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How are compact discs (CDs) made?

Learn how compact disc recordings are made.

Compact discs display an etched surface when
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Compact discs display an etched surface when "burned."

The master disc for a CD is an optically flat glass disc coated with a resist. The resist is a chemical that is impervious to an etchant that dissolves glass. The master is placed on a turntable. The digital signal to be recorded is fed to the laser, turning the laser off and on in response to the binary on-off signal. When the laser is on, it burns away a small amount of the resist on the disc. While the disc turns, the recording head moves across the disc, leaving a spiral track of elongated "burns" in the resist surface. After the recording is complete, the glass master is placed in the chemical etchant bath.

This developing removes the glass only where the resist is burned away. The spiral track now contains a series of small pits of varying length and constant depth. To play a recorded CD, a laser beam scans the three miles (five kilometers) of playing track and converts the "pits" and "lands" of the CD into binary codes. A photodiode converts these into a coded string of electrical impulses.

The first CDs were marketed in October 1982. They were invented by Phillips (Netherlands) Co. and Sony in Japan in 1978.

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