The Important differences in CD and CD-R manufacture that affect buying decisions.
The Compact Disc
Compact Disc (CD) was developed as a real-time digital-audio device to replace the analogue vinyl Long Playing Record.
Both devices are literally pressed out of plastic but the CD is much more robust: because, although the ‘bits’ of ‘information’ on the CD are much smaller than with the LP; the CD’s digital format allows for multiple layers of error correction. As a result, users have found that Audio CDs can be handled carelessly and minor damage and surface contamination does not affect playback. However, this is not true of Data CDs!
Computer technology has advanced to accept computer data on a CD (CD-ROM) ROM stands for read only memory. CD-ROMs are pressed in the same way as CD-Audio but do not have the same error correction layers. This means they are far less robust than Audio CDs. Also, computer drives spin the disc at up to 52 times speed. That is asking a lot of a device which is designed to be played back in real time (x1 speed) and not all pressing plants are the same. Brand Advance delivers the highest quality pressing available anywhere in the UK; ensuring complete confidence in the product. Nevertheless, careful handling remains a good habit.
The Recordable Compact Disc
The analogue Vinyl LP which like the CD-Audio or CD-ROM is a 'read-only' device had an analogue ‘cousin’ in magnetic tape. The advantage with tape is that it allows recording.
The CD digital equivalent of tape is CD-R. (Confusingly, the ‘R’ is not short for ROM but stands for ‘Recordable’).
Although it is a different technology to the CD, it does deliver essentially the same experience and is played back in exactly the same way as a CD-Audio or CD-ROM but the CD-R’s music or data is not pressed into the plastic at manufacture. Instead, the Blank CD-R is made first then written with a laser to create the content.
Why it matters which one you choose
It is important for buyers of these technologies to understand the different manufacturing processes involved. The reason is that the different characteristics of these 2 technologies are sometimes complementary; sometimes conflicted and often confused! These different characteristics have an impact on lead times, end user perceived value, volume of product required and cost. Often the need for fast turnaround and perceived value outweigh cost but volume will influence the decision too.
We will now briefly describe the manufacturing process and then we will be in a position to review the pros and cons of the two technologies so as to determine which one will best acheive the client’s overall objectives for any particular case.
Known as CD pressing or CD replication, the process begins with a glass master. Your digital content is transferred by laser to a photo-sensitive glass plate. When developed it holds the digital information as a spiral of ‘pits’ starting near the centre of the disc and working outwards towards the rim. This glass master is used to photo-chemically grow a metal ‘stamper’ which is used to ‘press’ the image of the pits into polycarbonate which is then metallised (to create a reflective surface) and lacquered. The disc is then surface printed and is ready for use.
Known as CD duplication, the process begins with a premanufactured disc. It’s structure is essentially a jelly sandwhich. This light sensitive gell lies, together with a mirror, within the disc.
Data is recorded or ‘burned’ with a laser by burning the data pits directly into the gel. This is what happens when you record a CD in your computer.
CD-ROM Lead Time
The lead time for CD-ROM replication is not affected by the amount of data.
Industry Standard is Typically 7 - 10 working days, However, our lead times can be as little as 4 - 5 working days which can sometimes include week ends.
CD-R Lead Time
The lead time for CD-R duplication is affected by the amount of data.
Typically 2 to 3 days to surface print and 1 or 2 days to burn. However, if the surface artwork is ready in advance Brand Advance can pre print the discs and return the completed job in the time it takes to burn the data.
CD-R Duplication Volumes
The minimum quantity is 1 off but we have a minimum order value of £70. The maximum is theoretically unlimited but quantities in excess of 5000 off would usually be pressed.
CD-ROM Replication Volumes
Minimum off any one master is 500. Maximum is theroretically unlimited but quantities in excess of 20,000 may take an extra day.
CDs are technically superior to CD-Rs but not significantly. However, the difference used to be greater and there is a residual perception that a CD is better. CD-R’s will not play in some very old drives.
The CD is usually screen printed or litho printed.
Currently, high quality digital printing is not available for CD Production.
The CD-R however, can be printed by any of these methods. For small quantities the fastest turn round is digital but digital printing cannot accurately reproduce pantones. Screen printing therefore is the preferred option if pantone colours are involved and digital if they are not. Problems of accurate colour reproduction with digital print are made worse if artwork passes through several formats on its journey to repro. Our Secure File Transfer System which can be accessed from this site is the simplest and most user friendly way to get artwork files to us but you can still burn them onto a CD-R and post it if you want to.
The unit price for CD-R is lower than CD for small quantities and higher for large quantities. The cross-over point depends on the job specification. Other considerations such as lead times and the need for part shipments may influence the choice.
Suppliers Pricing Policy
The UK professional, replication/duplication market is mature, prices are stable and as low as they can realistically go. Whilst inflation is low it is not zero and oil prices are causing raw material costs to rise.
Unfortunately, there are still some companies who are persuing an uneconomic pricing policy in order to keep or replace lost business.
This is a shortsighted policy which leads to diminishing the quality of service and eventually to the collapse of the supplier’s business, with all the attendant inconvenience to their remaining clients. (2006 saw several go bust, 2007 was even worse, and the trend has continued to the present day.)
I sometimes hear the argument. “OK - they’re being stupid, but why not take advantage while we can?” The flaw in this thinking is that most people who buy from our industry are themselves selling the service on: usually as part of a more complex package. Unrealistic price commitments and service levels quoted to their clients may not be retrievable and could lead to significant loss of margin for their client and even lost accounts.
We have seen this senario repeated often enough to convince us that realistic pricing, based on the principle of value for money, is the only way to do business for the long term. This enables us to provide a consistently excellent service which routinely outperforms our competitors and to build strong working relationships with our clients.
The surest evidence that this is the right approach, is that almost all our clients have come to us from other suppliers, whilst we continue to retain our customer base despite sustained pressure from cheaper competition.
What’s the best way to do this job?
Whilst we hope the above guidance is helpful, we do not expect our clients to go it alone. We will be pleased to advise which service or combination of services is best suited to meet our client’s needs. Indeed we do prefer to be involved in the earliest stages of every job so that we can apply our experience your best advantage.
© Steve Sharpe