Whether you use your computer’s optical drive for archiving old VHS movies on DVD, backing up games, or burning mixed CDs, chances are you have an album full of boring discs somewhere marked up in Sharpie marker. If they have names like “Server Drive D Backup 12/4/03,” maybe that’s not such a bad thing. But for more creative pursuits, a little color can make all the difference.
There are, of course, already a number of viable options out there for customizing discs with artwork and your own designs. CD labels have been around since the dawn of the consumer burner, and while they work, they’re plagued by a number of drawbacks: The extra effort of peeling out and carefully applying the label can be a deterrent to actually using them, the extra weight and thickness the label lends to a CD can give the final production an amateurish feel, and air bubbles always seem to mysteriously crop up down the line. Another option, thermal disc printers, produce more professional results, but with the major caveat of only printing in monochrome. Commercial printers are always an option, but high prices make them impractical for most consumers.
A company called Dymo has cooked up a new approach to CD printing that offers an affordable entry price, full color, and high-quality results: the DiscPainter. While not the only product to print directly on discs using inkjet technology, Dymo did take a significantly different approach to doing it by inventing their own radial printing technology to take advantage of the CD’s circular shape.
Standard inkjet printers work with a print head that travels back and forth in a line, like a typewriter. Dymo’s DiscPainter lays down ink in circles, similar to the way you might make “spin art” by laying down colored paints onto a spinning plate. This method allows a CD with complex designs to be printed in detailed 1200 dpi resolution in no more than three minutes, and as little as 30 seconds with less demanding specs.
Since the Dymo DiscPrinter is a dedicated CD printer, there are no settings to finagle with to make it handle discs, or templates that must be used to carry a disc through a paper hopper, as is the case on some multitasking inkjet printers. Users just pop in a blank, inkjet-printable disc in, and fire it up. Dymo also includes proprietary software to make the process of designing a disc easier for novices who don’t have mastery of graphics programs like Illustrator and Photoshop (though users can print directly from these as well). An array of settings for the software make it possible for the printer to handle everything from 80mm mini CDs to hub-printable full-size CDs.
Dymo’s DiscPrinter retails for $279.95 USD, which is pricier than standard inkjet printers that claim to be able to print on CDs, but significantly less expensive than dedicated commercial inkjet disc printers, which can range into the thousands of dollars. While casual burners might not find the expense worthwhile, media gurus and graphics artists looking for a new medium won’t find a less expensive dedicated inkjet CD printer out there. You can find out more at the Dymo website.