Table of Contents

Athana International

Care and Handling of the
IBM Magnetic Tape Cartridge

Every carton of cartridges shipped from IBM contains 30 cartridges and 60 labels: 30 customer labels and 30 volume/serial number labels. Each row of 10 cartridges, within the carton, is sealed in plastic to protect the cartridges from contamination during shipment (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Tape Cartridge Packaging


Incorrect handling or an incorrect environment can damage the magnetic tape or the cartridges. See "Damaged Cartridges" on page 6 for information about damaged cartridges. To avoid damage to your tape cartridge and to ensure continued high reliability on your subsystem:

  • Do not carry cartridges loosely in a box or basket. The leader blocks can catch on other cartridges and be unlatched. If the leader block is not correctly latched into the cartridge, loading errors can occur.
  • Leave the cartridges in their protective wrapping until you use them. When unpacking new cartridges, remove the protective wrapping in your computer room or your library area. Use the tear-string to remove the protective wrapping; do not use a sharp instrument to remove the wrapping because doing so can damage the cartridge.

    Inspect each cartridge to ensure that the leader block is correctly latched.
    If not, push the leader block toward the cartridge until it catches in the latch.
  • Before using the cartridges, condition them to the normal operating environment for at least 24 hours.
Magnetic Tape Requirements
The following is a description of the magnetic tape properties that are required for satisfactory operation with an IBM tape drive.

Tape Properties Essential for IBM Tape Drive Use

Essential tape properties have been established as the result of tape testing. Future testing may show that changes to these requirements are necessary. If so, IBM may revise any of the following requirements without notice.


The tape shall consist of a base material (oriented polyethylene terephthalate film or its equivalent) coated on one side with a flexible layer of ferromagnetic material dispersed in a suitable binder. The back surface of the tape can also be coated.

Tape Discontinuity

Definition: Any physical interruption in the tape such as that produced by tape splicing or perforations.

Requirement: There shall be no discontinuities.

Tape Width

Definition: The distance measured across the tape from tape-edge to tape-edge when the tape is under less than 0.28 newton (1.0 ounce) tension.

Requirement: The width of the tape must be 12.650 0.025 mm (0.498 0.001 in.).

Coating (Peel) Adhesion

Definition: The force required to peel the coating from the surface of the tape.

Requirement: The force required to peel the coating from the tape substrate base must be greater than or equal to 0.12 newton per mm (0.35 pound-force per 0.5 in.) of tape width.


  1. Use a tape sample that is approximately 380 mm (15 in.) long.
  2. Scribe a line through the coating across the width of the tape sample.
  3. Attach one end of the tape (approximately 125 mm [5 in.] long) to a smooth metal plate, using a double-coated, pressure-sensitive tape between the tape and the plate.
  4. Use a universal testing machine that records force versus displacement, and attach the metal plate and the free end of the tape sample between the jaws.
  5. Set the jaws with an initial separation of approximately 250 mm (10 in.), such that when the jaws are separated, the tape is peeled from the plate at an angle of 1800, beginning at the scribed line.

Using Non-IBM Cartridges

For maximum performance, use IBM tape cartridges with IBM tape subsystems. Tape cartridges from other suppliers are acceptable if they meet the specifications described in Tape and Cartridge Requirements for the IBM 3480 Tape Drive.

If the use of non-IBM cartridges causes machine damage, repeated machine service calls, or parts replacement (other than that caused from normal wear), IBM will charge the customer for the time and material of all required service and parts.

Cleaning a Cartridge

Damaged or dirty cartridges can reduce subsystem reliability and cause the loss of recorded data. If dirt appears on the cartridge, wipe the outside surfaces with a lint-free cloth (part 2108930) that has been lightly moistened with IBM cleaning fluid (part 8493001) or its equivalent.

Warning: Do not allow anything wet, including the cleaning fluid, to contact the tape.

Make sure all cartridge surfaces are dry and the leader block is snapped into place before loading the cartridge.

Stacking Cartridges

Although cartridges are shipped and stored on their sides, you can lay the cartridges flat temporarily while moving them. The bottom of each cartridge has two raised areas that fit into the indented label area on the top of another cartridge. This construction helps prevent the cartridges from sliding while moving them.

Do not stack more than six cartridges.

Damaged Cartridges

The cost of a tape cartridge is low compared to the cost of damage to tape drives and possible loss of recorded data. Therefore, check the cartridge for damage before using it in the tape drive. A good practice is to copy essential records and keep them in a secure storage area.

To ensure continued use of your cartridges and subsystem:

  • Do not open the cartridge case at any time. The upper and lower parts of the case are welded; separating them destroys the usefulness of the cartridge.
  • Do not load a damaged cartridge into a tape drive. During an emergency, if you need to recover data from a damaged cartridge, call your service representative. (IBM will charge the customer for the time and materials used during the service call).

Figure 4 identifies the parts of a cartridge that might become damaged. Examples of cartridge damage include the following:

  • The tape was wound completely out of the cartridge onto the machine reel and then reattached to the cartridge reel by the service representative. This repair is temporary and permits the cartridge to be loaded one time so that the data can be copied to a replacement cartridge.
  • The cartridge case is cracked or broken.
  • The leader block is broken.
  • The leader block latch is broken.
  • The file-protect selector is damaged.
  • The cartridge case contains any liquid. The cartridge has any other obvious damage.
Figure 4. Cartridge Parts. The leader block is shown unlatched with a length of tape extending from the cartridge for illustration purposes only. The leader block should not be unlatched from the cartridge.

You can recover data from a cartridge that has a detached leader block, using the materials in the IBM Leader Block Repair Kit (part 4780625}. Your National Distribution Division representative can tell you how to get the kit.

Replacing the leader block is a temporary repair only. After you recover the data, store it on a different cartridge. If the damaged cartridge is within warranty, it can be returned to IBM. Otherwise, throw away the cartridge.

Cartridge Quality and Library Maintenance

The IBM tape cartridge provides high performance and reliability with the IBM 3480 Magnetic Tape Subsystem when the cartridge is properly handled and stored. As discussed earlier, repeated handling or inadvertent mishandling can damage the physical parts of the cartridge and make it unsuitable for use.

The magnetic tape inside the cartridge is made of the most durable materials available. However, the tape does wear after repeated cycles in the tape drive. Eventually, such wear can cause an increase in tape errors.

We recommend that you keep the following supplies on hand to maintain your cartridges.

  • Leader Block Repair Kit, part 4780625, or equivalent
  • Lint-free cloth, part 2108930, or equivalent
  • IBM Tape Cleaning Fluid, part 8493001, or equivalent.


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