Primera enlisted Cal-Comp Electronics to manufacture the Z1. The result of their collaboration is a 200dpi monochrome device that prints directly onto the surface of a disc using thermal transfer technology. This process involves using a combination of heat and pressure to transmit solid ink from a replaceable ribbon cartridge. Weighing in at a couple of pounds, the Z1 is an extremely compact unit that easily sits out of the way on any desk and can be moved around the office or even taken on the road.
The Z1 is not a full-surface labeler. Rather, its print head deposits ink as it moves horizontally across a limited portion of a disc that is held stationary by a hub restraint. Using a small motor, the unit spins the disc in 90-degree increments to print up to four label quadrants automatically. This approach results in surprisingly expansive surface coverage with up to 24mm x 60mm bands laid down on the upper and lower portions and 24mm x 40mm on the left and right sides.
Included label design software features a range of tools for creating the essentials: everything from straight and curved text, bullets and tables to the ability to import and manipulate simple graphics. Bringing in playlists from audio jukeboxes, the ability to draw basic shapes, and a clip-art library, however, would be welcome additions.
During testing it took the Z1 a maximum of 32 seconds to print the initial label region and up to 1:37 for all four quadrants. Depending upon the number of regions printed, operation cost should be modest. Priced at $19.95 each (to cover 200 print regions), ribbons come in black, red, blue, and green. The Z1 employs ribbon-saving technology so it may be possible to squeeze out a few more discs than advertised. This roughly translates to 10 cents per label region or between 10 and 40 cents per printed disc.
For best results, Primera recommends using CD-Rs and writable DVDs with lacquer or bare polycarbonate surfaces. It's also possible to label commercially decorated discs, but any silkscreening must be smooth and chemically compatible for the Z1's ink to adhere and cover properly. A number of plain-topped CDs and DVDs from MBI/Glyphics, Taiyo Yuden, and Verbatim did the trick during testing, yielding waterproof and scratch-resistant results with attractive line art and text and reasonably dense solid areas.
The Z1 has a few imperfections. To the critical eye, the print head leaves behind a number of superficial scratches on the disc's surface along with some milky residue. Also, the Z1's hub restraint doesn't permit much variability in the size of a disc's center hole, making some unduly difficult to remove.
For those creating a couple of discs at a time, the Z1 offers an attractive, durable, and affordable alternative to messy handwriting and potentially problem-filled sticky labels.
System requirements: 266MHz Pentium 3 running Windows 2000/XP; 128MB RAM; 100MB free HDD space; USB 1.1/2.0 interface; CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive.