Sharp's lasers for next-gen DVDs

Sharp's lasers for next-gen DVDs

Sharp has begun mass production of blue-laser diodes at a new factory in Japan -- a move that should help reduce the cost of Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD players.

Production started at 150,000 a month on a new line at its factory in Mihama, Hiroshima prefecture. The first products are low-power diodes suitable for disc players, but in late 2007 Sharp aims to increase production to around 500,000 diodes per month and also begin making higher power models for use in disc writers.

The diodes are one of the most important components in the next-generation disc players and due to their use both new formats can accommodate several times more data than current CD and DVD discs. Blue light has a shorter wavelength than the red lasers used in CD and DVD players, and that means the laser, combined with new optics, can be focused more sharply on the disc surface.

In the case of content a single-sided, single-layer HD DVD disc has a 15GB capacity and that of a Blu-ray Disc is 25GB. A DVD can store 4.7GB.

Despite their importance companies have been slow off the ground in starting production, in part because several technology hurdles had to be overcome before mass production could begin. Only a handful of companies currently make the diodes and the addition of Sharp's output to the market could bring prices down.

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