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How does a CD Burner work?

The CD burner or more commonly known as the CD writer has become a standard part of the PC today. Its rare to see a PC without the capacity to create customized CD's. Its takes only a few minutes these days to back up your work onto CD or create a customized music from CD's you already own. But how does the CD writer actually work? Well firstly we will need to take a closer look at how the standard CD reader works. This will help us understand the burning process a little better.

The construction of a CD

The CD itself is made up of one continuous track about 0.5 microns wide and around 5km in length. This track is a small groove spiralling round and round the CD from the centre to the edge. The materials used to make a CD are at the top we have the label, then a layer of acrylic, a layer of aluminium ad finally a thicker layer of plastic to protect the CD.

Construction of a CD

When manufacturing a production CD like what you buy in the shops, A heavy duty stamp is used with microscopic bumps arranged as a single track of data. This is then stamped on a disc of polycarbonate plastic. Then the Aluminium coating is applied for its properties as a reflective surface. Acrylic is then applied for protection, and the label is then placed on. This is obviously a large volume solution and the technique is no good for home use.

Reading the CD

The process of reading the CD is a simple one although it needs to be very precise. When a CD is burned it leaves a pattern of bumps and troughs. This is read as a digital data stream. Each bump is read as a 0 and a trough or flat area is considered to be a 1. (0's and 1's are the basis for digital data or binary code).

The bumps are read by an optical sensor, or more accurately the missing bumps are read by the sensor. What actually happens is a low powered laser is projected at the spinning CD, if there is no bump on the CD the light reflects back to the sensor and a binary digit of 1 is recorded, if the laser hits a bump in the CD then the light is reflected away from the sensor and so a 0 is recorded.

The sensor works in conjunction with the motor to work out how fast the CD is spinning and therefore how many times a second it has to send the laser beam to the CD to accurately work out the digital pattern on the CD's surface.

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