MFDigital CD DVD Information Library
Friday, August 25, 2006
Don't Be Duped! Helpful Hints and Advice for CD Duplication
Whoa! Your boss tells you he needs a hundred copies of his presentation on CD--by tomorrow morning. Since he wants to impress the clients he also wants professional-looking labels on the CDs as well. A simple marker won't cut it this time. Maybe it's time for a desktop duplicator or to hire a duplicating service. Since most household computers are now equipped with a drive that has the capacity to burn discs, it is no surprise that disc duplication has become big business. But sorting through the tons of information about formats and CD duplication systems can be a nightmare.

CD duplication is no longer a difficult, tedious or expensive process requiring exacting technological expertise. Since most desktop computers now come equipped with a standard drive with the capacity to burn discs, it is no longer a rarity to find people making "mix discs" of their favorite songs using the CD-R media. And it is likely, at some point, that you are going to want to make multiple copies of one of your projects--be it a work presentation, a business card, or a demo of some sort.

The term "CD Duplication," taken literally, means to copy CD-ROM's. Actually there are two different methods to make those copies: Duplication and Replication. Duplication is the process of "burning" data onto a pre-manufactured CD-ROM. This process requires the use of CD-Recorder to add data to a blank disc. Recorders are included in many personal computers, but they may also be added to a PC as an external disc drive. These devices require the user to burn one disc at a time, a process that takes between 1 and 74 minutes depending on the speed of the recorder.

A more automated form of duplication can be accomplished by buying a stand-alone CD Duplicator (no computer hookup required). This device can make many copies of the CD-ROM master simultaneously and can produce 65 or more CD-ROM discs an hour. If you have a relatively small project, fewer than 1,000 copies, this may be the device for you. Starting at less than $1,600 these disc makers are perfect more independent musicians and even churches who often duplicate sermons and music to make them more available to parishioners.

Replication, on the other hand, is the process of "stamping" data onto an injection molded CD-ROM. This process requires the creation of a "glass master" from the customer-supplied disc. Using a high-speed stamping process the data is actually built into the construction of each copy, not added later. Due to expensive equipment requirements, this is certainly not the method used by the average computer owner.

If you have a duplication job at hand, you may wonder if one method is better than the other. Here are some factors to help you decide for your individual copying requirement:

Longevity--If you know that users will need to access this data over a decade, Replication is recommended.

Readability--Pre-manufactured discs are used in the Duplication process, and although the blank discs appear to be "generic," track arrangement can vary slightly from one manufacturer to another. This sometimes results in an inability to read the data. Replicated discs do not exhibit this problem.

Data Access Speed--When you perform a search you expect the data to be retrieved from the proper place on the CD-ROM--and fast. There is no measurable difference between Duplication and Replication.

Cost--An order of 1,000 or fewer copies tends to be cheaper to produce by Duplication. This is mainly due to the fact that no stamping master is required. If you only need a few dozen copies, Duplication is a whole lot cheaper. On the other hand, when economies of scale come into play--you need thousands of copies--Replication is your better choice. Copies made from a master disc get much cheaper as you spread out the initial cost over a larger quantity of discs. For example, if you order 100 copies, each would cost about $4.40, whereas the same disc would only cost about .80 a copy if you ordered 1,000.

Whatever your choice of copying methods, keep in mind that CDs are not immortal. The thin aluminum layer that reflects the light of the player's laser, is susceptible to oxidation which causes the discs to "rot." Never use off-the-shelf markers or ball point pens to write on the discs or labels. Most markers contain chemicals which create oxidation, allows air to penetrate the aluminum, which is then eaten up--much like iron rusting in open air. There are special media pens currently on the market. Search those out.

Whether you choose to do-it-yourself or outsource your next duplication project, take a few minutes to research what software and technology is currently available--it is improving all the time. With a little effort, you can create the "perfect" project that will make both you and your boss quite proud of the finished product.


Larry Denton is a retired history teacher having taught 33 years at Hobson High in Hobson, Montana. He is currently V.P. of Elfin Enterprises, Inc., an Internet business providing useful and valuable information on a variety of timely topics. For a control room full of information, resources and advice about CD duplication, visit http://www.CDDuplicationDesk.com