Non-circular optical discs exist for fashion purposes; see Shaped compact disc.
The encoding material sits atop a thicker substrate (usually polycarbonate) that makes up the bulk of the disc and forms a dust defocusing layer. The encoding pattern follows a continuous, spiral path covering the entire disc surface and extending from the innermost track to the outermost track.
Blu-ray Disc recordable discs do not usually use an organic dye recording layer, instead using an inorganic recording layer. Those that do are known as low-to-high (LTH) discs and can be made in existing CD and DVD production lines, but are of lower quality than traditional Blu-ray recordable discs.
Libraries and archives enact optical media preservation procedures to ensure continued usability in the computer's optical disc drive or corresponding disc player.
Discs should not have any stickers and should not be stored together with paper; papers must be removed from the jewel case before storage. Discs should be handled by the edges to prevent scratching, with the thumb on the inner edge of the disc. The ISO Standard 18938:2008 is about best optical disc handling techniques. Optical disc cleaning should never be done in a circular pattern, to avoid concentric cirles from forming on the disc. Improper cleaning can scratch the disc. Recordable discs should not be exposed to light for extended periods of time. Optical discs should be stored in dry and cool conditions to increase longevity, with temperatures between -10 and 23 °C, never exceeding 32 °C, and with humidity never falling below 10%, with recommended storage at 20 to 50% of humidity without fluctuations of more than ±10%.
Although optical discs are more durable than earlier audio-visual and data storage formats, they are susceptible to environmental and daily-use damage, if handled improperly.
In 1979, Exxon STAR Systems in Pasadena, CA built a computer controlled WORM drive that utilized thin film coatings of Tellurium and Selenium on a 12" diameter glass disk. The recording system utilized blue light at 457 nm to record and red light at 632.8 nm to read. STAR Systems was bought by Storage Technology Corporation (STC) in 1981 and moved to Boulder, CO. Development of the WORM technology was continued using 14" diameter aluminum substrates. Beta testing of the disk drives, originally labeled the Laser Storage Drive 2000 (LSD-2000), was only moderately successful. Many of the disks were shipped to RCA Laboratories (now David Sarnoff Research Center) to be used in the Library of Congress archiving efforts. The STC disks utilized a sealed cartridge with an optical window for protection .
Magnetic disks found limited applications in storing the data in large amount. So, there was the need of finding some more data storing techniques. As a result, it was found that by using optical means large data storing devices can be made that in turn gave rise to the optical discs. The very first application of this kind was the Compact Disc (CD), which was used in audio systems.
The DVD disc appeared after the CD-ROM had become widespread in society.
Most first-generation disc devices had an infrared laser reading head. The minimum size of the laser spot is proportional to the wavelength of the laser, so wavelength is a limiting factor upon the amount of information that can be stored in a given physical area on the disc. The infrared range is beyond the long-wavelength end of the visible light spectrum, so it supports less density than shorter-wavelength visible light. One example of high-density data storage capacity, achieved with an infrared laser, is 700 MB of net user data for a 12 cm compact disc.
In 2004, development of the Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD) commenced, which promised the storage of several terabytes of data per disc. However, development stagnated towards the late 2000s due to lack of funding.
A higher rate of errors may indicates deteriorating and/or low quality media, physical damage, an unclean surface and/or media written using a defective optical drive. Those errors can be compensated by error correction to some extent.
Optical discs are made using replication. This process can be used with all disc types. Recordable discs have pre-recorded vital information, like manufacturer, disc type, maximum read and write speeds, etc. In replication, a cleanroom with yellow light is necessary to protect the light-sensitive photoresist and to prevent dust from corrupting the data on the disc.
A glass master is used in replication. The master is placed in a machine that cleans it as much as possible using a rotating brush and deionized water, preparing it for the next step. In the next step, a surface analyzer inspects the cleanliness of the master before photoresist is applied on the master.
The photoresist is then baked in an oven to solidify it. Then, in the exposure process, the master is placed in a turntable where a laser selectively exposes the resist to light. At the same time, a developer and deionized water are applied to the disc to remove the exposed resist. This process forms the pits and lands that represent the data on the disc.
A thin coating of metal is then applied to the master, making a negative of the master with the pits and lands in it. The negative is then peeled off the master and coated in a thin layer of plastic. The plastic protects the coating while a punching press punches a hole into the center of the disc, and punches excess material.
The negative is now a stamper - a part of the mold that will be used for replication. It is placed on one side of the mold with the data side containing the pits and lands facing out. This is done inside an injection molding machine. The machine then closes the mold and injects polycarbonate in the cavity formed by the walls of the mold, which forms or molds the disc with the data on it.
The molten polycarbonate fills the pits or spaces between the lands on the negative, acquiring their shape when it solidifies. This step is somewhat similar to record pressing.
The polycarbonate disc cools quickly and is promply removed from the machine, before forming another disc. The disc is then metallized, covered with a thin reflective layer of aluminum. The aluminum fills the space once occupied by the negative.
The wafer is then electroplated to form a 300-micron thick nickel stamper, which is peeled off from the wafer. The stamper is mounted onto a mold inside a press or embosser.
The polycarbonate discs are molded in a similar fashion to DVD and CD discs. If the discs being produced are BD-Rs or BD-REs, the mold is fitted with a stamper that stamps a groove pattern onto the discs, in lieu of the pits and lands found on BD-ROM discs.
After application and pre-curing, the disc is pressed or embossed using a stamper and the resins are immediately cured using intense UV light, before the disc is separated from the stamper. The stamper contains the data that will be transferred to the disc. This process is known as embossing and is the step that engraves the data onto the disc, replacing the pressing process used in the first layer, and it is also used for multi layer DVD discs.
Then, a 30 nanometre-thick layer of silver alloy is then sputtered onto the disc and the process is repeated as many times as required. Each repetition creates a new data layer. (The resins are applied again, pre-cured, stamped (with data or grooves) and cured, silver alloy is sputtered and so on)