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Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Ten Valuable Tips on How To Choose a Duplicator
With this being the age of information, we figured to take a moment and provide 10 valuable tips on how to choose a duplicator. Since knowledge is power and CD/DVD duplication equipment is expensive, we hope you find this article useful and employ these tips in your decision making process. While reading this article it is best to consider our points and discuss them with a professional sales person. Our goal is to get your wheels turning so that all the key questions are answered. With duplication equipment the small details do make a big difference and reading this article and preparing yourself to discuss your requirements in-depth will insure a better buying decision and company investment.
- The first thing you need to determine when purchasing a duplicator is what size unit best fits your needs. To determine this you will need to ask yourself how many discs you burn in a single session. You may consider a session just one duplication job, or a full days production; either way having a good estimate of the production needs will point you in the right direction. In conjunction with disc quantity be sure to ask yourself how many megabytes are being burned to the disc. Since time for disc burning is relative to the amount of data burned, it's important to know this requirement to get a true idea of what duplicator size is best for you.
- Next, determine the general direction for the type of duplicator you require, the two primary categories are Towers or Autoloaders. As you probably know, the tower configuration will burn multiple discs simultaneously but requires the human touch to swap discs in-and-out. With automation, a picker mechanism does this work for you. The best question to ask yourself to determine if a tower or autoloader is best for you, is: "Do you plan to print directly to the disc?" This question alone will send you in the direction of automation - maybe not in all cases, but since a printer can only print a single disc at a time it would be more cost effective to have a robotic arm moving the discs then paying a person to do that same task.
- Now that you've determined the type of duplicator you need, lets take a look at the type of printer you need. If you are not printing, or using labels (which we do not recommend) then a tower duplicator is probably the item for you. Side Note: You still need to ask yourself if the tower duplicator will be a network resource or not...yes there are tower duplicators which are network able and should be a serious consideration for small and medium sized business'. MF Digital provides a 6 drive network tower model number DP3-5906. Going back to the printer you have two general directions as well. In general terms, you may choose an inkjet printer technology or a thermal printer technology. View or previous article, Paper or Plastic for pros-and-cons on printer technologies. To quickly recap; the inkjet printer is best for general applications with medium to high resolution labeling. The thermal printer is best for low resolution and high volume production. Again, visit our previous article as this is a very important topic.
- OK, with a general idea of the requirements we can take a closer look at the duplicator systems itself. Provided you are going with automation (because of the printing requirement) you then have to determine the best sized unit for your application. There are a wide range of automated duplicator configurations out there and the two biggest factors are disc capacity and the number of drives. Typically the more drives in a system means the larger capacity and for obvious reasons. However, we have seen many situations where the duplication session is not large, i.e. quantity burned is not high, but the customer still gets a large duplicator. The reason for this is quick turn-around times. If you require a quick turn time then more drives equals faster throughput and should be your product of choice. In our experience the size autoloaders are 1 drive / 25-50 discs, 2 drive / 100-250 discs, 4 drive / 300-600 discs and even 6 drives but those typically don't include printers. Side Note: To have more then 4 drives to 1 printer is not an optimal ratio for production efficiency and should be a red-flag when presented with that configuration.
- We receive a lot of questions from non-technical people, sometimes it's best to get none technical duplicators. With automation you can pick between PC based systems and standalone systems. The standalone systems are designed more for ease-of-use. It's a great product for those not technical who want to push only a single button. Another advantage with standalone is that a monitor, keyboard and mouse are not required and in many instances there is limited real-estate in the production room. PC systems make for great turn-key production stations. Since a PC system will run off a monitor, keyboard and mouse it also means you can use that same workstation to create the label file for the printer. In addition, some PC systems are network-able and become a network resource, much like your office laser printer. Side Note: Some standalone duplicators are also network able like the MF Digital Scribe 3000 Series. A product like the MF Digital scribe can also queue an unlimited number of jobs. This becomes a valuable feature for medium and large size corporations who may share the equipment with an arsenal of employees.
- So what does Asynchronous mean? With automation a system will burn either in asynchronous mode or synchronous mode. A synchronous automated unit will use the loader to place a disc into each drive, then burn all drives/media at once. An asynchronous system will load each drive and begin burning as each drive is loaded. I guess you could say staggered start times. In today's market and with today's technology we feel if you buy automation it should be a system that support asynchronous burning. Be sure to ask for this feature because it will improve your throughput numbers by at least 30%. We did a full write up about Asynchronous burning earlier.
- So now things are getting clear on what equipment best fits your need. The one question you must always ask yourself, with any product, is; "How's the reliability?" Be sure to do some digging around to find the answers you need. This is where knowledgeable sales people can really help. Many dealers carry multiple brands of duplicators, ask them which manufacturer ships a more consistent product. Is the duplicator made of plastic or metal...plastic would be small volume, entry level or limited use type duplicator and the metal would be more durable for heavier production. The entry level units generally have a shorter life cycle. Side Note: low volume would be 50 or less in one week.
- So you buy a duplicator but what if you have a question or need help after the fact. Technical support is the biggest factor in the buying decision. Make sure you feel comfortable with the manufacturer and the people who stand behind the product. There are two key things you can do to get what you need. First, talk with the manufacturer sales agent and discuss some of these points and get a feel for how they respond. Second, make a quick call to the tech support department. If you get voice mail, write down the time you called and record how long it takes for them to call back. Last, speak with a dealer about which manufacturer is easier to deal on the sales side as this is a good indicator of how the support department is ran and how the company is ran as a whole.
- Warranty policy and software support is another important area you need to investigate. Typically the warranty offered is a 1 year warranty but we feel it also important to ask if extended warranties are also available. This is an indication that the company is thorough and methodical in their business model and provide additional options to the buyer. In addition, ask about software support or firmware upgrades. There is a trend right now for manufacturers to grab more profit by charging for software support after the original 1 year warranty. We feel this is absurd. Spending thousands of dollars on production equipment to be left holding the ticket only 1 year later is not acceptable - so ask about software support for the life of the product and what expenses are associated with that support. We still know of manufacturers, such as MF Digital, which offer free lifetime firmware upgrades and software support.
- To wrap things up we should talk about price. The first thing you must understand is that CD/DVD duplicators are not commodity products. This means they are not made in such large quantities, like cell phone or MP3 players, that you go to CNET and simply buy off price alone. Rather, take a fresh approach and appreciate this type of equipment as many moving parts and the collection of many makes up the product as a whole. The quality of the many components determines the quality of the product as a whole, thus the price will reflect that quality. For example, in the wood working industry it's well known that Porter-Cable makes one of the best routers available and their product will last for 25 years of hard work, on the flip side Ryobi makes a router which is more-or-less disposable and will burn out after 5 years. If you're in the wood working industry, spending your money once on Porter-Cable is much smarter then spending your money twice on Ryobi...well the same can be said for CD/DVD duplication equipment. Spend a little more upfront on the higher quality gear and your company will save money in the long run with a good investment that provides years of performance.