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Toshiba to demo low-cost blue-laser optical disc

Bionic DVD

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Toshiba is developing a blue-laser optical disc based on today's DVD production process. The upshot: much higher capacities of optical storage at a much lower cost than other blue-laser technologies.

According to Toshiba, the new disc requires only minor changes to an existing DVD production line and the equipment it's based on to produce. The disc is based on a single-side, double-layer 120mm diameter, 1.2mm thick DVD constructed using back-to-back bonding.

Rival blue-laser offerings are based on multiple discs stacked one on top of the other, each read by adjusting the focus of the laser. This approach produces media that are thicker than today's DVDs and require the disc to be fitted inside a cartridge for protection.

By contrast, Toshiba's disc doesn't need a cartridge any more than a regular DVD does. And by using the same form factor as a DVD can ultimately be delivered using slimline drives capable of being fitted inside notebook PCs.

Toshiba's new disc is read using a short wavelength blue laser, focused through a lens comparable in numerical aperture to current DVD drives. That ensures backward compatibility with today's CDs and DVDs, Toshiba claims.

All of which should ensure the discs are not only cheaper to produce than current blue-laser systems but so too are the drives. Sony's first blue-laser drive, which is set to go on sale this summer, costs around $3000. Discs are $45 a pop.

The new read/write disc will offer a capacity of at least 36GB. It builds on work carried out jointly by Toshiba and NEC to create a next-generation blue laser-based DVD format. Their efforts are currently being considered by the DVD Forum, the body overseeing the format. The Toshiba-NEC technology is designed to boost today's DVD capacities of 8.52GB for a dual-layer, single-sided read-only disc to 30GB, and a 4.7GB single-layer, single-sided read-and-write disc to 20GB.

Toshiba will detail its work on the new disc and the technology behind it next week at the Optical Data Storage 2003 show, held in Vancouver. ®

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