Imation Doubles Tape's Capacity -

Imation Doubles Tape's Capacity

Imation has developed technology that could double the storage capacity of data tapes, but the company first has to find OEMs to develop the drives for it.

The storage media giant unveiled its new multi-channel "adjacent-track" write and read tape technology at the Information Storage Industry Consortium (INSIC) Tape Program Quarterly Technical Review in San Jose, Calif., today.

Imation scientist Denis Langlois presented results of the company's technology development program that enable as many as 10,000 tracks per inch (10 ktpi) on conventional magnetic particulate (MP) tapes, made using conventional, low-cost substrates, or base films. The breakthrough could boost LTO-4 cartridge capacity to 1.6TB while improving tracking and stability.

The technology uses an amplitude-based "servo" pattern that puts the adjacent tracks on the tape, a unique thin-film head technology for recording, and a new multi-layer magnetoresistive (MR) array for playback.

Langlois, part of the Advanced Tape development group within the Systems Laboratory at Imation, has been awarded six patents and has an additional seven applications pending in his 25 years of advanced storage development.

Subodh Kulkarni, vice president of Imation's Global Commercial Business, R&D and Manufacturing, noted that data storage tape systems have increased areal density 100,000 times in the last 50 years or so.

Before 1990, the increase was due mainly to improved linear density, Kulkarni said. Since then, the application of track-following servo has helped track density make dramatic gains. To maintain backward compatibility, designers have kept tape formats similar from generation to generation by using the same servo format and channel spans on the recording and playback heads. This design philosophy has resulted in the need to simultaneously write and read sets of tracks that are spaced apart by significant intervals, which makes the dimensional stability of the substrate materials critical as tracks become narrower.

"Without a breakthrough approach to how tracks are written on the tape, conventional, low-cost substrates are rapidly reaching their limits," said Kulkarni. "Our new adjacent-track write and read technology is an important breakthrough that has demonstrated a major advance in capacity and track-following capability."

The company still needs OEM partners to make the technology a commercial reality. The demonstration and the measurements were conducted on a testbed that was developed in the lab.

Imation said it "intends to work with others in the INSIC tape organization to explore the potential to commercialize this technology, expanding the capacities of traditional tape formats."

"Imation is talking to drive companies about this technology," a company spokesperson said. "We are looking to OEMs to display interest and develop the drive."

The new technology performs multi-channel write and read, with the capability to store 1.6TB in a conventional LTO-4 cartridge, with excellent tracking performance on conventional, low-cost substrates such as PET and PEN, while "practically eliminating dimensional stability concerns in the media."

Imation has also developed a proprietary "sandwich" reader that uses layers of reading devices to minimize the cross-tape spacing between them, and a proprietary mixed-frequency redundant amplitude-based servo system that enables a tracking precision of 40 to 50 nm.

Imation shares were a standout in another dismal session for stocks today, soaring 25 percent after the company also raised its financial guidance.

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