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            TDK LPCW-50 CD/DVD Printer

Product :

LPCW-50 Printer

Manufacturer :


Reviewed by :

Wayne Brooker

Price :

£63.16 in VAT

Date :

June 24th, 2003.


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Box Contents

Everything you need to be up and running is in the box, including a blank CD that I'm sure wasn't included to tempt you over to the TDK brand. The single black cartridge should be good for around 20 disks if you print in both locations on each disk or 40 if you print in just the one location.

The average price for a replacement cartridge seems to be around £6.00 so that's in the region of 30p per disk which, for the record, is more than I pay for the disks themselves. If you print in just a single location then it becomes a more reasonable 15p per disk but even this is quite expensive compared to the cost of a page of text on a regular inkjet printer. The problem is a regular inkjet printer can't do what a solid ink printer can do so its a bit of a moot point really.

The Label Printer

This is the top view of the label printer and as you can see it's pretty slick looking. As an idea of scale that round indent in the middle is just about the same size as a regular CD. You can't tell very well from this particular picture but the casing is a light gray/silver coloured plastic.

The four rubber feet that the printer stands on wrap around onto both sides though this seems to be a cosmetic thing as there's no mention of being able to use the printer in a vertical orientation and no clips on the disk tray to secure the CD when used this way. Maybe it's a feature planned or used for other models but there was no mention of it in the user's guide.

The back has only two connections, one for the supplied USB1.1 cable and the other for the power adapter which, should you be even remotely interested, is powered from a 9v 1000mA adapter.

The front is clean and simple featuring just the drawer eject button with an integral green power LED and the blue flip up cover used to access the print cartridge.

And as if by magic, here it is with said cover open! It's not exactly crammed to the gills with sophisticated electronics but I guess it doesn't really need to be. The cartridge, print head and motor are mounted together as a single unit which saves space. Although the unit is quite compact a quick peep inside revealed lots of space at the back behind the print mechanism and I'm sure the casing could be redesigned slightly to create storage room for a spare print cartridge or two, perhaps in a little drawer.

The cartridges simply push over the print head assembly and click into place and are removed in the same way. You need to put the end of a pen or something similar into the white spindle (on the left in image below) and wind up any slack tape before you install the cartridge. I couldn't find any info on the ribbon used in these cartridges but I think these days they all have an antistatic layer, an important feature as dust particles on the back of the ribbon can quickly abrade the print head.

Cartridges are available in black, blue, silver and red at just under £6.00 each.



One thing TDK do need to sort out is the wording on the warning sticker in the middle of the CD drawer. The recording side is clearly NOT the side on which you want to print despite what the sticker says.


Thermal Transfer Printing

If by now you're wondering what this thermal printing business is all about I'll try and give a brief explanation. In those cartridges is a certain length of ribbon, plastic film to which a layer of "ink" has been applied. This ink, usually a form of resin or wax, is solid at room temperature but melts when heat is applied. To print, the ribbon is pressed against the print surface (in our case the CD) and a combination of pressure and bursts of heat created by the print head melt small amounts of ink which adhere to the print surface and become solid again almost instantly.

The benefits to this kind of printing are mainly that the finished results are extremely durable and the ink is dry immediately or almost immediately. You also get the option to use metallic inks if the manufacturer makes them available.

Thermal transfer printing has been tried in the past for desktop colour printing with very limited success. Alps introduced a range of "Micro DryTM " printers which operated on a thermal transfer principle but high running costs meant they were popular only for very specialist print jobs like making decals for modellers. I believe Alps have now discontinued these printers.

From watching the way the ribbon feeds under the head on the LPCW-50 when printing I'd say that a lot of changes could be made to increase the cartridge life. Even if you're printing a single character right in the middle or to the right of the printing area (the head moves left to right) the ribbon spools under the head for the full width of its travel. This has to be done once the head applies pressure and the ribbon is sandwiched between it and the disk but surely this doesn't need to happen across the whole print area when only a small part is being printed to.



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