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Archive Writers, the new COM - Still a useful imaging tool to preserve vital information

Digital to Analog preservation is still available today through COM technology. Yes, COM is still a useful imaging tool for distribution, migration and preservation of vital information.

Computer Output Microfilm is any microform containing data produced by a recorder from computer generated electrical signals. The recorder, a Computer Output Microfilmer, is a recording device that converts data from a computer into human readable language and records it onto microfilm.

A little over 20 years ago we started calling it Image Output Microfilm (IOM) and the recording units were Film Writers. It's still COM, but we wanted to call it something else so the prospective user/buyer would not think of the old systems that could not handle the varied image and print formats that are now used in our records management systems.

Today we mostly call them Archive Writers. These new COM units can write not just the data but also the "image" to microfilm. You don't have to create a blocked print file and then to go to the brass & glass system of old. The tiff image format you view on your screen is what you will see on the film and in some cases the writer can handle many other raster or vector formats.

These COM devices are no longer using only CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) to write but they use a LED ion beam, an electron beam, a helium-neon laser or a plasma screen for high resolutions and grayscale capabilities. Just like production laser printers of today, these machines can be online and will obtain impressive resolutions (over 600 dpi) and output speeds (up to 600 pages per minute). Always keep in mind that the digital image must be of high enough quality to take advantage of the high-end microfilm printers.

A few examples of applications for these new COM Recorders are:

Aircraft manufacturers deliver the planes to their customers with an enormous amount of documentation. This documentation comes on paper, microfilm and on digital media. The documents are created digitally and both the paper and the microfilm are printed out from the same digital formats. Their COM recorders act like in-line printers. Up-dates to maintenance manuals are handled the same way and with the new COM units the manufacturer no longer has to print out the new manual and then re-film it.

The 2000 Census was digitally scanned and is entirely stored in digital format that makes it very accessible for the various Federal Government agencies that require the information. A problem arises since the public cannot access the original information for 70 years. With these new COM Recorders the Census Bureau can easily output the information to a long-term media and insure its' accessibility when it can be released to the general public.

A large construction company creates and updates over 500,000 drawings per month. All of the drawings needed to be microfilmed for analogue distribution and most of them required scanning for digital distribution. By scanning all of the drawings and producing 35mm film images they were able to use the image cleanup features of the digital systems and quickly produce high-resolution microfilm images. The resultant decrease in labor costs, lower equipment maintenance costs and lower material wastage will help pay for the new system in less than 2 years.

The COM recorders built today and that are being used by service bureaus around the world are:

Anacomp (http://www.anacomp.com/services/mir/dis/xfp2000.aspx): The XFP2000® units are no longer manufactured, inventoried and waiting for an order to come in but new units are available. This machine will output at resolutions up to 300dpi onto 16mm roll and 105mm roll and fiche with speeds up to 400 pages per minute. Its' system supports page printer output codes of AFP from IBM and metacode from Xerox. Reduction ratios of 24x, 42x, 48x and 72x are available. Image Direct 2.6 is a Windows-based client server application that enables the creation of an Integrated Data Stream (IDS) that combines bitmapped images (TIFF Group IV) with text and index information. “Image Direct will take your scanned or encoded data (bitmaps) from your network to the XFP2000 using either 105mm or 16mm film formats as required.”

Fujifilm The AR-1000 records digital documents onto "Archive Media AM-66" providing convenient and safe long-term preservation of stored information. The AR-1000 solves the issue of long-term preservation of information, the only drawback to digital data. It also offers a document management solution by managing the lifecycle of the documents from creation through storage and destruction. Business-sized records can be recorded at about 130 pages per minute. The AR-1000 features parallel processing of jobs, providing greater throughput. Easy operation; simply follow the on-screen instructions. No darkroom necessary. 16mm x 215’ Fuji film only.

See: http://ar1000.fujifilmrmd.com/Default.aspx?tab=Spec


GID: (http://www.gid-it.com/gid_prod.php?rowname=com&menuid=11 )

GID’s COM system 6880 is a sophisticated and reliable film-based imaging system. It can accept alphanumeric and graphic (image) data and produces cut, ready to use microfiche. Top speed is 600 pages per minute (alpha, 1 up) at 300 dpi. Reductions of 24x, 42x, 48x &72x are standard and customer's requests are optional. The image mode speed is 240 pages per minute, 240 dpi. The 16mm film unit can take a 4,500-foot film cartridge (2.5mil) and when set to the 48x 2 up mode it can print 522,000 frames (8.5x11) per roll.

Image Graphics:( http://www.igraph.com/EBRecorders/EBRs.htm ) Image Graphics manufactures Micrographics Electron Beam Recorders that are capable of recording ASCII, Raster and Vector data onto 16mm, 35mm, 70mm and 105mm conventionally processed silver halide microfilms. A 4.0 micron diameter, high energy, electron beam is employed and the EBR can record at resolutions of 600 dpi or greater as well as 8 bit grayscale images.

Kodak: (http://graphics.kodak.com/docimaging/US/en/Products/Micrographics/Microfilm_Cameras/i9600_Series_Writers/index.htm) The Archive Writer 9600 is capable of outputting a 215-foot, 16mm roll of microfilm in less than one hour. Using the 24x mode, 1 up (simplex) this means 90 pages per minute and is capable of 300 dpi. Kodak has sold a few thousand units over the past 17 years. 16mm x 100’ or 16mm x 215’, Kodak proprietary microfilm only.


MD Archive ImageWriter: (http://www.iicarchive.com )

The Archive ImageWriter uses a single Optical Camera System with the flexibility to adjust to 16mm and/or 35mm standard LE 500 microfilms.

Exposure Rate: 1.2 sec/Frame typical [ANSI A4 TIFF Group 4 Compression].

Extensive Metadata Program choices, plus electronic indexing of all data recorded on each roll of film.

Document Capture Range: A10 [1.02” x 1.45”] through AO [33.1” X 4.8”]

Manufactured in Singapore and assembled in the US for the North American market.



Staude: (http://www.e-staude.com/fc_eng/p06_fileconverter.php) The Staude digi-fiche system converts most raster images files (tiff, gif, jpeg, pdf, etc.) to analog images and onto conventional microfilm. This unit can also print to color film. The output is 105mm microfiche and the speed is "up to 2,500 images per hour". The Staude file-converter 16/35 "can handle all kinds of image files such as TIFF, JPEG, PDF, DOC, XLS, etc. in bi-tonal, grey scale or color. The converting process, which is done by utilizing standard 16 or 35 mm microfilm, is quick, reliable and provides excellent image quality. The original document size can vary from as small as a postcard up to A2. After the files are transferred to the system it will work without any further operations."


Zeutschel: (http://www.zeutschel.de/english/products/microfilm_plotter_op500.html) The OP500 "prints to 16mm or 35mm roll film (1,000' max.)". Maximum 81 Mega Pixel optical resolution' output. Capable of printing standard source document microfilm densities of 1.0 +/- 0.1 and will output grayscale and to color film. The production speed of the OP 500 is for maximum quality 600 full frames 35mm per hour, 1200 half frames 35mm per hour and for 16mm up to 2400 frames per hour."

Note: For storage and distribution of engineering documents an accepted industry standard microform is the aperture card. The following machine prints from digital to microfilm that is mounted on aperture cards with the data coming from CAD or raster files:

Wicks and Wilson: (http://www.wwl.co.uk/apertureplotters.htm) The Wicks and Wilson ACO-2 aperture card plot station can output 35 cards per hour at 200dpi and 25 per hour at 400 dpi. Input via standard raster and vector formats. The film used is "laser plotting film". The cassette holds 250 cards and the unit weighs 230 pounds.


The above information was extracted from the manufacturers' web sites or from company representatives. Keep in mind that the purpose of this list is to assist the reader in their search to find the best hardware answer for their in-house digital to microfilm printing needs. The author in no way recommends the use of any specific equipment but does recommend further research by those readers who have applications to which a COM device will provide solutions for their vital records needs