Drives exit the assembly room in a small crate and pass along a conveyor belt. From here, drives can get routed to any of several areas and machines for long-term testing. One such test machine is called Excalibur. In the picture on the right, you can see an operator feeding a drive onto Excalibur’s conveyor belt. That object behind the glass just above head level is Excalibur’s robotic arm. The robot grabs the drive and whisks it back down the aisle you see behind it. The drive gets inserted into a bay, whereupon its media is filled with a servo pattern to fill the tracks with data. This will confirm that all of the media is able to store information.
Excalibur can hold about 5,000 drives. We saw other smaller test units, but WD needs Excalibur to handle the location’s volume. At any given time, there are usually several experimental models in Excalibur’s test ranks, both 2.5- and 3.5-inch. The machine cranks through several tens of thousands of drives annually.
While we’re seeing WD’s test procedures on pilot line drives here, know that the exact same tests are applied to the production lines in Asia. Even though WD manufactures over half a million drives per day (the company reported almost 50 million produced in Q4 of 2009), each one goes through an Excalibur system and testing process just like these relative few.