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6 July, 2006 - 10:24 By Staff Reporter

Companies roll-out speedy new CD and DVD print machine

Cambridge metalworkers, Hitec, and specialist developers of CD and DVD printing equipment, Copy-trax, have launched ‘Project 37’, a machine that they claim can digitally print on CDs and DVDs faster and better than anything else in the world. Cambridge metalworkers, Hitec, and specialist developers of CD and DVD printing equipment, Copy-trax, have launched ‘Project 37’, a machine that they claim can digitally print on CDs and DVDs faster and better than anything else in the world.

With the growth in CD based music, games, movies, software packages, brochures and other forms of digitally stored information, the CD/DVD format has become the global media of choice.

Furthermore, with the introduction of the High Definition TV format, additional expansion is expected within the ‘optical disk’ industry. As a result of this growth, demand for CD and DVD printing technology has escalated.

“We are very excited with the launch of Project 37,” said Steve Woods, managing director of Copytrax.

“For many in this industry it’s a quantum leap forward as Project 37 brings the printing of CD and DVD into the digital age. Until now, the volume printing of CD’s and DVD’s has required pre-press production that involves creating films, screens or plates and setting up a machine for each artwork design.

“This process can be very costly and time consuming. Project 37 works entirely in the digital domain. The artwork can be created on a local PC and printed directly onto the CD’s or DVD’s in low and medium volumes at a high speed. It’s definitely a first for the optical disk industry, offering unparalleled speed, flexibility and print quality for the production of optical disk based products.”

Key to Copytrax’s development has been the involvement of Hitec who have worked closely with Copytrax providing the precision-engineered parts that were necessary for the success of the project. Hitec specialises in providing metalwork for the European technology sector and has become a recognised leader in this field.

“Mechanically, Project37 is quite an achievement,” said John Stevenson, MD of Hitec. “In order to achieve the very high resolution printing and the rapid throughput that Copytrax were looking to achieve, the mechanical components had to be machined to very high tolerances. In addition to this, the chassis had to provide maximum stability, to avoid any risk of vibration that could spoil the print quality.”

When the engineers at Copytrax first conceived of this project they knew that being the first to market with this technology would assure them of commercial success. With the target date of the next main industry exhibition, Media Tech in Frankfurt, they set to work developing the first machine.

Woods added: “Without Hitec’s support, I don’t think we could have made the deadline. During the development phase Hitec were very helpful and flexible.

“They understood our situation and worked hard to provide us with the mechanical parts we needed and were always very fast and accurate. In addition to this, Hitec proved to be a good supplier on a personal level, always welcoming the chance to meet and discuss the projects progress and understand the issues.

“I think between us, we have really shown that UK engineering can still lead the world when it comes to innovative technology.”

Described in the industry as a revolutionary digital single-pass, uv-cure, inkjet cd/dvd printer that’s capable of printing over 1000 discs per hour, Project 37 is expected to win business were low and medium volume production is required.

From an engineering perspective Project 37 is impressive, it is controlled by proprietary software and incorporates a unique fixed inkjet array using 24 print heads, which ensures unrivalled photo-quality resolution.

The discs are presented using a linear motor driven carriage with robotic handling and laser positioning from initial input to the final output of the finished discs.

Woods continued: “The trend in the industry is toward lower batch sizes because outlets are looking to hold less stock and the actual CD/DVD content is increasingly subject to regular revision.

“Project 37 really addresses this shift in the market and will provide this level of flexibility for the first time. Another important trend is the emergence of High Definition DVD.

“This new media is far less robust than the current formats, so the low impact technology of our inkjet approach might prove to be a critical factor in the overall success of Project 37.”

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