In the media business, small- and medium-size processors are changing with the times.
Requirements of these smaller firms differ from those of major optical-media players such as Technicolor, Cinram, Ritek, Sonopress and Sony. Suppliers see a trend for the smaller firms to invest in faster systems for disc replication and, in some cases, a transition away from tape duplication.
Some have selected Toyo, Netstal or Sumitomo machines for the molding aspect of an advanced optical-media manufacturing line.
Production system supplier M2 Engineering AB also has followed the trend. Recognizing that smaller firms might not have significant research muscle, M2 has pitched its capability to provide complete systems for digital-versatile-disc and compact-disc makers, said Stefan Stockhaus, president and chief executive officer of Stockholm, Sweden-based M2.
For installed optical-media lines within North America, M2 ranks behind Singulus Technologies AG of Kahl am Main, Germany.
Toyo Machinery & Metal Co. Ltd. officials have noticed the trend.
``We are starting to see more small replicators getting into the business,'' said Paul Hebert, a Portland, Maine-based sales representative with Toyo. ``Maybe they were duplicators. They are switching over.''
Toyo finds more companies transitioning directly to DVD-5 or -9 equipment rather than starting with CD lines. ``In the earlier days, people might adopt a CD machine just for CD or CD-ROM,'' Hebert said. ``Now, they are adopting directly to DVD-9.''
Disc Makers in Pennsauken, N.J., is adding to its DVD replication capability this month with an SQ2 line from M2 and two all-electric 55-ton Toyo presses.
In early July, as part of a CD equipment replacement, Disc Makers started an SQ1 line from M2 with another Toyo.
``Our CD replication capacity needed to be expanded, primarily for audio but also some ROM,'' said Morris Ballen, Disc Makers president.
``Duplication is migrating to the replication plants,'' Ballen said. ``For smaller replication facilities, this is a big growth in business.'' Small production companies can make movies in a DVD format and obtain low-volume replication, labeling and packaging reasonably.
Disc Makers reported dramatic DVD sales growth: $300,000 in 2002, $1.8 million in 2003 and probably $4 million this year. Ballen foresees $6 million to $8 million in 2005. Audio Video Inc. does business as Disc Makers and also sells equipment.
Rainbo Record Manufacturing Corp. of Santa Monica, Calif., added DVD capability in May with a Skyline system from Singulus. The line has two Sumitomo SD40E molding machines and was running at capacity by August.
``Once we feel comfortable, we will put in a second [DVD] line,'' possibly during 2005's first quarter, said Rainbo President Steven Sheldon.
In an August replacement, Rainbo began operating its fourth CD line, an SQ1 from M2 with a Sumitomo SD35E press. Rainbo has three other SQ1 lines using Netstal Discjet 600s.
``We cater to the smaller labels mainly in the music business,'' Sheldon said. Rainbo accepts minimum orders of 1,000 for DVDs and 500 for CDs. The 65-year-old firm also makes vinyl records and cassette tapes and believes it is the only domestic business with such a fully integrated in-house capability.
In June, Evatone Inc. of Clearwater, Fla., added another SQ2 line from M2 with two all-electric 55-ton Toyo presses for DVD production, said Doug Franzen, Evatone vice president of manufacturing. Direct-mail-advertising requirements is a key market driver.
The firm's initial SQ2 with two other Toyos, also for DVDs, went into operation in June 2003. Evatone also runs eight CD lines with Netstal molding machines.
Software Logistics Inc. of Toronto began CD manufacturing in mid-May in a change from its historical role as a broker of Asian-made optical media, including recordable blank discs.
The firm installed a 55-ton Toyo press in each of two optical media lines: an M2 SQ1 for CDs and an M2 SQ1-D for CDs and DVD-5s. Software Logistics may buy the capability to mold DVD-9s, said Joe James, production manager.
Software Logistics has identified ``some very good customers'' and supplies CD-ROMs to major drugstore chains for pharmaceutical databases, James said.
Action Duplication Inc. of West Conshohocken, Pa., added DVD capability in mid-2003 and CD in 2000 after being a longtime duplicator of VHS videotapes. The firm uses M2 lines with a 60-ton Netstal Discjet for CDs and 60-ton Netstal Discjet II hybrid for DVDs.
``We found the revenues from DVDs have replaced revenues lost in VHS'' production, said Joel Levitt, owner and president. Action may add a capability to replicate DVD-9s in early 2005.
Golden Era Productions brought DVD-5 replication in-house and recently set up a second line for optical media manufacturing, said Bert Trussell, technical supervisor. Golden Era, the audio-visual division of the Hollywood, Calif.-based Church of Scientology International, operates a film studio and produces television commercials, short films and lecture presentations in various media formats, often with versions in 15 languages.
Within its M2 SQ1 and SQ1-D systems, Golden Era molds with a 60-ton Netstal Discjet for audio CDs on the first line and a 60-ton Netstal Discjet II hybrid for both CDs and the new DVD-5 work on the other.
The organization began producing audiocassettes in the early 1980s and audio CDs in the early 1990s and, for now, continues to outsource replication of DVD-9s.