ATOMM™: Overview

A new era in data storage was ushered in recently when IBM began shipments of TotalStorage Enterprise Tape Cartridge 3592, the very first product to incorporate Fujifilm's groundbreaking NANOCUBIC technology. Click here to see the flash animation highlighting the basics of Fujifilm's ATOMM technology.

What is ATOMM™ technology and how does it differ from ordinary magentic media?

ATOMM stands for Advanced super Thin layer and high-Output Metal Media. It is an ultra-high-density recording media consisting of a super-thin layer of metal particles coated over a non-magnetic layer of titanium compound. Ordinary magnetic media consists of a magnetic coating on a basefilm substrate. ATOMM technology, on the other hand, is a dual-coating technique that deposits TWO layers on the basefilm. The lower layer is a titanium compound (titan-fine) that improves durability. The upper layer is a remarkably thin layer (0.1 to 0.5 "microns" - millionths of a meter!) of magnetic particles that allows superior high-density recording.

To appreciate how thin the magnetic layer is, make a dot with a pen or pencil. That dot, which is about half a millimeter in size, can hold approximately 10,000 ATOMM magnetic layers within its width. The two layers, magnetic on top of non-magnetic, are simultaneously coated onto the basefilm. This exclusive dual-coating system is the heart of ATOMM technology.

Second-generation ATOMM-II technology has enabled even higher-density recording of signals, using smaller magnetic particles packed in an ultra-thin magnetic layer.

How is ATOMM™ media manufactured?

The Dual-Coating Process

The conventional method used to coat magnetic media involves roll coating a magnetic layer onto the basefilm. This method has definite limitations as to how thin the coating can be, thus preventing advances to higher density recording.

Another coating method is Metal Evaporated (ME), which allows the deposition of very thin magnetic layers for high-density recording. The ME process, however, must be carried out inside a vacuum chamber with very high heat. It is, therefore, not cost efficient.

To overcome these limitations, Fujifilm developed a new technology - simultaneous dual-coating - using the slot die coating method to put ATOMM's two layers on the basefilm. The Fujifilm coating head applies two separate formulation layers simultaneously at different depths and thicknesses. The dispersion for the lower layer from one slot carries the thinner upper layer from the second slot on top of it.

This provides the following advantages:

  • The upper layer of magnetic particles can be created at a sub-micron order of thinness.
  • The upper layer has an extremely hard, smooth surface.
  • Lubricants are optimized in both layers.
  • The lower layer acts as a reservoir for lubricants and provides a cushioning effect.

What are the performance benefits of ATOMM™ technology?

Benefit #1: Higher output at shorter wavelengths

High frequency recording signals are shorter wavelength signals. With these signals, however, a thicker magnetic layer (with more magnetic depth) has a demagnetizing effect. (It's harder to magnetize an object thicker than one-third the bit wavelength.) Therefore, for higher density recording, the thinner the magnetic layer, the better. Whereas an ordinary high-density floppy disk has a magnetic coating 2 to 5 microns thick; the coating of an ATOMM disk is 0.1 to 0.5 microns. This means ATOMM's magnetic layer provides better signal strength (higher output) and a better S/N ratio for higher density recording. In fact, the ATOMM disk provides 8dB higher signal output -- a signal that is 250% stronger when compared to a conventional high-density disk.

Benefit #2: Lower noise

A smooth surface is very important for magnetic recording media. Rough surfaces produce weaker magnetism due to magnetic separation and provide poor S/N ratios. ATOMM's dual-coating process results in a glossy, extremely smooth recording surface, due in large part to the minute spherical particles in the "titan-fine" lower layer. These particles are about one-sixth the size of ordinary metal magnetic particles. The resulting smoothness of the super-thin upper layer results in lower noise, fewer dropouts and better durability.

Benefit #3: Superior durability

As mentioned above, the smooth surface of the ATOMM media results in less wear for longer durability. In addition, the three-dimensional network binder in the upper layer improves stability and durability during high-speed operation. Performance is also enhanced by lubricants, which are optimized in both the upper and lower layers. Furthermore, the lower layer acts as a reservoir for lubricants, which can complement the supply to the upper layer when required. Finally, the cushioning effect from the lower layer provides improved head-to-media contact and durability.

Benefit #4: Greater Archival Stability

ATOMM employs a high molecular weight binder that resists time fatigue and environmental effects. Its magnetic particles are also more stable than those in conventional media. In accelerated aging tests, ATOMM media demonstrated significant advantages over single-layer media.

Benefit #5: Lower cost

Fujifilm's exclusive dual-coating method applies the two layers to the basefilm simultaneously. The efficiencies of mass production minimize the cost of the product. Compared to other types of media, even ME media, ATOMM's combination of advantages makes it the perfect choice for high-density data recording.

What Fujifilm applications utilizing ATOMM and NANOCUBIC technology have been developed?

ATOMM and NANOCUBIC technology are responsible for a number of successful commercial applications in consumer products, professional broadcasting products, and computer data storage products.

1992                                      ATOMM technology created

                           Fujifilm released the world’s first ME position HI-8 tape

1993                   Fujifilm introduced W-VHS High Definition recording tape

1994                   Fujifilm unveiled ATOMM-DISK technology, which formed the basis for the introduction of the ZIP disk

1995                   Fujifilm released the DLTtape IV data cartridge featuring an unrivaled 40GB native capacity and 6MB/sec transfer rate based on ATOMM technology

1996                   Fujifilm introduced DVCPRO, the first professional video tape format utilizing second-generation ATOMM-II technology

                           Fujifilm applied ATOMM technology to 4mm data tapes, released DDS-3, 125-meter tape yielding 12GB native capacity

1998                   Fujifilm released the ATOMM-based 250MB zip disk

1999                   Fujifilm released the DDS-4 yielding 20GB native capacity on a single 4mm-wide tape     

2000                   Fujifilm introduced LTO Ultrium 1 yielding a 100GB native capacity utilizing ATOMM technology

2001                   Fujifilm announced NANOCUBIC technology

                           Fujifilm introduced Zip disks with 750MB capacity

2002                   Fujifilm introduced Super DLTtape I yielding 160GB capacity

                           Fujifilm introduced LTO Ultrium 2 cartridges providing 200GB native capacity

2003                   Fujifilm introduced the 3592 data cartridge yielding 300GB native capacity utilizing NANOCUBIC technology

2004                   Fujifilm introduced DAT 72 yielding 36GB native capacity

                           Fujifilm introduced LTO Ultrium 3 yielding 400GB native capacity

2005                   Fujifilm introduced Super DLTtape II yielding 160GB native capacity

2006                   Fujifilm Technology (BaFe) contributed to IBM’s demo of the world’s first multiple terabyte storage data tape

2007                   Fujifilm introduced LTO Ultrium 4 yielding 800GB native capacity utilizing NANOCUBIC technology

2010                   Fujifilm, with IBM, announces 35TB tape capability

                           Fujifilm releases LTO Ultrium 5 yielding 1.5TB native capacity

Thanks to its most advanced technology, Fujifilm is the technology and quality leader!