TOKYO - Toray Industries is the first, and so far the only, plastics company to commit to the superdensity digital video disk technology developed by Toshiba and Matsushita and supported by a consortium of electronics and entertainment companies that includes Hitachi, Pioneer, Thomson Consumer Electronics and Time-Warner. Though this technology has emerged from the laboratory only in the past year, its supporters expect it eventually to render present videotape and laser disk technologies as obsolete as the LP record.
For plastics companies that are able to fabricate the new disks, that adds up to a lot of potential business. Announcements of advances in digital video disk technology have been coming every few weeks lately. The most recent is the development of a recordable version that uses a phase-change method to record, erase or overwrite data on a polycarbonate optical disk.
Toray, based in Tokyo, committed to phase-change technology some time ago and has been manufacturing disks used in drives built by Toshiba and Matsushita for computer applications. All commercial phase-change disks currently are made of polycarbonate materials, but, according to Toray spokeswoman Kaori Isayama, research is under way with an experimental plastic alloy that combines four different materials.
Later this year, a new 3 billion-yen plant (US$37 million) in Shiga Prefecture, Japan will begin operating with a capacity of 500,000 phase-change disks a year. By 1998, capacity will quadruple to 2 million disks annually, Isayama said.