The USB Memory Stick Revolution
USB Flash Drives vs Disc Media
Over the last 5 years Flash drives have become so popular that they are being mass produced in vast numbers. This, of course, brings the price right down on each unit making them an even more attractive proposition for those looking to distribute large amounts of data to a large number of people. They have a number of advantages over high capacity disc media such as Blu-ray DVD discs, the most obvious one being their size. The actual circuit board holding the memory chip inside a USB drive is very small. The casing is simply designed to accommodate the interface and to make the device easier to handle and less easy to lose, but they are still smaller and more easily transported than a Blu-ray DVD in a case. They can be fixed to keyrings or stored in a small slot in a briefcase where they take up little room.
Their next advantage is their data capacity. These amazing little devices can hold an incredible amount of data with USB memory sticks readily available that can hold as much as 512GB of data. In comparison, a standard dual layer Blu-ray DVD disc can only hold a maximum of 50GB. There is also the advantage of data transfer speed with the latest USB 3.1 standard realistically capable of uploading or receiving data at a rate of 500 MB/second meaning that a 512 GB USB memory stick can be filled to capacity in around 17 minutes.
The versatility of the device interface is also a major plus. The smaller micro-B plug USB interface can be used allowing the flash drive to be connected to a phone or tablet. With phones and tablet data storage capacities increasing rapidly with advancing technology, coupled with the fact that more and more consumers are using these devices due to their convenient size rather than a laptop or desktop PC, the micro-B plug USB interface is fast becoming the most popular type selected when consumers order large numbers of USB drives.
How Can USB Flash Drives Benefit Your Business
If you have attended any sort of industry tradeshow or exhibition over the last few years, you will undoubtedly have come across businesses who distribute promotional company information using flash drives. Their large capacity makes them ideal for distributing high definition movie files of product demonstrations, detailed 3D CAD models, many hundreds of large high definition images or sophisticated animated product brochures.
If an event is to be attended by many thousands of visitors all of whom are potential customers, then it will be well worth your while to investigate the costs of storing promotional data on a flash drive to hand out as a free giveaway. Not only is the flash drive useful for getting your company message across to the user, they are also useful gadgets to have on hand for the end user. Often, the full capacity of the device is not used and the promotional data is stored in a partition. The rest of the capacity forms an empty partition which can be used by the recipient. This ensures that the company who originally handed out the device is always kept in mind as the drives can be printed with company logos and contact information which is visible whenever the device is used.
Memory sticks are also available in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Business card type USB sticks are great for communicating company contact information without the user even needing to plug the flash drive into a reading device. The body of the USB stick can be pretty much any shape you desire and custom logo mouldings are cost effective when purchased in bulk. They can also incorporate other useful devices such as pens, torches or bottle openers.
Printing On a USB Memory Stick
Printing onto a memory stick is done using a screen printing technique whereby up to 4 spot colours can be printed onto the device and a fifth colour included which is the body colour of the device itself. Screen printing is a technique that uses fine meshes, one for each colour in the design, through which UV sensitive ink is forced onto the surface of the memory stick in the printable region. As each colour is transferred onto the device a UV light is used to cure the ink before the next colour is applied. The curing process is very fast, taking only a few seconds per colour. The printing process itself is very quick, meaning that it is possible to print many hundreds or even thousands of memory sticks in a very short time. The process is usually automated with the flash drives being loaded and unloaded into jigs which hold them securely for printing, by automated robot arms.
The screen printed, UV cured ink design is very hard wearing and needs to be, as USB memory sticks tend to be handled a lot and may incur many knocks and scrapes during their life as many are transported in pockets or on keyrings with other metal objects.
Mass USB Flash Drive Duplication
Transferring data onto multiple flash drives is usually carried out using a duplication unit that has a large number of individual USB ports where the drives can be plugged in. Units with 60 ports are not uncommon and where a media duplication company offers a USB duplication service, they often have many such units linked together so that data can be transferred to many hundreds of drives simultaneously.
The duplication unit has a master port or hard drive where the master data is loaded initially. The USB drives are then loaded into each port and if the job requires hundreds or thousands of drives then other duplication units can be connected daisy chain style, all reading from the same master drive. Once the data has been transferred to the first batch of drives, they are usually removed by hand and then replaced with fresh, blank drives and so the process continues. Sometimes this loading and unloading process is automated but it is complicated to set up and only where a company regularly supplies USB duplication jobs running into the tens of thousands or more, will such a system exist.
As previously mentioned, the more USB drives that are ordered, the cheaper the unit cost becomes and because very large amounts of data can be transferred to the devices very quickly, they are set to overtake discs as the media of choice when companies need to transfer large data files to potential customers, existing customers or to staff working within the company.
If you’re considering a data distribution project using discs to store the data, it may be well worth your time to cost the project using USB memory sticks as the storage media instead. Given the advantages listed above that flash drives have over disc media, your end users may well be much more appreciative.
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