MFDigital CD DVD Information Library
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
The Difference Between CD / DVD Duplication and Replication
In the CD and DVD production industry, the question “What’s the difference between CD/DVD duplication and replication?” is without a doubt the single most popular when dealing with clients. Because of the fact that the methods, prices, turn times, and other factors involved differ so greatly, finding the right company for your project can be a confusing and frustrating task. In the following paragraphs we will attempt to explain, once and for all, the differences between CD/DVD duplication and replication, while hopefully also providing you with the knowledge and foresight to ask yourself the important questions about your project up front so you won’t be disappointed with your choice later.
The difficult decision between duplication and replication is an issue for both business and entertainment data. As you probably know, the ability to burn data to CD and DVD media marks one of the biggest data-storage advances in years. Today’s capacities range from about 700 MB on a CD-R (the “R” means recordable) to roughly 4.7 GB on a DVD-R. Even greater capacities can be achieved with strategies like “overburn” and new technologies that use a second recordable layer (”dual layer”); these can extend a DVD disc’s capacity to a whopping 8.5 GB. Blu-ray and HD-DVD offer 30GB and 50GB of storage respectively, so it’s easy to see why disc production is a such an important advance.
An Explanation Of The Three Methods
CDs and DVDs are used today not only for distributing movies and music, but also as an economical and manageable storage media for software, books, training courses, sales tools, buying guides, and more.
Basically, there are just three ways to copy a disc: single copy, duplication, and replication. Let’s examine each separately:
Single Copy: Also known as a “one-offs,” this is the process of making just one copy at a time on a PC or dedicated disc copier. Making one-offs is fine for backing-up data files and copying music files onto CDs for personal use. But for multiple copies, it’s highly inefficient. Also, using a PC to make multiple one-offs while also running other applications can cause compatibility issues, or slow the entire system to a crawl.
Duplication: Commonly referred to as “burning,” this is the process of copying the contents of one CD or DVD to another disc using a drive with write capabilities. The PC or duplication equipment etches the data onto a recordable CD or DVD disc with a laser small enough to be integrated into a normal PC drive bay. CD and DVD burners and media have been a runaway success due to their portability, convenience, and economy. This method is best for producing limited quantities of copies–more than one, but fewer than a large commercial run. For quantities less than 1,000, many businesses “burn” their manuals, parts lists, and training videos in-house using either PCs with multiple burners or dedicated duplication machines (”duplication towers”).
Replication: This is a manufacturing process that essentially replicates or “clones” the original master. First, a “glass master” is created from the original. Then a set of molds, or “stampers,” are made from the master. Stampers act as a blueprint for the replication process; they are mounted into an injection-mold machine, where a replica of the mold is created in the form of a 120-mm plastic disc. The formed disc is then coated with a micro-thin reflective layer of aluminum. Finally, the disc is coated with a protective lacquer that is first spun onto the disc, then hardened by ultraviolet light. Because replication is complicated, it’s typically considered only for large runs of at least 1,000 copies. At those volumes, replication produces the lowest per-disk cost and offers the highest possible readability levels. In fact, all commercially distributed entertainment and software CDs and DVDs are produced using replication.
For many businesses, the best choice is duplication. Few businesses need to make 1,000 or more copies at a time, the minimum needed to make replication cost-effective. And many businesses need more flexibility than one-offs provide. CD and DVD duplication, therefore, represents a good middle ground.
For these clients, a dedicated duplication machine makes good sense. These boxes, also known as “duplicator towers,” house up to 21 target drives, a hard disk on which to maintain the original source files, and the hardware and software to control it all. Duplication towers also offer good compatibility across a vast field of drives and systems. What’s more, they can be set to repeatedly copy an image until the total number of copies desired is reached. Some towers even include robotic arms with magazines of 25, 50, or 100 blank discs so they can operate unattended.
But what if you don’t have the staff, budget, or time needed to do it yourself? Outsource your CD DVD project to a reputable duplication company. A quick search of Google for “DVD Duplication Services” or “CD Duplication Services” will return dozens of businesses ready to handle the duplication, printing, and packaging of your CDs or DVDs.
Of course there are exceptions to the hard and fast rule of “Less Than 1,000=Duplication” and “More Than 1,000=Replication”. An example is when project turn around times are an issue. The timeline for CD and DVD replication is much longer than that of duplication, normally 10 to 14 business days from the time that you verify all materials. With CD and DVD duplication, discs with full color printing and packaging can be completed in as little as 24 hours (for an additional charge, of course) with standard turn times of about 3 to 5 business days from the time your materials are approved.
Be sure to consider all factors involved when deciding between duplication and replication. Sometimes duplication is more cost effective, and other times replication comes out on top. Weigh each option such as printing method, packaging, and delivery time carefully with your sales professional and you’ll be sure to choose the correct manufacturing process for your project.