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making a USB memory stick duplicator

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Hello people.

I have a suggestion for a project. To be blunt I can draw a block diagram for it but that is as far as i can go as I lack better insight and certainly the programming skills.

I volunteer for my local talking newspaper, we are currently moving over the USB sticks as our medium as cassettes have failed and we don't think CD's are time proof plus the cost of new CD's once a week. This means that we require a method of duplicating memory sticks, 7-16 at a time. There are commercial machines for this but they sort of want ridiculous sums of money like over £700 for what i know is about £50 of electronics.

Does anyone have the knowledge and inclination to help me or find me information on building our own ? basically I'd need to erase and duplicate up to 16 memory sticks at a time. I'm thinking that maybe a basic unit could be designed so that "extra" ports could be added to later (or a master/slave copier system) but that depends on the complexity of it.

Am I trying to bite off too much or is this as easy as i hope ?

Get an old PC and a bunch of PCI-USB cards (remember that USB bandwidth is shared, so the fewer devices you have per controller, the faster it'll be). Under Linux it'd be very easy to write a script that would detect USB insertion, format, and copy files - maybe an hour's work. If you really want to do some electronics, interface a bunch of red/green LEDs that indicate the status of the copy process for each flash drive so that people can just unplug and replace drives when the light goes green.

You could probably do it with a microcontroller, but unless your time is worth absolutely nothing, it'd be more than £700 in labour. The advantage to using a PC with a proper operating system is that it can be agnostic to the size of the flash drive you're connecting - it'd be a huge amount of work to write firmware to format a FAT32 file system and copy file-by-file.

yeah, use a PC. Writing your own USB mass storage driver for a mcu is reinventing the wheel.

There are ultra tiny x86/arm boards that run linux if size is an issue.

The problem with using a microcontroller is you need to get to quite high-end parts to find something that runs at High Speed (480mbits/sec).
You could do it with a  VNC2 from FTDI, but it will be very slow.
The quickest and most practical way to do it would be to use an old PC.

Here's a source of cheap computers http://www.crs-uk.biz/cheap-computers-new-and-refurbished-used.html


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