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CD Replication: Physical Characteristics & Tech Info 1

The following text is an edited extract from original article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_Disc

A Compact Disc is made from a 1.2 mm thick disc of almost pure polycarbonate plastic and weighs approximately 16 grams. A thin layer of aluminium or, more rarely, gold is applied to the surface to make it reflective, and is protected by a film of lacquer. The lacquer is normally spin coated directly on top of the reflective layer. On top of that surface, the label print is applied. Common printing methods for CDs are screen-printing and offset printing.

CD data is stored as a series of tiny indentations (pits), encoded in a tightly packed spiral track moulded into the top of the polycarbonate layer. The areas between pits are known as "lands". Each pit is approximately 100 nm deep by 500 nm wide, and varies from 850 nm to 3.5 μm in length.

The spacing between the tracks, the pitch, is 1.6 μm. A CD is read by focusing a 780 nm wavelength (near infrared) semiconductor laser through the bottom of the polycarbonate layer. The change in height between pits and lands results in a difference in intensity in the light reflected. By measuring the intensity change with a photodiode, the data can be read from the disc.

The pits and lands themselves do not directly represent the zeros and ones of binary data. Instead, Non-return-to-zero, inverted (NRZI) encoding is used: a change from pit to land or land to pit indicates a one, while no change indicates a zero. This in turn is decoded by reversing the Eight-to-Fourteen Modulation used in mastering the disc, and then reversing the Cross-Interleaved Reed-Solomon Coding, finally revealing the raw data stored on the disc.

While CDs are significantly more durable than earlier audio formats, they are susceptible to damage from daily usage and environmental factors. Pits are much closer to the label side of a disc, so that defects and dirt on the clear side can be out of focus during playback. Discs consequently suffer more damage because of defects such as scratches on the label side, whereas clear-side scratches can be repaired by refilling them with plastic of similar index of refraction, or by careful polishing. Early music CDs were known to suffer from "CD rot" or "laser rot" where the internal reflective layer itself degrades. When this occurs the CD may become unplayable.