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Soak, Rinse, Repeat: Testing Waterproof Inkjet DVD/CD Media
Posted Oct 2, 2007 Print Version     Page 1of 1
  

The emergence of waterproof printable DVD and CD media in mid-2006 did much to bring the inkjet disc-printing world into focus. Much of this is a matter of perception overwhelming reality; inkjet-printed media was never as susceptible to smudging in everyday use as its critics would have you believe, and its water-resistance always held up pretty well under reasonable real-world circumstances. But there was a sense, as Imation and Taiyo Yuden introduced their water-resistant media brands--the matte-finish AquaGuard and the glossier WaterShield, respectively--that if inkjet printing had a golden age in its future, that age was drawing nigh.

Of course, the usual caveats attendant to the announcement of new optical disc technologies applied: there would be at least a couple months’ lag time between the announcement of the discs and the actual ship date, and the discs would be neither widely available nor anywhere near as cheap as their market counterparts for some time to come.

Nonetheless, it seemed pretty evident that these new water-resistant media technologies would have a demonstrable impact on the DVD/CD duplication and printing markets, unlike equally hyped print technologies that continue to “introduce” themselves to the market in small quantities and isolated implementations years after they were initially announced.

One strong indicator of the impact that the water-resistant inkjet media would have came from Primera Technology, the small/midsize disc-publishing market leader, which effectively mothballed its thermal transfer printer, the Inscripta, at the same time the water-resistant media was introduced. Traditionally, one of thermal disc-printing’s advantages over inkjet disc printing has been its proven permanence and water-resistance. The arguments in thermal’s favor didn’t go away with the advent of water-resistant inkjet discs, but the arguments against inkjet became a little less relevant. Around this time Primera also backed off to some degree from promoting its Accent Disc Laminator.

Mark Fritz wrote the definitive article on the advent of water-resistant media on EMedialive in August 2006; but while all the indicators of its potential impact were in place at the time of that article, the media didn’t really have a market yet. When initial shipments came, the quantities were small and the media was expensive, but as of this writing (late September 2007), discs are widely available, and we’re looking at price points that, if not quite comparable to other high-quality inkjet-printable discs, are now in the ballpark. On Meritline.com, I found hub-printable 16X TaiyoYuden WaterShield discs, in 100-disc spindles, for $59.99; the most comparable non-waterproof brand, 16X Taiyo Yuden silver hub-printables, were selling in 100-disc quantities for $39.99. Meanwhile, on several sites, such as proactionmedia.com and mediasupply.com, I found AquaGuard discs in 45-disc spindles for $33.

Given that all the pieces are now in place for waterproof media to bring inkjet printing to a new level of professional reliability, it seems an opportune time to take a look at the media along with a prominent automated solution for duplicating and printing DVD and CDs, Primera’s Bravo Disc Publisher XR. The Bravo XR is similar to the popular Bravo II in that it’s got a 25-disc capacity as well as expandable capacity via rackmount and kiosk attachments, but its signature enhancement over the Bravo II is that it ships in a solid, blue-glowing case that gives it the look and feel of an even sturdier and more reliable desktop office production appliance, and the stackability that comes with it for higher-volume shops. More on the fine testing performance of the Bravo XR in a later review.

The real thrill in doing this review was testing the varieties of waterproof discs Primera sent against my own ready supply of standard-issue hub-printable inkjet media. Keep in mind that I don’t use the cheap stuff—by and large I use Taiyo Yuden, Verbatim, and Ritek, and my current collection of blank CD and DVD media is all Taiyo Yuden white. Also keep in mind that by and large I’ve always been pleased with the results I get with these discs, and usually when I’m displeased it’s because of printer malfunction (I’ve had some nasty experiences using off-brand inks with the Epson R220, for example) that has little or nothing to do with the media itself. I’ve never found standard inkjet media terribly scratch-sensitive or smudge-prone in everyday use, so what I found most stunning when I first used the water-resistant discs is simply the way they looked when I pulled them out of the Bravo XR’s output tray.


figure 1

The figure above shows a comparison of the glossy-finish WaterShield DVD-R media (left) with the same image and print job (using theBravo XR's SuperPhoto 2400 setting for both) applied to a standard Taiyo Yuden white hub-printable disc (disc). The disc on the right looks fine (although this photos don't do either disc justice)—the black printing full and rich, and the other text and graphical elements are clear—but the gorgeous glossy finish on the WaterShield disc (left) looks like it’s been run through a laminator.


figure 1

So for me, the argument in favor of these discs starts before you ever bring water- and scratch-resistance into the equation, since as I’ve said, in my experience, standard inkjet-printable discs from top manufacturers do fine in everyday use anyway. But I’d be the last one to stand in the way of scientific inquiry, so I subjected all three media types to the grueling EMedia Labs “10 Seconds in the Sink” test (formerly known as “Five Seconds Under The Faucet”). The figure above shows the results. WaterShield (center) retains its glossy finish, and AquaGuard (left) its impermeable matte, but the standard Taiyo Yuden (right) is a washout.

I’m not sure what this proves, since, as Primera’s own Mark Strobel remarked in Mark Fritz’s EMedialive article on waterproof discs, “People don’t take these discs in the shower with them,” but there you have it. Though I have no intention of washing my discs with the dishes anytime soon, I'm switching to WaterShield based on glossy finish alone.

Stephen F. Nathans is editor-in-chief of EMedialive.com.


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