News Column

Patent Issued for Tape Drive for Recording Data onto and Reading Data from Opposing Sides of Tape Media

February 19, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Journal of Engineering -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews journalists, a patent by the inventor Vanderheyden, William J. (Loveland, CO), filed on October 23, 2012, was published online on February 4, 2014.

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8643977, is Oracle International Corporation (Redwood City, CA).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention generally relates to data storage devices such as tape drives and, more particularly, to a tape drive that presents both sides of a length of magnetic tape to one or more tape heads or tape head assemblies for recording data onto and/or reading data from both sides of the tape.

"Tape drives have been widely employed in industry for over thirty years due to their ability to store large amounts of data on a relatively small and inexpensive removable format. Typically, a removable cartridge holding a reel or spool of storage tape is initially loaded into a tape drive. After coupling the storage tape on the cartridge reel to a take-up reel of the tape drive (e.g., via respective leaders), the tape is unwound from the cartridge supply reel, moved past one or more tape heads (e.g., one or more tape head assemblies) for reading and/or writing of data, and wound onto the take-up reel via a drive motor. Next, the tape is unwound from the take-up reel, moved past the tape heads, and wound onto the cartridge. The storage tape must be uncoupled from the take-up reel prior to removing the cartridge from the tape drive.

"Current tape drives write and/or read data from a single side of the tape within a cartridge. More specifically, the take-up reel and various tape path guides (e.g., rollers) in current tape drives pass or otherwise present only one of the opposing surfaces of the tape in front of the one or more tape heads of the tape drives during writing and reading operations. Generally, magnetic tape is made up of a plurality of layers (e.g., films, coatings, and/or the like) of any appropriate materials and thicknesses. While not all layers are necessarily required, magnetic tape typically includes a base substrate with a magnetic layer on one side thereof. In this regard, the side of the substrate having the magnetic layer is the side passed in front of the one or more tape heads during writing and/or reading operations of the tape drive (i.e., the side of the substrate having the magnetic layer faces the tape heads as the magnetic tape passes by the tape heads so that the tape heads can write data to and/or read data from the magnetic layer). Conversely, current tape drives face the other side of the substrate away from the tape heads during tape drive operation (e.g., towards a rotational axis of the supply and take-up reels). In this regard, the opposing sides of the magnetic tape generally maintain a fixed orientation during operation of the tape drive. That is, the side of the substrate over which the magnetic layer is disposed is typically always facing away from the rotational axes of the reels and rollers and towards the tape heads while the side of the substrate over which a magnetic layer is not disposed is typically always facing towards the rotational axes of the reels and rollers and away from the tape heads."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent: "Increased magnetic tape storage density is an endless goal that pervades magnetic tape design, tape drive design, and the like. For instance, a pair of magnetic layers (each capable of storing data) could be disposed on opposing sides of a magnetic tape substrate to effectively double the storage capacity of the magnetic tape. However, this design has heretofore been impractical due to difficulties with positioning tape heads on both side of the tape within the tape drive (e.g., because of the space required for head actuator mechanisms, flexible cable routing, and the like).

"In this regard, disclosed herein is a tape drive that presents both sides of a length of magnetic tape (e.g., magnetic tape stored on a cartridge reel of a cartridge) to one or more tape heads that are disposed on a common side of the tape path of the magnetic tape in the tape drive. Stated differently, the disclosed tape drive sequentially presents one side of the tape to a first tape head assembly (e.g., including one or more tape heads) of the drive and then presents the other side of the tape to a different, second tape head assembly (e.g., including one or more tape heads), where both of the tape head assemblies are disposed on a common side of the tape path within the tape drive (e.g., the outside of the tape path). When used with magnetic tape having respective magnetic layers disposed on opposing sides of the tape, the disclosed tape drive can perform dual-sided recording and reading of the tape. Advantageously, the difficulties associated with positioning tape head assemblies on both sides of the tape path may be avoided or even eliminated. Furthermore, the disclosed tape drive can advantageously be used with and is thus compatible with existing 'single-reel' cartridges (i.e., as it is the disclosed tape drive that has been reconfigured in relation to previous tape drives to sequentially present the first and second sides of the tape to respective tape head assemblies, as opposed to the tape cartridge).

"For instance, tape coming off of a cartridge reel of a cartridge inserted within the tape drive may be wound through or over one or more tape path guides (e.g., rollers) of the tape drive such that one side of the tape (e.g., with a first magnetic layer) passes in front of and faces a first tape head assembly of the drive (where the first tape head assembly is on one of the inside or outside of the tape path). Subsequently, the tape may be wound over one or more additional guides of the tape drive and then passed in front of a second tape head assembly (located on the inside or outside of the tape path along with the first tape head assembly) such that the opposing side of the tape (e.g., with a second magnetic layer) faces the second tape head assembly of the drive. After passing in front of the second tape head assembly, the tape may be wrapped onto a take-up reel rotatably secured within the tape drive. The dual-sided recording and/or reading may be performed simultaneously and/or sequentially.

"Tape exiting the area in front of the first tape head assembly may extend around an outer periphery of the take-up reel before passing by the second tape head assembly. As an example, the tape drive may include, in addition to the guides that respectively present the first and second sides of the tape to the first and second tape head assemblies, one or more additional guides over which the tape may pass that change the course of the tape path and effectively 'flip' or change the orientation of the tape before the tape reaches the guides of the second tape head assembly (so that the second side of the tape is presented to the second tape head assembly). For instance, the tape may follow a serpentine course or path as it successively travels from the cartridge reel, to the first tape head assembly guides, to the additional guides, to the second tape head assembly guides, and finally to the take-up reel.

"In one embodiment, the tape exiting the area in front of the first tape head assembly may actually pass over and contact or otherwise partially overwrap tape accumulating on the take-up reel that has exited the area in front of the second tape head assembly. This arrangement may advantageously damp lateral tape motion and thereby improve tape path performance in addition to reducing the number of guides needed within the tape drive. As the tape overwrapping the reel is traveling at the same speed as the tape pack beneath it (i.e., the tape exiting the area in front of the second tape head assembly and accumulating on the take-up reel), little or no relative motion between the respective tape portions occurs resulting in little to no wear of the tape. In this regard, the take-up reel may function as one of the 'additional' guides that serves to change the orientation of the tape (or as the only orientation changing additional guide).

"In one aspect, a tape drive includes a housing at least first and second tape head assemblies secured to the housing on an outside of a tape path for a magnetic tape within the tape drive, a first set of tape path guides secured to the housing and defining a first portion of the tape path for facing a first side of the magnetic tape towards the first tape head assembly and an opposing second side of the magnetic tape towards the first set of tape path guides, a second set of tape path guides secured to the housing and defining a second portion of the tape path for facing the second side of the magnetic tape towards the second tape head assembly and the first side of the magnetic tape towards the second set of tape path guides, and at least one component secured to the housing and defining a third portion of the tape path for facing the second side of the magnetic tape towards the outside of the tape path for entry of the magnetic tape into the second portion of the tape path in a first direction of movement of the magnetic tape along the tape path, and for facing the first side of the magnetic tape towards the outside of the tape path for entry of the magnetic tape into the first portion of the tape path in an opposing second direction of movement of the magnetic tape along the tape path. The first and second tape head assemblies respectively writes and/or reads data to and/or from the first and second sides of the magnetic tape in the first and second portions of the tape path;

"In another further aspect, an assembly includes a tape cartridge having a supply reel having a pack of magnetic tape wound thereon, and a tape drive. The tape drive includes at least first and second tape head assemblies, a plurality of tape path guides defining a tape path sequentially passing in front of the first and second tape head assemblies, a take-up reel, and a drive motor interconnected to the take-up reel. Rotation of the take-up reel by the drive motor unwinds the tape from the supply reel of the tape cartridge, moves the tape along the tape path so that first and second opposing sides of the tape respectively face the first and second tape head assemblies, and winds the tape on the take-up reel.

"In a further aspect, a method of operating a tape drive includes first moving storage tape of a single-reel tape cartridge along a tape path in front of a first tape head assembly of the tape drive so that a first side of the storage tape faces the first tape head assembly; and second moving, after the first moving, the storage tape along the tape path in front of a second tape head assembly of the tape drive so that an opposed second side of the storage tape faces the second tape head assembly. The first and second tape head assemblies are disposed on a common side of the tape path.

"For instance, the method may include first performing writing and/or reading of data to and/or from a first magnetic layer disposed on a first side of a substrate of the storage tape with the first tape head assembly; and second performing (e.g., simultaneously or asynchronously) writing and/or reading of data to and/or from a second magnetic layer disposed on a second side of the substrate of the storage tape with the second tape head assembly. In one arrangement, the method includes first passing the storage tape over a first set of guide rollers so that the second side of the storage tape faces the first set of guide rollers during the first moving; and second passing the storage tape over a second set of guide rollers so that the first side of the storage tape faces the second set of guide rollers during the second moving. For instance, the method may include wrapping the storage tape onto a spool of a take-up reel after the second moving; and/or overwrapping, after the first moving and before the second moving, the storage tape over storage tape that has accumulated on the spool of the take-up reel.

"Any of the embodiments, arrangements, or the like discussed herein may be used (either alone or in combination with other embodiments, arrangement, or the like) with any of the disclosed aspects. Merely introducing a feature in accordance with commonly accepted antecedent basis practice does not limit the corresponding feature to the singular. Any failure to use phrases such as 'at least one' does not limit the corresponding feature to the singular. Use of the phrase 'at least generally,' 'at least partially,' 'substantially' or the like in relation to a particular feature encompasses the corresponding characteristic and insubstantial variations thereof. Furthermore, a reference of a feature in conjunction with the phrase 'in one embodiment' does not limit the use of the feature to a single embodiment.

"In addition to the exemplary aspects and embodiments described above, further aspects and embodiments will become apparent by reference to the drawings and by study of the following descriptions."

For more information, see this patent: Vanderheyden, William J.. Tape Drive for Recording Data onto and Reading Data from Opposing Sides of Tape Media. U.S. Patent Number 8643977, filed October 23, 2012, and published online on February 4, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=53&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=2641&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=20140204.PD.&OS=ISD/20140204&RS=ISD/20140204

Keywords for this news article include: Oracle International Corporation.

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Source: Journal of Engineering


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