Duplication versus Replication for CD and DVD: What's the Difference?

Understanding the differences is important in determining which process is best for your project. A duplicated CD/DVD is not only created using a different process than a replicated CD/DVD, but the actual final product is also different.

There are two ways to make a copy of a CD or DVD. Information can be burned on to a blank CD/DVD-R; this method is called duplication. Information can also added during the CD/DVD manufacturing process; this method is referred to as replication.

Understanding the differences is important in determining which process is best for your project. A duplicated CD/DVD is not only created using a different process than a replicated CD/DVD, but the actual final product is also different. After the duplication process is complete, the final product is a CD-R or a DVD-R. Replication stampers for CDs produce CD-ROMs. (ROM means Read Only Memory). The final product in the DVD replication process is a DVD-5, DVD-9, DVD-10, or DVD-18.

The Processes

CD duplication is similar to burning a CD/DVD on your personal computer. A CD/DVD duplicator extracts data from the master disc and writes it to a blank disc. The difference between burning multiple CD/DVD-Rs at a duplication facility and burning one on your computer desktop is that the duplication facility burns hundreds at a time on towers that are linked together. Each tower contains several CD/DVD trays so that many copies can be created simultaneously. After all the data has been written unto the blank CD/DVD-R, the information is verified with the master, and the process is complete.

CD/DVD replicates, on the other hand, are created during the manufacturing process. In other words, media like a CD/DVD-R does not exist before the process starts. Before the replication process gets underway, the client master is painstakingly evaluated for data corruption. Then, a glass master containing relevant data from client supplied master is created. Replication begins when a flawless glass master is assured. The glass master is used to develop a stamper. The stamper, in turn, is loaded into an Injection Molding machine that creates CD/DVD replicates. The quality of CD replication hinges upon the quality of the glass master’s data. Through each successive step, quality and accuracy is consistently monitored to insure each disc is an exact replica or clone of the original. A layer of micro-thin aluminum is applied to the polycarbonate disc. It is then lacquered for additional protection and printed before packaging.

The client supplied master for CD-R and DVD-R duplication is the same, a CD/DVD-R. CD-ROM replication also requires a CD-R master. While a DVD-R is acceptable for DVD replication, most facilities prefer to work from a client supplied DLT or Digital Linear Tape.

Advantages of CD/DVD Duplication

  1. The standard turn-time is 2-3 business days, even for runs up to 5,000 units.
  2. Digital full color printing is available with no prepress charges.

Disadvantages of CD/DVD Duplication

  1. The cost per unit for duplication is higher than replication.
  2. DVDs can have up to 2 layers of information on each side of the media. DVD-R duplicates can have 1 layer of information on the entire DVD.
  3. Most duplication facilities are small and are commonly limited to hand assembly of the media into packaging as a result of their low volume runs

Advantages of CD/DVD Replication

  1. The unit costs are lower than duplicated discs.
  2. Both offset printing and screen printing is available for replicated discs.
  3. Replicated DVDs can contain 1 layer (DVD-5) of information, 2 layers on one side (DVD-9), 1 layer on each side (DVD-10) or 2 layers on each side (DVD-18). Many replication facilities are not yet set up for DVD-18 replication.
  4. Most replication facilities, as a result of their high volume run capability, can auto assemble discs into jewel cases, paper/tyvek sleeves, amaray cases, or cardboard sleeves.

Disadvantages of CD/DVD Replication

  1. The standard turn-time is 7-10 business days, longer for runs exceeding 100,000 units. Standard duplication turn times are 2-3 business days.
  2. Most facilities have a minimum order requirement of 1,000 units.

Are There Noticeable Differences?

Both CD duplication and CD replication extract data from the original in the same way. In terms of manufacturing, however, this is where the similarities end. The finished product of either process performs in the same manner, although there will be difference to the eye depending upon the whether the discs are digitally, screened, or offset printed.

What About Special Circumstances?

The goals of every project are unique. Contact our customer service department to help determine which process best suits the requirements of your project.

Choosing Between Offset and Screen-Printed CD and DVD Labels

There are situations where offset or screen-printing is best, and the project requirements, rather than a replicator’s abilities, should determine which method is used. No single format fits every project.

There is more than one printing option available for media replication. When selecting a facility to produce your project, their ability to both offset and screen print on media is important. There are situations where offset or screen-printing is best, and the project requirements, rather than a replicator’s abilities, should determine which method is used. No single format fits every project.

Technical Differences Between Offset and Screen Printing

The first step in the screen printing process is burn the images from the electronic artwork on to film positives. During the process, ink is pushed via a squeegee through a fine mesh screen onto the disc.

With offset printing, the image is burned directly onto printing plates. Rollers push ink onto the printing plate and then the image may be transferred to the disc’s surface. This is essentially the same process as offset commercial printing on paper or board.

Offset Printing Considerations

  1. Offset printing is more cost effective on runs in excess of 5,000 units. Set-up time required to offset print is greater than that for screen printing, forcing most plants to add an up-charge for runs under 5,000 units.
  2. Offset printing provides better results for more complex artwork, such as photographs, gradations, or images using percentages of colors.
  3. For most projects, matching the media label printing with it’s packaging is vital to the project’s appearance. This is a job for printing experts. The two biggest challenges in matching print are surfaces and printing process.
    • Printing on different surfaces is an unavoidable fact of media replication, and varied surfaces yield variations in print. A DVD absorbs ink differently, for example, than a cardboard package.
    • Most large quantity paper and paperboard packaging is printed offset. It is much easier to match an offset-printed media label to offset-printed packaging. Using the same printing format for media and packaging is the best way to ensure consistency in your final product.
  4. Offset prints 175 line screen and requires at least 300 DPI artwork. The higher line screen produces a smoother surface.
  5. Most offset projects are printed 4-color process with a white flood coat. While the appearance of an image created under 4-color process screen printing can be degraded by the line screen (this happens with areas of solid color, for example), this is not an issue for offset printing. Complex images as well as solid colors reproduce boldly under 4-color process offset printing.
  6. Offset tends to dull because the process inks are transparent and a higher resolution is used.
  7. Offset printing involves additional setup steps unnecessary in screen-printing. These steps can sometimes impact a project’s delivery date.

Screen Printing Considerations

  1. Runs as small 1,000 can be produced without an up-charge.
  2. It is easier to custom match a particular color with screen printing. Any PMS can be printed, and it is even possible to mix PMS colors. Some PMS colors do not have representative CMYK equivalents, such as the 180-190 ranges of red or the 280-290 ranges of blue. In these cases, printing the specific PMS color is better for optimum results.
  3. Metallic and fluorescent inks can be used in screen printing. Some corporations and institutions have their own proprietary colors. These colors can be purchased for screen printed projects.
  4. Solid colors using 4-color process artwork do not print as well in screen as in offset.
  5. The average line screen is 133. Due to the lower line screen, the surface is not as smooth.

Proofing Print Media Printing Projects

Most jobs use PDF files as the project proofs. These are not fully accurate for color, but they do accurately show image placement.

Print check discs are another way to assure the quality of your project. This is a data-free CD or DVD that accurately reflects how the final product will look. Print check disks cost roughly $300 and will add three to four days to a project time line. For this reason, they make the most sense for larger runs. In fact, printing for runs of 50,000 units or more should not start until the client approves a print check disc.