Ricoh Offers to Support All Optical Formats

Hardware, electronics, and optics manufacturer Ricoh has apparently developed a new optical component which can read all optical disk formats—CD, DVD, Blu-ray, and HD-DVD—and plans to offer it to OEM manufacturers by the end of 2006. But Ricoh doesn’t plan to stop there: with the addition of a more-powerful laser, they plan to offer a component which can also write all optical disk formats. Ricoh plans to show the component this week at Tokyo’s International Optoelectronics Exhibition ’06.

One of the major hurdles to developing a player or recorder which supports multiple optical media formats is that different formats place their data layer(s) at different distances from the physical surface of the disk. Distances range from 1.1 mm for audio CDs to just 0.1 mm for Blu-ray discs. Ricoh’s new component utilizes a special diffraction grating in conjunction with a single lens to adjust the focal depth of the unit’s laser depending on the media format.

“This diffraction device is the first one that is ready for four formats, including BD and HD-DVD,” said a Ricoh spokesman. “It will make it possible to build players and recorders ready for all formats, which will benefit consumers.”

Ricoh says the component works for both reading and writing, but since the grating also diffuses some of the laser’s energy, a burner requires a blue laser with a higher power than that being used in today’s recorders. It’s too soon to speculate on prices for possible format-agnostic products based on the Ricoh technology, and Ricoh isn’t offering any guidance…however, it’s safe to assume units will command premium prices as they enter the market.