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Home > Hardware Reviews > Optical Storage > CD Printers

Monday, February 18, 2002
Primera Inscripta Thermal CD Printer

1. Features

Primera Inscripta Thermal Printer - Page 1

- Introduction:

at the REPLItech North America 2000 show announced the "Inscripta" thermal printer:

"...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. There’s 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).

It 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 functions.

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 inks..."

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