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Laser Etching On Discs

Introducing Lightscribe Technology

You may have already heard the buzz about the new technology called Lightscribe, but I will attempt to explain exactly what it is and how it works.

Lightscribe technology is a Hewlett Packard invention born out of the frustration of printing labels. Kent Hensheid, the Marketing Manager of Lightscribe, said it best, “We actually got frustrated with putting labels on a disc, ourselves.” In HP’s eyes there had to be another way to print on a disc aside from traditional markers, labels or specialized CD/DVD printing equipment.

To me, Lightscribe technology is a fascinating yet very simple idea. I can just see the HP engineers asking themselves “Why not use the same laser to print on the disc that is used to burn the data on the disc?” Yes, it’s so simple! By using the same laser that burns data onto the recordable side of the disc HP engineers found out a way to use that laser to etch a design onto the top of the disc. How exactly does it do that? Let’s take a closer look.

Before you can think about using your Lightscribe drive you must first have two things: 1) Lightscribe compatible media and 2) Lightscribe supported software. The Lightscribe Media is specialized in order to work with the drive. The printable side of a Lightscribe CDR or LightScribe DVD+R is chemically sensitive and will react once the laser makes contact with the surface causing the dye on the disc to change color.

Sample CDs

A neat thing about a Lightscribe drive is it knows if the media is compatible by reading the ID code on the inner ring of the disc. If the disc is not Lightscribe compatible it merely disables allowing you to burn a regular disc. The control feature zone is just outside of the inner ring where the ID code is stored and contains coordinates of the printing area. The control feature zone is used by the drive to determine where to focus the laser. The really cool thing about this is that it will always know exactly where to point on the disc to begin etching the design. This is the case even if you want to add printing to a previously printed disc. Say you forgot to add a title or something all you do is add the text to your design by using the software and it will automatically align the laser to exactly the spot you want to print.

The few drawbacks of this new technology might be the time it takes to burn an image on the disc. Right now most thermal or inkjet printers take less than a minute and printing and adhering a label to a disc takes about the same amount of time. Lightscribe printing, however, can take from several minutes up to 30 minutes, depending on the complexity of the image and the burn. So this may not be the type of printer you want if you want, especially to burn and print more than one copy at a time. Also Lightscribe printing is monochrome, so you do not have the ability to print any type of colors, only grayscale. You can however, create very detailed images of amazing quality “etched” into your disc, much more professional looking than my sharpie!

Lightscribe technology seems like a very practical way to print on discs if you don’t mind the monochrome color and extended printing times. It is growing very rapidly in popularity and should be a big hit on the consumer market.

Shop Lightscribe CDR or Lightscribe DVD+R