Sonopress in Gutersloh, Germany, and Crest National in Hollywood, Calif., are using optical cyclo-olefin copolymers to replicate a next-generation digital-audio format.
Philips and Sony designed the hybrid Super Audio Compact Disc format, which stores data as direct-stream digital. At the end of 2001 about 350 titles were available in SACD, but those principally were made with polycarbonate.
Bertelsmann AG's Sonopress unit and independent Crest were selected as the cyclo-olefin SACD launch replicators in Europe and North America. ``We are looking for an Asia-Pacific connection,'' Harry van Doveren, a standards developer with Philips in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, said in an interview at Philips' exhibit at the DVD Entertainment conference in Universal City.
SACD may be the first optical media to use cyclo-olefin.
``Polycarbonate really is not the optical plastic to use'' in this application, said Robert Freedman, Crest senior vice president.
Sonopress began SACD production in late August on 35-ton Sumitomo presses, and Crest was planning a late-September start using 30-ton e-mould machines. Both locations use Axxicon molds, van Doveren said.
Among a variety of emerging audio products, only SACD ``will play on every optical disc drive ever made,'' Freedman said.
SACD stems from digital-versatile-disc technology, which replicates two 0.6-millimeter-thick layers separately and bonds them together.
One layer of a SACD functions as a traditional CD and the other as a high-density, enhanced-sound vehicle. A digital player can discern which layer to read.
At $18 to $20, a SACD will cost a few dollars more than a regular CD, van Doveren said. In a promotional pricing, a new Rolling Stones musical release will be sold only in the SACD format but priced the same as a regular CD.
Now retailers do not have to keep track of both a superaudio version and a regular CD version, Freedman said: ``One disc serves both purposes.''
Cyclo-olefin, which is hydrophobic, is used in camera optics, laser printer lenses, liquid-crystal-display optical films, medical containers and tablet blister packaging. Barrier properties protect against high humidity.