TDK has begun producing samples of recordable and rewritable Blu-ray Disc bare media for consumers.

Until now, commercial Blu-ray Disc media has come in a protective cartridge but the Blu-ray Disc Association is finalising a specification for bare discs. In anticipation of this, TDK has begun test manufacturing such discs on a line at its Chikumagawa plant in Japan.

The discs make use of a TDK-developed hard protective coating. This coating minimises scratches to their surface and allows the use of discs without cartridges.

TDK is planning to begin production of four types of discs as soon as the Blu-ray Disc Association issues licences for the format, said Nobuyuki Koike, a spokesman for TDK in Tokyo. The company has been expecting such approval for a while but it hasn't come yet, he said. TDK now expects the group to approve the format sometime next year.

The discs will be 25GB and 50GB versions of recordable BD-R and rewritable BD-RW media, TDK said. The company has yet to price the discs but expects they'll be cheaper than existing media because they don't require the cartridge.

The new discs will be for use in Blu-ray Disc recorders. At present, only a handful of such models are available from companies such as Sony, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (Panasonic) and Sharp.

The Blu-ray Disc Association and companies backing the format are expected to unveil new products and a commercialisation schedule for read-only BD-ROM disc media at the Consumer Electronics Show, which will take place in Las Vegas from January 5, 2006.