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How CDs Are Made
Today, CDs are such commonplace objects that many of us can’t even remember a time when they didn’t exist. But behind these ordinary-looking discs is a long history of development and a production process based on ingenious technology that was way ahead of its time.
Make a CD
The CD creation process begins with a single master disc. This original disc is made of glass and is designed to withstand the pressures of replication. This disc is cleaned with deionized water and a fine brush, then allowed to dry before photoresist chemicals are sprayed on its surface.
After these procedures, the master disk is placed in a machine that will burn data on it. Nickel and vanadium coatings are applied to obtain a die.
This matrix will be used to make copies of the master disc.
Plastic compact discs are made using a hydraulic press. The polycarbonate plastic pellets pass through the preheated press until it liquefies. The plastic is then injected into the matrix to create a translucent disc. This disc is then allowed to cool until the plastic hardens.
After the master CD is replicated, a thin layer of aluminum is applied to the copies. This ensures that the data on the discs can be read. A layer of varnish is also applied to protect the discs from scratches.
Once the varnish is dry, a silkscreen engraving could be printed on the surface of the discs. The discs are packaged and sent to market.
How the CD started
The first compact discs were invented in 1965, when inventor James Russell thought of storing information on a light-sensitive plate instead of the perforated black vinyl discs that were used to store music at the time. His product was patented in 1970 – but the idea was too advanced for its time and it didn’t sell.
However, in the 1970s Sony and Philips became interested in the idea and purchased licenses from Russell. In September 1976, Sony made its first public demonstration of the optical digital audio disc, while Philips first demonstrated its product on March 8, 1979.
With these electronic giants backing it, the potential of the CD market was immediately realized. To accelerate the development of a marketable version of the CD, Sony and Philips decided to work together to define the standards of the compact disc and its player.
It took a year of trial and error before the first commercial compact disc was released. The Laserdisc – a 30cm version of the CD as we know it today – became the model for the manufacturing process of the 12cm compact disc. Philips has worked hard to extend the playtime of the compact disc and improve its scratch resistance. Meanwhile, Sony has created the drive that reads discs.
In 1982 Billy Joel 52nd street became the first album to be released in CD format. Three years later, Dire Straight Brothers in arms became the first CD album to sell over a million pieces.
The compact disc then surpassed its original purpose of storing and playing high-quality music. It has become the storage medium for computer software. As early as 1990, it became possible to write computer data to a compact disc.
Soon the effects of CDs on magnetic storage devices such as cassette tapes and VCDs were felt. Ten years after CDs became rewritable, cassette tapes have almost completely disappeared from the market.
Today, CD manufacturers are looking to create even more scratch-resistant CDs that can hold far more data than our current CDs. With improved CD production and replication technologies, there’s no telling what this shiny little plastic device has in store for us. But one thing is certain: it would be worth the wait.
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