
the vertical calibration will move the image on the disc toward the back of
the Optical Disc Printer. Increasing the horizontal calibration will move the
image on the disc toward the left side of the printer as you face the printer.
Center size will adjust the inner cutout size of the disc. The
adjustment range is +70 to -70 pixels where a 12 pixel adjustment is exactly
1 millimeter. Negative numbers will make the center size smaller and positive
numbers make it larger. With the Center Size set to 0 the inner circle will
be 1.77 inches or 45 mm.
Let's say a few words about the Force Color Under Black and the
Force Saturation boxes. Force Color Under Black option should be selected only
on 2-Color Ribbons. The option will force the color panel to be printed under
all black text as well. It is used only in certain situations where the design
places a color object on a black background. The Force Saturation option forces
all colors to become completely saturated. Otherwise, the shades of color will
be printed with a dither pattern. For example, assume that the design includes
three boxes that are light gray, medium gray and black. If Force Saturation
is checked, all three will print solid black. If not checked, the boxes will
print with a dither pattern as light gray, medium gray and black.
6. Printing software
Inscripta Thermal Printer -
printing software provided is the "Sure Thing CD Labeler v2.10.16".
We installed the program and fired it up. As you can see above, in the main
window there is a circle CD layout which gives user the chance to easily add
text on the layout and also to have a first look at the printing result output.
On the left you see the design bar where you select the type
of the background, the text or the logos you can add to the CD layout. On
the top there are two more toolbars, the design editor Speed Tools and the
design editor Control Strip toolbars.
speed tools allow user to manage the items of the template, change the text
formatting, calibrate printer,print. The design editor Control Strip helps
user to change the text formatting by choosing various of fonts, Bold, Italic,
Underline attributes, text color e.t.c
You can select one of the 30 Smart design backgrounds for your
printings or use your own background from your hard disk. Also you have the
chance to set the background color (shade and pattern) in the set background
can add some logos and cliparts in his design using the Logos/Clipart tab.
The software provides some ready to use CD & Media symbols to insert or
you can use the Picture Tool, where you select the inserting image from your
disk and then easily you can place it anywhere on the CD printing area with
additional capability for size adjustment.
Text Effect tab gives user two choices: Using the text effect wizard to insert
a text in the layout or to use the text effect tool. The wizard is an easy
way to insert a text in your layout. In a four step session you select the
shape of your text from eight sample patterns, the variation of the text,
the text color, the text shadow, border color, and font and text size.
Using the text effect tool give the same effect choices in a more detailed
way. You firstly select the text inserting area or the text already inserted
and then the options window comes up to make your effect selections, such
as text shades, text color, background color, text borders and more.
samples text types are also provided for quick and easy selection. The inserted
text can be printed in a circular, angled or straight perspective satisfying
the user's possible layout preferences. What will be more useful to the novice
user is a complete sample collection provided. Here the samples given are
categorized according to the selected format options. By this the user can
select among samples with or without text shadows or border color, text outline,
text color, background shades e.t.c
about adding text? The software gives four choices, three for adding text
and one for symbol insertion. The first choice is to add text using the New
Text Fame option. A box will appear into the CD printing area and user can
write the text there. You can move or change the text size using your mouse
with a simple right-click and turning to the object mode. The second choice
is the use of the Text Frame tool where you manually select the text inserting
area and then move the text potentially. The program also provides some ready
to use text forms about User Info, Name, country, address and many more. Also
you can choose from a variety of symbols classified in five different fonts.
7. Printing Performance - Conclusion
Inscripta Thermal Printer -
We made several printing tests using the Maxell silver lacquer
media (for thermal transfer) provided by Primera. Inscripta Optical Disc Printer
seems to be able to give some quiet good results while printing various text
and small cliparts or logos. We tested the printer with the Monochrome and
the 2-colour (black-blue) ribbons.
monochrome ribbon results are quite good although sometimes the unchecked
"Force Saturation" option did not give the exact color dithering
result. This means that there were a few fade spots on the printing text area.
This option worked really well in no-shade solid printings where the dithering
disabling option is more suitable. Furthermore, the printer managed to print
the various text and logo layout inputs giving the desired result.
given output was good when we used the 305 x 305 dpi resolution and even better
in the 610 x 305 dpi choice (the 610 x 305 dpi gave better results in logos
& cliparts). Also, as we increased the Intensity value, the text printed
quality was better and the color seamed more "alive". This does
not mean that pushing the Intensity value to the limits (99) will give the
best results. Something like that would increase the ink temperature and might
destroy the ribbon. Our tests showed that a safe printing Intensity area is
below 60, especially when print at 610 x 305 dpi. The printing time depends
on the complication of the printing label but it will not be more than 20
The 2-color ribbon tests gave us the chance to print some colored
logos and texts and also some blue CD backgrounds. As with the monochrome
ribbon, all the blue and black text areas were properly printed. The different
fonts, shape variations and color combinations of the text were printed in
Thermal printing is always a bit more "picky" than
ink-jet since the printer has actual contact with the surface of the disc.
Any dust specs or other particles on the surface will show up as the pinholes
or streaks. Users should keep their discs in a tightly sealed package before
printing so that dust does become a problem. There is very little that a manufacturer
can do to prevent dust from showing up on the output, especially in solid
areas. Ink-jet does not have this physical limitation in the printing process
since it literally "sprays" ink onto the surface, dust particles
Inscripta is a good choice for everyday corporate and small
business use. A user who need low cost printing on CDs and doesn't need the
colourful printing capabilities of inkjet printers has now a good choice.
The printing speed is good and the general performance satisfactory. The price
might be a drawback for single users but keep in mind that the printer is
aimed for massive volume production of small CD-R factories...