New optical drive, media boost capacity

By Lisa Coleman

Within the next quarter, TDK will ship a 2GB CD-RW burner with a custom MultiLevel (ML) integrated circuit (IC) built into the drive. The ML CD-RW drive records three times as much data as conventional CDs at speeds of 36x, or more than 5MBps. The drive can read and write conventional CDs, but to achieve increased performance and capacity, ML media must be used. The media is $1.99 to $2.99 per disc, and the drive has an anticipated street price of $199.

"We can significantly increase the capacity and data-transfer rate of optical storage devices like CD and DVD with the addition of an ASIC that's designed into a standard CD recorder drive," says Tom Burke, founder and chairman of Calimetrics, which designed the ML chip and is a member of the ML Alliance.

To take advantage of ML, an IC is added to the electronics of existing CD-R/RW drives. No modification of existing optics or mechanics is required. The ML Alliance is eyeing both enterprise and consumer applications for the technology.

Jukebox vendors are working with ML technology, according to Burke, although he declined to say which ones. "ML gives them more than twice as fast recording as DVD for less than half the cost. So they are looking at this as an inexpensive, high-performance bridge to future DVD products," says Burke.

Applications such as file backup could take advantage of ML technology. "With a 36x recorder and 2GB capacity on an inexpensive $2 disk, you have a compelling backup-and-archive option," says Burke.

The next step for ML is jumping from 2GB to 10GB per side on a DVD.

No timeline for 10GB DVD has been announced, however. ML will also take advantage of blue laser optical systems once they become available.

The ML Alliance is led by TDK. Other members include Calimetrics, Mitsubishi Chemical, Panasonic, Plextor, Sanyo Semiconductor, TEAC, and Yamaha.

This article was originally published on February 01, 2002