SAN JOSE, CALIF. - The electronics industry is predicting success for the digital video disc, scheduled to hit the market later this year. While some large compact disc injection molders are gearing up for DVD production, smaller firms may take a more cautious approach, according to industry leaders interviewed last week at the three-day DVD briefing, held in conjunction with the annual Replitech convention and show in San Jose.
Robert S. Reass, senior process engineer for CD mastering at Omni Resources Corp. in Millbury, Mass., said the major players in CD manufacturing - those that produce more than 50 million per year and up - will make the necessary capital expenditures to enter DVD production early and in a big way.
``Smaller guys may take a wait-and-see attitude, until they get a feel for what the market will do,'' he said.
For CD manufacturers, adding DVD production means a substantial investment. Reass said DVD molds are larger, so presses will have to be larger, components thinner, and ``cleanliness issues greatly exaggerated.''
Omni is in the midst of what Reass termed an aggressive expansion to handle future DVD molding, which includes a Class 10,000 clean room.
Current CD molding quality requirements - in which tiny, 0.5-micron defects do not affect quality - will become more stringent for DVDs because of their compressed data format, he said.
Actual quality standards are still being hashed out by the industry.
``People who developed DVD haven't even discovered all the problems [with manufacturing] yet,'' Reass said, adding that he believes there will be a long learning curve for manufacturers.
Moving into DVD production will require - most likely - new equipment. Some CD production machinery can be upgraded to accommodate DVD production, but much of it cannot.
Omni plans to add eight to 10 double-molding lines in 1997. The firm currently uses systems, including molding presses, from Toolex Alpha in Sundbyberg, Sweden.
According to industry estimates, 250 movie titles will be released on DVD initially, with forecasters predicting that approximately 49.7 million discs will be sold in the United States in the first year. About 3.4 million DVD player units will be sold in the United States during the first year, according to forecasters.
The bottom line is that DVD's success rests squarely on the shoulders of the consumer. Industry officials hope that consumer familiarity with CDs will create a ready market for the improved audio and video that DVD movies will offer.
``People are comfortable with DVD's size and shape,'' said Eliot Minsker, chairman and chief executive officer of Knowledge Industry Publications Inc., one of Replitech's sponsors. ``They already know how to use them, install them and store them.''