Hitachi Global Storage: Helium-filled HDDs to lift off in 2013

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Helium devices to go on sale in 2013

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies will release a helium filled hard disk drive ready for lift off in 2013.

HGST, now a part of Western Digital, says that by filling its HDDs it will enable higher capacity on its products, reduce total cost of ownership, and, presumably, get production staff to speak in ‘comedy’ high pitched voices.

Moving to helium filled devices, HGST says it should be able to design seven-platter drives with 3.5 inch form factors, rather than the traditional five platters.  This means greater capacity, and allow even cheaper memory in future.

Helium is one seventh the density of air, meaning less drag on the spinning disk stack, requiring less mechanical power from a motor.  Lower density also means that there is reduced flow force hitting the disks and the arms holding them, allowing more disks to be placed on top of each other, increasing data density.

Furthermore, more efficient thermal conduction will mean the devices are cooled more easily, and make less noise.

With SSDs gathering momentum, Western Digital is keen to point out that there is life in HDDs yet, and significant improvements in watts per terabyte – 45 percent less for the new devices – is only set to continue over further generations of the hardware.

Steve Campbell, chief technology officer at HGST said that the firm had been the product design was the key to finally setting a date for helium filled HDDs.

“The benefits of operating a HDD with helium fill have been known for a long time,” Campbell said. “The breakthrough is in the product and process design, which seals the helium inside the HDD enclosure cost effectively in high-volume manufacturing.”

“We are excited about the introduction of this platform, which demonstrates HGST technology leadership and is the result of more than six years of development in materials science, mechanical engineering and process technology,” he said. “Thanks to the hard work of our research and engineering teams, our initial pilot lines are up and operational, putting HGST in position to introduce this technology first into the market.”

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