LightScribe Simplifies DVD Labeling

HP's LightScribe disc-labeling technology
Tired of figuring out how to neatly and efficiently label your CDs and DVDs? Hewlett-Packard has come up with a simple solution: Use the same laser that burned the data to make the label for the other side of the disc.

A technology called LightScribe enables drives to burn a silk-screen-like, high-contrast label on the topside of CD or DVD media with a LightScribe dye coating. After completing a data burn, users are prompted to flip the disc over so they can burn a label onto it.

The first LightScribe-enabled drives and media are expected to be on the market in about six months. A number of manufacturers have already licensed the technology to integrate into their DVD drives, media, and software. Among them are Hitachi-LG, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, MicroVision, Moser Baer India, and Sonic Solutions. HP estimates that a drive that supports the new technology will cost as little as an additional $10, and a disc will cost about a dime more.

Inspired Invention

Announced last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the practical yet elegant LightScribe Direct Disc Labeling technology was developed in a joint effort by HP's Imaging and Printing group and the company's Personal Systems group.

"We actually got frustrated with putting labels on a disc, ourselves," says Kent Henscheid, LightScribe marketing manager, of the invention by project manager and engineer Daryl Anderson.

Any consumer who burns discs faces the problem of disc labeling, Henscheid notes.

"Consumers told us over and over again that they were grabbing a felt pen or putting an adhesive label on. Daryl's brainchild was to come up with a way we could make a label using the laser on the optical drive," he says.

Anderson notes that the direct-burn method avoids label clutter.

"There are no consumables like ink or ink jet cartridges; the only consumable is the disc itself," Anderson says. "The discs have a thin, laser-sensitive layer on the label side of the disc."

Safer Labels

Burning a label directly onto the disc has its advantages. The newest burners spin so fast that applying an adhesive label risks the disc's integrity.

Plus, since the drive itself creates the label, this technology can be implemented in devices other than PC drives.

"LightScribe is not fixed to a desktop setting; it goes to the laptop or the DVD recorder in your living room," Henscheid says. By contrast, "printing an adhesive label is typically done in a desktop environment, where you're tethered to a printer."

LightScribe differs from Yamaha's Disc T@2 technology, introduced over a year ago on the CRW-F1 CD-RW drive. In that case, the laser burns a label on the disc's underside, reducing the amount of data the disc can store. Also, to view the label, you must expose the disc's underside, making it easier to compromise the data it contains with accidental scratches or scuffs.

Other Applications

"No doubt, pens will continue to exist, and some people will keep scribbling labels on a disc or print on ink-jet-receptive media, Henscheid adds. But, he says, "we expect to see this technology show up as an embedded technology across all disciplines in the year to come."

Although PC peripherals will be first to use LightScribe, Henscheid expects it also to show up in consumer electronics products. Stereo component CD recording decks and set-top DVD recorders will be slower to follow, but can still use LightScribe's capabilities.

"In our conversations with consumer electronics providers, they get it," Henscheid says. "The question is the manufacturing and integration process, since product preparation for next Christmas is already under way. I believe that by next CES, you'll see this technology integrated into the remote-control, 10-foot experience."

See PC World's ongoing CES coverage.

Ramon G. McLeod contributed to this report.

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