Video: The Super Machine That ‘Grows’ DVDs

The machine that grows gadgets from Humans Invent on Vimeo.

MOST of us norms have less chance of getting an MBE than Oliver Cromwell’s descendants, but as another of the Queen’s Birthday Honours Lists passes without honour, we’ve learned of a machine that is cooler than any of Her Maj’s medals.

“But what does this piece of kit have to do with our monarch’s bi-annual prize-giving?” we hear you ask irritably. Well not much too be honest… Apart from the fact that it also answers to the acronym MBE. This high-tech tool is named after Molecular Beam Epitaxy, the process it performs – in the language of a technology blaggard, this machine ‘grows’ gadgets.

In the video above (which comes courtesy of innovation, craftsmanship and design website you get a closer look at this highly complex machine which sits in the bowels of Sharp’s high-security Oxford laboratories.

A Sharp employee shows off the company's 'gadget grower'..
A Sharp employee shows off the company's 'gadget grower'..

The MBE effectively transfers atoms from one place to another almost individually, depositing them in layers to gradually build the basis of high tech electronics. From lasers to LEDs and even solar panels, this is where Sharp’s engineers craft the gadgets of tomorrow, one atom at a time.

While you may wonder how your DVD and Blu-Ray collection came into being, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the contents of your Sopranos box-set weren’t hand-crafted by hippies, but carefully burned by uber-precise super-computers.

Although many of us will be familiar with the practice of ‘burning’ DVDs on our own clapped out PCs, the MBE takes that process to new levels of definition and eye-watering complexity. As Sharp’s John Heffernan explains above, we’re talking ultra-high vacuums, molecule bullets, evaporation and liquid nitrogen. No wonder the things are so expensive these days!

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