CD and DVD duplication and replication almost always goes hand in hand with the requirement for disc printing.
The day of the sticky label printed and attached to the disc face is well and truly over, despite recent advances in labeling technology. There are currently several options available, each with its inherent pros and cons.
The printing can be divided into 2 categories, digital (short run) printing and long printing which encompasses offset or screen printing. Each of the methods involves direct to disc printing however the processes can be distinguished in the following ways.
1. Digital / short run printing includes thermal print and inkjet print options. Several years ago, the thermal process was the only way to offer a highly professional, glossy print finish for smaller quantities of discs (less than 500), however the high cost of this process has recently given rise to advances in the inkjet processes. Inkjet print offers a higher resolution and whilst having its limitations (mainly with dense, dark designs being prone to bleeding) when teamed with a UV coating process the issues of smudging.
2. Offset / Screen / long run printing is the process reserved for larger quantities of discs (generally quantities over 500 units). The 2 common methods are offset printing (CMYK) which is perfect for photographic type designs with fine detail and screen print which is best suited to pantone colours without too many fine details.
The gap between traditional paper printing process and direct to disc print still exists due to the less than optimal print surface of a disc (a shiny, non-pourous surface will always have its limitations), however the recent advances in inkjet / uv coating and offset printing technologies have certainly closed the gap somewhat.