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New Robotic Loader Systems

May 15, 2014

We have been working with a number of manufacturers to get support finalized for several new robotic loader systems.  What these do is automate the process of collecting evidence from optical media: CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs.  We now have a wide range of different systems to meet any budget.

More information and photographs of machines are on our web site.

Nimbie

Probably the most exciting new support is the Nimbie.  This is a single-drive machine that is designed to sit next to your computer.  It can manage 25, 50 or even 100 discs at a time and can be used with or without a camera to document the discs being processed.  At $2099 for the basic package of hardware and software the Nimbie is suitable for giving to each examiner so when they have a few discs to process this can be done unattended in a hands-free manner.  A camera is an additional $350 for this machine and will take clear, glare-free photographs of each disc as it is processed.

The design of the Nimbie is very clever in that it feeds discs off the bottom of a stack with a screw-type “dispenser” to drop discs onto the drive tray.  This way discs are stacked up in the output hopper in the same order they were placed in the input.  The Nimbie connects to your computer via USB 3,0 (or 2.0 if that is all you have) and can support either a CD/DVD writer or a Blu-Ray writer.  The Nimbie also comes with publishing/duplication software for burning multiple discs at a time.  The Nimbie does not include any sort of printing device for labeling discs.

This machine is now available from InfinaDyne as a complete software/hardware package.

All Pro Solutions Zeus

This machine is made in the USA and has four drives for processing discs.  It comes with a camera for documenting each disc as it is processed.  Considering there are four drives, this machine has a smaller footprint than some others that we support but gets the job done with a built-in PC.  It is made out of metal with high-quality construction and is suitable for continuous use and can process hundreds of discs every day – actual throughput is highly dependent on the content of the discs and the readability of them.  Up to 600 discs can be processed at one time.

This machine is somewhat of a departure for us in that we are using a fifth drive as a photo stage rather than a printer to hold the discs as they are being photographed.  This fifth drive is used only for photographing discs and does not participate in the collection process.  It is a considerable saving over having a printer which often is not used on a dedicated evidence collection machine.  While the pricing has not been finalized yet for this machine, we know it will be priced attractively for users in the US.  This machine is expected to be available beginning in June 2014 and marketing will be a joint effort between All Pro Solutions and InfinaDyne.

LSK Delta

The LSK Delta is a flexible machine that can have up to five drives, including one used for taking pictures.  A camera is included.  It can also be configured to have an inkjet printer for printing on discs and holding discs for photographs.  The specifications of this machine can vary depending on the configuration selected, but it is a robust all-metal construction machine suitable for continuous use.

If no printer is included in the configuration, this machine will use one drive for holding discs while they are photographed.  A machine can therefore be configured for five drives using four of them for processing discs.

Distribution of this machine is expected to be limited to Europe, mostly due to shipping costs.  This machine is expected to be available beginning in June 2014.

ADR AG Hurricane

This machine is similar to others here with up to four processing drives and different options for where discs are photographed.  A printer is optional with several different options depending on your needs.  It comes with a camera for documenting discs.  It can be configured with up to four drives for processing discs.

This machine can be configured for different numbers of discs depending on your requirements.  Like others, it is all-metal and suitable for continuous use.  Distribution will be limited to Europe and certain other countries.  Pricing has not been determined yet.  This machine is expected to be available in June 2014.

MF Digital Scribe

We have been shipping MF Digital Scribe machines for some time now and will be changing over to a no-printer configuration for machines with two processing drives.  This will reduce the cost of this machine and eliminating the need for a printer that often is not used on machines dedicated to evidence collection.  The Scribe can hold up to 300 discs at a time and can be configured with two, three or four processing drives, although a four-drive configuration requires a printer.

The MF Digital machine has a history of being highly reliable and is serving many customers very well.  It includes a camera and basic duplication software with the possibility of configuring the machine for network disc publishing with more extensive software support.

Primera Bravo

We have supported Primera Bravo systems for a long time and continue to do so.  If you have only occasional needs for automated collection but need to print on discs the Bravo systems offer built-in inkjet printing combined with single-drive support by CD/DVD Inspector.  Unlike most of our offerings, we do sell CD/DVD Inspector for Primera robotics as a software-only product for use with existing Bravo machines.

There are a number of different Bravo machines with differing capacities from 25 to 100 discs at a time.  No camera is available for use with any Bravo machine.

Other Machines

We have supported a variety of other hardware over the years with continuing support for CopyPro MiniMax hardware.  At one time we were partnering with Rimage and our software is still in use at some locations with Rimage equipment.  Our policy has been to tailor our software for any hardware which is available to us and to represent and support various manufacturer’s hardware offerings equally.

Interesting Technical Details

I could not resist from passing along some information that some of the more technically-minded folks might find interesting.  Most of these machines that we support are based around a fairly simplistic model of having a “robot controller” which is a microprocessor that operates two stepper motors and a solenoid for grabbing and releasing discs.  The robot controller is interfaced with a PC (either internal or external to the machine) via an RS-232 serial connection which may have a USB-Serial converter connecting it to the PC hardware itself.  The most common connection speed is 9600 baud and most of these robot controllers use simple single-character commands to tell the microprocessor where to position the stepper motors.  Most of them are also synchronous, meaning that a command is issued and a response is returned with the robot being “busy” while the command is being processed.

The other popular configuration is where a DLL is provided which has functions like “Robot_LoadDisc” and “Robot_UnloadDisc” where specific actions are requested and the DLL takes care of getting them done.

CD/DVD Inspector (robotic) is actually built using a plug-in model where the main processing is in a generic, hardware-independent form and a hardware-specific plug-in is used to communicate with the robotic controller.  We don’t get into the robotic controller programming, just interfacing with it to send commands and get responses.  The robotic plug-in is also responsible for taking pictures and delivering them back to CD/DVD Inspector.  This gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility in being able to support different robotic systems, without having to worry about individual copies of CD/DVD Inspector.  It also allows for problems that are found in the Inspector code to be fixed quickly and then downloaded by customers the world over to support their robotic loader systems.

From the time a new robotic machine is delivered to having finished support for it with CD/DVD Inspector generally takes about a week, assuming it is using either the “serial port command” model or the “DLL function” model because we can build on the existing support used with other hardware.

Every manufacturer we deal with requires an NDA to get the command reference information for interfacing with their robotic controller.  Every single one.  This doesn’t bode well for anyone thinking of any sort of open-source application using these machines.  While I can speak in general terms about robotic systems and how we interface with them, the specifics of any one machine are under NDA and considered to be a trade secret.  Owning one of these machines does not get you the documentation on how it operates.

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