Laser Diode Power Output Based on DVD-R/RW specs

Laser Diode Power Output Based on DVD-R/RW specs

Unknown red laser diode - what performance can we expect? -

Unknown red laser diode - what performance can we expect? -

I’ve opened about a dozen different types of CD and DVD drives so far (of both read-only and burner varieties) and every time it’s a thrill to find a working red laser diode in there. But it would be useful indeed to know what performance can be expected from the laser diode once it’s free of its mounting hardware (AKA “sled”) – if it’s the laser diode you’re after, the drive may not even be worth opening. It would be nice to know that before wasting some time on opening it. Although it would be hard to know the exact specs of the diode down to the part number, some of the specs can be found rather quickly doing an Internet search. Here is how I do that.

Phillips DVD8631 drive ready to be disassembled

Phillips DVD8631 drive ready to be disassembled

First off, run an Internet search for the part number. Usually, you don’t even have to leave the first page of the search results in your favorite search engine. There’s normally someone still selling these drives (unless it’s a VERY old model) and they put all the info you need to know right in the title of their listing: Philips dvd8631 16xdvd±rw dl ide drive . So, it’s a 16-speed, dual layer writing DVD drive, so it does have a high power red laser in it.
The power of the laser can be assessed based on the advertised speed.

According to Sony’s product brochure for one of their high-power red laser diodes, SLD1236VL, the diode’s output power (CW or continuous power) will be somewhere along this list:

  • x4 speed recoding – 100mW
  • x8 speed recording – 140mW
  • x12 speed recording – 200mW
  • x16 speed recording – 250mW
  • x16 Dual Layer speed recording – 300mW
  • x24 Dual Layer speed recording – 400mW

You can also venture a really rough guess based on the date of manufacture if by some very strange reason no info about your drive is available on the Internet (what is it, from Mars?) or you’re just been really lazy:

  • 2002-2003 – x4 speed recoding – 100mW
  • 2003-2004 – x8 speed recording – 140mW
  • 2004-2005 – x12 – speed recording – 200mW
  • 2004-2005 – x16 – speed recording – 250mW
  • 2005-2008 – x16 speed recording Dual Layer – 300mW
  • 2008-current x24 speed recording Dual Layer – 400mW

Note that many of the most recent drives have laser diodes either without any package (bare silicon inside the optical assembly) or on really hard to work with glass plates. You may want to stay away from those.

Ideally, what you are looking for (from the DIY perspective) is a red laser diode of 200mW+ optical power output in a TO-18 package, meaning a round metal body with the larger diameter of 5.6mm – the size/shape most prevalent among suppliers of mountings for the diode, such as AixiZ or O-Like. This diode operates at 2.5V and 130mA current and has a wavelength of 658nm.

So, your ideal drive to harvest parts from, at least for DIY CNC laser cutting purposes, is usually manufactured in 2005-2008 and it’s a desktop drive advertised as a 16x speed recorder. So, yeah, this Phillips drive was a good pick …

Happy harvesting!

Oh, and before you go: even the lowest power laser diodes mentioned here will burn your retina if you’re not careful, so use proper laser safety glasses!

19 Responses to “Laser Diode Power Output Based on DVD-R/RW specs”

  • Ryan Gibson:


    Would it be possible to have your email address? I have a few questions to ask.



  • Anthony:

    hello there…
    ive seem to run into some problem along my laser building attempt…..i have carefully extracted a 3 pin laser diode and its lens from a dvd drive but im just left here with the naked diode in hand….any chance you can help me or give me tips on how to make a housing for my diode….the ever so famous Aixiz housing is really hard to get where im from..thank you

    • Hi Anthony, I completely understand your issue. The AixiZ ( or similar) housing is not always available and that’s why I did another post some time ago about making a laser diode housing out of hardware store parts (plumbing section, naturally :) ). Please note that for a really serious work you will have to actually get yourself an AixiZ or O-Like (named after it’s probably most prominent seller on eBay that goes by that name) housing because when optics are concerned, there’s little substitute for the precision that professionally manufactured housings provide. But in a pinch, you can create something like my “plumbing section laser diode housing” that will get you through the time you’re waiting for the professionally made one to arrive.

  • [...] is spec’ed as a 4X BD-ROM reading, 5X DVD-RAM Writing, 8X DVD-R Writing. So, based on the writing speed vs. laser diode power output table, I would estimate it to be a 140mW optical output diode. It is a bit less than you’d want for [...]

  • jagdeep:

    sir i get laser diode from dvd to make a laser burner and i made circut with lm 317 +10 om ris+ 47mf35v cap…but when i give 6 v lase diod just red not burning much ..wher i am wrong pl help me

    • For a laser diode to start burning anything it has to be properly focused first. Otherwise the energy is just not concentrated enough. I could not get it from your comment, but are you using any kind of laser diode housing with lens to focus the light on the piece you’re trying to burn? In a pinch I did OK using what’s available in the DVD itself and some hardware store parts. With this hardware store parts laser housing I was able to burn some black foam. Although for serious work you would need professionally made housing and lens.

      Also, when you say that it’s “just red”: how bright a light we are talking about? Inside each laser diode there’s a simple LED and it the laser diode itself is damaged, the LED will continue to light up, just rather dimly. If all you have is a dim red light, then, unfortunately, the laser diode is dead. Hope it’s not the case.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  • gaurav:

    truely inspired from this page but i am planning to buy an OSRAM SPLPL90 laser diode. After reading the datasheet. i have the following queries:
    1. its wavelength is around 905nm so even if it runs on its full power, i will not be able to see the light. correct?
    2. do i need a constant current supply for this. if yes, what should be the max. open circuit output voltage of the supply to prevent the diode to be damaged.
    3. it states that it is pulsed power, so what duty cycle or frequency should be ideal for this diode.
    4. does a red laser of 25w is powerful than an IR laser of 25W.

    Thanks in advance.

    • OSRAM SPLPL90 laser diode seems a very interesting but very odd device. Looking at it’s datasheet, it has 40A (!) forward current. 40A in a form factor of a 5mm LED? This is just a crazy amount of current! Anyhow, the datasheet states that its duty cycle is only 0.1% , in other words, it can be on for only 1/1000 of the time you’re using it.

      I don’t think you can use it for anything much as far as laser cutting it concerned. For one thing there’s no housing for a 5mm plastic body device that I know of. All laser diode housing I’ve seen are designed to accommodate a standard-type laser diode in various metal can TO packages – 5.6mm, 9mm. I just can’t see how you can cool a plastic device that passes 40A through it without melting completely.

      Additionally, the 0.1% duty cycle does not seem like it’ll work for anything. I guess you can consider it to be 1/1000th of 25W of useful energy, as in 25mW – far too low to cut anything. Laser diodes start cutting the lightest materials at approx 100mW and become somewhat more useful at around 200mW.

      IR may be better for some applications than red because there are materials (most notably- acrylic) that are transparent to visible light yet opaque to IR. However, the laser diodes are nowhere near the power needed to actually cut acrylic sheets, so for all intents and purposes your 200mW red (~650-670nm) laser will have the same capabilities as 200mW IR (800nm and longer wavelength). But the red laser will be much safer because you can see its output. So, if you’re just starting to play with these, I would strongly advise to start with a laser diode that emits visible light for safety.

      Thanks for stopping by my site!

      • gaurav:

        really thanks for your advice. i would better first go for a DVD laser. actually, i am in india a nd have no good source for such kind of things.

        thanks again

      • gaurav:

        one more question, cant we dissipate some of the heat from the diode through its leads.

        • I think it’s a given that some heat does get dissipated through the leads but it’s not going to be enough. All laser diodes I’ve seen so far have metal cases except for one that came from an Apple DVD writer – that one is all glass (or silica). But none had cases made of plastic – it just does not transfer heat away from the chip fast enough.

          As far as sources of laser diodes – one of the reasons I started breaking into DVD writers to get the diodes is that the DVD drives are so common – I had a couple sitting on my shelf before I even got into this. If I had a broken one, too, I would have started playing with these lasers much earlier :) – it was a shame to break a perfectly well working drive, so I had to get myself broken units from eBay.

          I’m pretty sure you can find some broken DVD writers in India, too. Any company that does computer repairs should have a surplus of broken DVD drives – since no one repairs electronics these days – they’re just sitting and waiting to be trashed. I think it’s much better if they’d be harvested for useful parts before that.

          Good luck!

  • @gaurav: No. Not really. The internal connections are all gold wire bonding except the ground terminal, which is part of the case anyway. Gold is not exactly known for its thermal conductivity, and the wire is much thinner than a human hair. Also, it is many times longer than it is wide, so not much of the heat makes it back to the leads.

  • David:

    Hello. I have extracted a 5.6mm diode from a 16x DL dvd burner, I already have an AiXiz module and driver outputting around 225mA. My question is what is the optimal output for my driver for this particular diode [estimate]? And will I need extra cooling apart from the 12mm housing of the diode?

    • How did you measure the 225mA output? Did you connect 4 diodes (regular rectifier diodes, not laser of course) in series to the output of the driver and measured current in that circuit? Just curious because you cannot know the output of a constant current driver without connecting the load. The 4 diodes in series emulate one red laser diode. Sort of.

      Anyway, I would start at 125-140mA and, depending on your application, perhaps end there as well – unless you really need all the power you can get, there’s no reason to push the limits and worry about cooling. For anything optical, 125mA through a red laser diode will produce an exceedingly bright output.

      If you are planning on cutting stuff with it, you do really need all the power you can get – see if you can bring the driver to outputting 160-200mA across the four diodes, then connect your laser diode. I honestly never tried to go above 200mA with a red laser diode, and never needed extra cooling except for the ribs that my O-Like housing has. But cutting was a kind of intermittent use and I don’t recall cutting anything that needed more than 45 minutes of total CNC time.

      Good luck!

  • Milo:


    I have a DVD-RW desktop drive (LG Model: GSA-H22N, Manufactured in 2006) in which I found two laser diode: one red and other infrared. In the specs of the drive says that the max speed of writing is : 48X writing CD-R, 32X writing CD-RW, 18X writing DVD+R, 6X writing DVD+RW.

    I have two questions:

    Which is the power output on mW of each diode? (Acording the table of Speed vs Power Output, can I estimate 325mW the red laser and 800mW the IR?).

    And which is the best one to make a Laser Cutter CNC? (Obviously with the right protection of the invisible light of the IR if this one is the best).

    I would like to take all the power of the diode that I can, It would be great if I could cut 3mm MDF wood, and engrave transparent acrylic.


    • I would say the IR estimation is way off. I don’t actually know it but it looks like it’s below 50mW or so – it is only used for reading and never actually need much power.

      As far as the red one – it’s more likely 250mW diode and I am certain it won’t cut MDF and will not touch anything transparent either. It should be able to cut some 3mm craft foam or polystyrene but nothing more dense than that.

      Hope this helps.

  • Milo:

    Thank you so much, it really helps.

    I found this: that confirm what you say, my estimation was really way off. For 48X CD-R writing whit IR its about 225mW optical output (but I think its a pulsed driver).

    So, the red laser is used to record CD-R and DVD-R, and the IR is just for read CD-R? If it’s like that the red laser would be more powerfull. But if the IR is used to record CD-R, this one could be more powerfull because it records at 48X while de DVD does it at 16X. It’s a guess, I really have no idea.

    Thanks again.

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