Replication / Duplication Processes
Disc / Insert Printing


Quick reference.....      ....


Is the industry standard for creating mass quantities of dependable and inexpensive compact discs.  Music and data formats are both accepted for replication.  As opposed to "burned" or "one-off" discs, replicated discs have the digital impression stamped into polycarbonate for an exact reproduction of the original.  Additionally, most replication plants have sophisticated silk screening equipment for high end disc face printing of both CDs and DVDs.  Replicated discs play on almost every CD or DVD player in existence, whereas burned discs can sometimes be sensitive to certain models or brands of players.  Although replicated discs are known to be superior, they generally have minimum runs of at least 500 required for any job order.  Turnaround time is also a consideration as replication plants normally allow for at least two to four weeks for completion.  CDmaster has preferential relationships with several replicators that usually extend only 7 - 10 days for completion.


CDs or DVDs that are duplicated (burned and often called one-offs) are made in "writers" that actually write the digital information using a laser.  With high quality and well maintained duplication equipment, the user is assured the best reliability possible.  Laser that write can drift out of alignment, as can lasers that read the information in your home or office computer.  CDmaster uses advanced duplication gear to maximize readability and performance.  The main advantage to duplication over replication is the fast turnaround time and smaller quantity requirements.  CDmaster can most always duplicate up to 500 CDs, including disc face printing in only 24 - 48 hours.  Or just stop by and we can usually copy 1-100 CDs while you wait if printing isn't needed.

Disc Printing: 

There are three major types of disc face printing:  Silk screen, thermal transfer, and inkjet. 

  • Silk screen is by far the most popular due to its professional look and low susceptibility to wear and tear.  Silk screen printing is only available to those doing 500 or more "replicated" quantities.

  • Thermal transfer is the next most durable and economical, though has quality limitations when trying to use photos, complex graphic art, and more than three colors.  Thermal is best suited for "type" only printing with "line art" or simple graphics/logos and is very durable.

  • Ink jet printing works well with all types of graphics from color photos and logos, to multi-colored type.  However, it is not indelible, and is subject to smearing in the event of water or intense handling contact.  It is also more expensive per disc than thermal printing.  Both thermal and inkjet are available in-house at CDmaster in typical 24 -48 hour competion times.


  • For prices on replication,  duplication, and printing, click here or call one of our representatives at 703.534.9011.


CD / DVD Stages of Production:

Glass Mastering:
A laser beam recorder (LBR) creates a glass master with all the data etched into a photo resistive layer.

The glass master is electroplated with nickel, creating an intermediate mold called a father. The father is used to create a reverse intermediate mold called mother. Finally, the mother mold is used to create a stamper mold.

The stamper is mounted on to injection molding machines and presses the recorded data onto polycarbonate discs which eventually become DVDs.

The transparent polycarbonate discs are covered by a micro thin layer of aluminum to reflect the laser light allowing the pits to be read.

The DVD is then spin coated with a protective layer of lacquer and is now ready for printing.

The 2 substrates are "glued" together to produce a DVD disc. The gluing must be optically transparent, without defect, and of uniform thickness to the close tolerances of DVD specifications.

Printing either by a silk screen or offset process, with up to six colors right on the disc.



A Detailed Overview

Compact disc computer media comes in three principal forms: CD-ROM, CD-R & CD-RW. All compact discs are made of optical grade polycarbonate that is injection molded into a disc 120mm in diameter—then coated with a reflective metal layer which enables a laser beam to “read” a digital data stream encrypted to the disc. Compact disc media are very similar but each is uniquely different and designed to
serve different purposes.

CD-ROM is a pre-recorded disc, which is to say the data which the CD contains has been permanently embedded into the polycarbonate, in the form of “pits and lands” at the time it is injection molded. This data cannot be changed or appended at a later time.

CD-ROM begin as a “glass master” from which a “father” is made by an electroforming process—the father is a reverse of the glass master. From the father a “mother” is made and subsequent to the mother one or
more ‘stampers’ are produced. The stampers are used for injection molding the polycarbonate into discs which are sputtered in a vacuum chamber with an aluminum reflective layer, barely 50nm thick, which is
then sealed with a protective lacquer spincoat and then decorated with a silk-screen printed label.

The most familiar form of prerecorded compact disc is the CD-Digital Audio format which, in fact, launched the CD revolution in the early 1980’s after its development by Philips and Sony for consumer electronics products. These CDs are mass produced, in minimum lots of 1000 units in a manufacturing process that culminates in the delivery of finished discs about three weeks after the order is placed and the
pre-mastered data set is delivered to the factory. Because of long lead times & large manufacturing quantities, these discs are relatively inexpensive, often less than $1.00 each, depending on quantity and lead time.

CD-R is a recordable compact disc and sometimes referred to as a Write-Once CD. CD-R differs significantly from CD-ROM (Read Only Memory). Although both are manufactured using the same process, CD-R is subject to more stringent Quality Control procedures at a plant that adheres to very tightly controlled environmental standards. The result is a disc suitable for both data distribution & archiving, with a useful life of 75-100 years, compared to that of stamped CDs which have a design life
of just 3-5 years.

The principal difference between a CD-Recordable disc and CD-ROM is the addition of an amorphous organic dye between the polycarbonate substrate and the reflective metalized layer. This is the recording layer; it is typically a shade of blue or yellow-green depending on the formulation and the reflective metal above it. Until recently gold—99.995% pure, has been used because it is an inert metal and resists the corrosive effects of the organic dye. However, advances in dye formulations have resulted in stabilized dyes that permit the use of less expensive silver, also 99.995% pure, which yields a bonus of increased reflectivity.

Uniformity of the dye layer, which is spin-coat applied to the disc and level of refinement in manufacturing processes determines the optical recording characteristics, durability, read interchangability and useful life
of the disc. Data is encrypted on CD-R by a recording drive or “burner” which uses a laser diode that burns an optical pit (as opposed to a physical pit as in prerecorded CDs) on the disc. CD-R are sometimes
referred to as a “one-off” due to the fact that they are a first generation disc. Stamped CD-ROM are typically fifth generation discs and could actually be referred to as a “five-off disc”—but are not.

CD-R is an enabling technology, more so than stamped CDs, because
they allow an end-user to produce them one at a time or a CD production facility to burn several thousand on demand–eliminating waste, obsolescence and loss. Due to it's flexibility and convenience, CD-R is the fastest growing optical disc media, averaging more than 100% yearly growth since 1994. This high growth demand has pushed manufacturers to produce CD-R at a faster pace and reduced the cost of high quality blank CD-R to less than $1.00 per disc.

CD-RW is principally a short term storage product. It requires both a different type of burner than CD-R & a different type of reader than either CD-ROM or CD-R. As a result, most CD drives cannot read a CD-RW
disc which in essence makes this type of media impractical for either portable data archive or distribution applications.

CD-RW media is manufactured using much the same process as CD-R with one notable exception: the “dye” layer used in CD-RW is actually a dual layer combination of dielectric crystalline/amorphous dye
compounds. This compound changes its physical attributes when heated to specific temperatures by the laser beam in the recording process to form the requisite optical pits and lands or be “erased” and rewritten. To do this, the CD-RW recording system utilizes a more flexible laser device than those used in CD-R writers.

The difference in media types is further distinguished by their reflectivity, which enables a disc to be read. Due to the RW compound’s general characteristics & recording method, it reflects less light than CD-ROM and CD-R which in turn requires special multi-read drives. Multi-read drives read all three CD formats and as a result are generally more expensive than standard CD readers. Nonetheless, this difference alone
has prevented CD-RW from receiving universal adoption since most of the 500 million drives currently installed in computers can't accommodate its low reflectivity—about 25% that of CD-R & CD-ROM.

Interestingly, CD-RW drives can burn both CD-R & CD-RW whereas CD-R burners cannot write to CD-RW media. This is credited to the drive’s capability of changing the wavelength of the laser recording beam
when the drive senses which type of media has been inserted into it. Conversely, CD-R drives do not possess this capability & the drive’s optical pickup cannot recognize (“see”) the CD-RW disc due to it's low reflectivity.

CD-RW media is rewritten by one of two different methods, both require that the disc is first initialized just as CD-R must be initialized for Direct CD usage with the UDF format. The first and least desirable, requires that the entire disc be reformatted prior to rewriting. The other allows modification to the VTOC and lead-in area of the disc which enables a rewrite similar to the method used by a computer’s hard disk drive. The practical constraints of using CD-RW is the media/drive’s slow seek and access performance compounded by the fact that the installed base of CD-RW readers is essentially nonexistent

On the bright side, CD-RW media costs have plummeted from $25.00 per disc when they were introduced in 1997 by the joint efforts of Ricoh & Yamaha. Today, certified data grade CD-RW is readily available at less than $8.00 per disc in low unit quantities depending on brand & packaging configuration. However, it is safe to assume that CD-RW will languish indefinitely at the periphery of the mainstream swell created by CD-R.

In conclusion, compact disc publishers use only CD-ROM & CD-R. By design, CD-ROM is suited for long runs of thousands of discs (in the big picture 10,000 discs is a short run) and long turn times (usually about two weeks or more) with the benefit of low unit costs. However, as the run length and turn times shorten, unit costs increase dramatically. As is the case with any type of manufactured product the “time is money” axiom applies.

CD-R, due to its high versatility, low cost and value as an on-demand publishing media, has all but supplanted CD-ROM in many instances. And because it can be silk-screen printed and replicated in a matter of hours, as opposed to days for CD-ROM, publishers can take delivery of a few hundred to several thousand discs in just 24-48 hours at costs that are in line with those of their stamped brethren.

CD-R has shed its glittery tech-toy image and when it is duplicated by an established and reputable service bureau can deliver performance on par with, and in many cases better than, stamped CD-ROM. In order to minimize any risk of poor disc performance or media interchangability issues, compact disc publishers need to learn everything they possibly can about prospective vendors, i.e. how and what kinds of tools they use to qualify, handle, duplicate, label and QC both blank and duplicated CD-R media. It is imperative that you do this before engaging anyone's services—this also applies to CD-ROM vendors.

Contact either number below for information or placement of orders:
703 532 9033    Cue Recording Studios

 Cue Recording Studios 703 532 9033   109 Park Avenue   Falls Church, VA    22046