You are on page 1of 6

Winning the Race to Deliver a Breakthrough Storage Technology: The Road to PMR and its Impact on Consumer Electronics

Devices Toshiba Storage Device Division Introduction Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) is a reality today after more than 30 years of research and development by some of today’s most prominent storage industry leaders. With the shipment of the first PMR drives in 2005, the hard disk drive (HDD) industry has begun a new chapter with this elusive, yet revolutionary recording technology that will greatly alter storage capacities of the future. This paper will address factors driving industry need for increased storage capacity, the dilemma for achieving PMR, Toshiba’s successful quest to deliver the first PMR-based HDD and the benefits soon to be realized in the consumer electronics world thanks to this ground-breaking technology.

The Need for More Storage The race to deliver smaller and more robust mobile devices and consumer electronics gadgets over the past several years has challenged the storage industry to provide more capacity – while maintaining the footprint and mobility advantages afforded by small form factor hard disk drives. Increasing functionality in devices like mobile phones and MP3 players requires capacious storage to house operating software and digital files – yet these devices must still fit in a shirt pocket. Faced with the challenge of fitting 10,000 songs in a thumb-sized device or hundreds of digital photos on a mobile phone, the HDD industry had to overcome the slowing areal density curve that would eventually reach its limit, using conventional longitudinal recording technology. Areal density addresses the number of bits per square inch of storage surface on a head — the number of bits per inch times the number of tracks per inch produces the areal density. The storage industry had accomplished tremendous feats in areal density since IBM introduced the RAMAC, the first hard disk computer, in 1956. The RAMAC had an areal density of two thousand bits per square inch, while current disks have reached 100 billion bits (100 gigabits per square inch).

1 of 6

The industry could no longer rely on evolutionary change with new capacities and refinements to head and media technology to improve density. achieving stable. the bits are no longer held in a reliable state and can change magnetic properties. high-yielding. longitudinal recording has limited recording density due to a phenomenon known as the superparamagnetic effect which is a fluctuation of magnetization due to thermal agitation. As such.Unfortunately. leaders in the HDD industry had long realized another method of achieving recording density would be required to sustain the future capacity growth for the HDD. perpendicular recording reinforces magnetic coupling between neighboring bits. high-quality hard disk drives. Faced with a finite capacity point. In short. they would have to overcome the superparamagnetic effect by lining up the bits in a new way. And so. HDD researchers recognized that in order to provide consumers with enough storage capacity to live in a digital world. higher recording densities and improved storage capacity. and PMR was the answer. the race to achieve PMR began. Simply stated it means the bits can flip if they get too close together. Because squeezing more bits onto the disk will eventually reach a point in which this crowding degrades recorded bit quality. or the number of bits that can be stored on a square inch of disk media. Conventional longitudinal recording stores data on a magnetic disk as microscopic magnet bits aligned in plane. and a new recording technology is required to keep advancing areal density while continuing to provide highly-reliable. The industry needed revolutionary change. As this happens. the magnetic energy holding the bits in place on the medium becomes equal to the ambient thermal energy within the disk drive itself. reaches a certain level per square inch. the HDD industry faced fast-approaching limits on storage capacities. scrambling the data that was previously recorded. When the areal density. the magnetic bits can potentially repulse each other due to in-plane alignment. the advance of areal density using longitudinal recording is limited by superparamagnetism. By standing the magnetic bits on end. the HDD industry is destined to run out of runway with longitudinal recording technology. Although advances in magnetic coatings continue to improve data recording densities on HDDs. as opposed to the 2 of 6 . PMR is an innovative magnetic recording technology that utilizes magnetization forces that are perpendicular (standing up) to the recording plane.

discovered density advantages in perpendicular recording in computer storage. small handheld computers and other mobile devices. Toshiba become the first company to commercially produce PMR drives. Now considered the father of modern perpendicular recording. which only allowed for the bits on a drive to be parallel (lying down). Toshiba’s Quest to Achieve PMR Toshiba was a pioneer in PMR technology as early as the 1980s when the company integrated perpendicular recording into 3.8-inch form factor planned for later this 3 of 6 . with shipment of a 40GB 1. perpendicular recording was first demonstrated by Danish scientist Valdemar Poulsen. Toshiba continued refining PMR technology over a series of laboratory drive generations. Iwasaki’s initial work laid the foundation for future advances in perpendicular recording. Toshiba accelerated these efforts as the explosion in digital information and entertainment began to take shape in the last decade. The company announced PMR technology capability in December 2004.5-inch floppy disk drives. Perpendicular recording surfaced again in 1976 when Dr. In August 2005. Facing these challenges head-on.8-inch HDD platform.8-inch HDD – the largest capacity yet achieved in the 1. In 2004. who discovered that sound could be recorded magnetically. The first HDDs to incorporate PMR would be Toshiba’s venerable 1. which had been the foundation of many popular consumer electronics devices such as MP3 players. In the late 19th century. the company reached a breakthrough with full capability of producing PMR drives with significant yields. Dr. Shun-ichi Iwasaki. with an 80GB dual-platter 1. looking to the day where PMR would successfully move from the lab to the manufacturing environment.8-inch HDD. president and chief director of Tohoku Institute of Technology in Japan. doubling storage capacity to 4MB. Toshiba encountered hurdles in applying PMR to HDD. The company’s investments on storage research and development. This feat initiated the company’s mission to continually improve capacities on all storage devices. led to the development of this recording technology for HDDs. with volume shipments planned for mid-2005. ultra-portable notebooks. particularly in its Core Technology Center where HDD engineers work along side consumer electronics and computer engineers to design and develop products.traditional longitudinal method.

improved power efficiency and cost per gigabyte benefits. the technology also provides a few additional key advantages such as improved magnetic decay performance and better heat tolerance. Initially these applications will center on adding functionality such as video. The company plans to apply PMR technology to its 0. As a result. These products include MP3 players and handheld GPS navigation systems. small form factor PMR drives will also find new homes in devices currently served by larger HDDs. Nokia has already announced the N-series.0. Combined with the increased runway for capacity growth. featuring the N91 model – the company’s first to incorporate a 4GB HDD with features such as Wi-Fi. transforming these devices into multifunctional devices that serve as a single source for information. voice communication and entertainment. increasing capacity to 6GB-8GB per platter and supporting Toshiba’s efforts to pioneer the market for ultra-small form factor drives. These new HDDs achieve the highest areal density yet reported. a line of music and photo phones. As PMR moves to drives in the one-inch and 0. the standard size and form factor for mobile 4 of 6 . capacities will increase to double digits within five years. Beyond the mobile phone.where PMR drives will deliver the higher capacity storage that the consumer electronics manufacturers desire for their next generation products.85-inch form factors. with 206 megabits per square millimeter (133 gigabits per square inch). providing enough capacity to store up to 10. The Impact of PMR on Tomorrow’s Consumer Electronics Devices While the major benefit of PMR is increased capacity. PMR drives will enable a number of new applications and enhance the ability of smaller form factor drives to impact current PC and consumer electronics applications.85-inch HDD in 2006. PMR-based sub-one-inch HDDs will provide real estate benefits as well as deliver meaningful capacity. Small Handheld Devices: PMR’s greatest impact may be in its ability to enable one-inch and sub-one-inch drives to pack copious amounts of data for use in small handheld devices.000 songs on this portable entertainment device.year. music and increased data capabilities to mobile phones. Microsoft Media Player 10 and music downloads via USB 2. better data transfer rates. Toshiba has incorporated the 40GB PMR drives into its gigabeat® MP3 player.

However. the introduction of PMR technology on this form factor only increases that transition. the mobile computer will have enough capacity to become an all-in-one personal hub for 5 of 6 . the desktop computer could become the home server with a terabyte of storage. new applications for PMR-based miniature drives might include digital cameras. capacity issues are removed as 2. While many households may continue to maintain a classic 3. as well as information devices for school and work. Digital Video Recorders: With the incorporation of PMR technology.85-inch HDD with PMR. Previously.5-inch HDD as the preferred storage technology for digital video recorders (DVRs). and would enable a built-in storage feature that allowed for long-term photography without offloading images to a computer or other storage device. expected to reach between 6GB and 8GB in 2006. As such. Eventually. which currently use flash. creating even more capacity for music and video applications. which is expected as early as 2006. particularly with the introduction of PMR technology. For instance. With the move to high-definition TV (HDTV) by 2012. the 2.5-inch HDDs will continue to have a place in the mobile PC arena. particularly in the bedroom where the improved acoustics enable DVRs to finally rest in this space. Finally. better operating shock performance at a minimum of 350g and improved acoustics.5-inch HDDs into DVRs will provide a range of benefits including smaller devices.5-inch drives with storage in excess of 200GB will be on the market as early as 2007. it’s likely that smaller devices based on the 2.5-inch HDD will reach capacities that enable it to displace the 3.5-inch HDDs in DVR delivery could greatly change with the introduction of PMR on miniature HDDs. introduction of highercapacity DVRs will be imperative. the capacity afforded by a 0. Mobile PCs: As 1.8-inch HDDs have already begun to show up in mobile PCs. enabling even more robustness for mobile applications as well as more capacity for ultra-portable notebooks. 2.5-inch platform will be used as satellite devices in multiple rooms. while notebooks serve as room-to-room devices for entertainment content. capacity and price have been the major roadblocks for using 2.5-inch-based DVR that serves as the living room entertainment hub. The incorporation of 2. With the implementation of PMR.

technology performance and functionality – thanks to the addition of PMR technology. car and beyond.85-inch HDD removes these obstacles as capacities and cost/gigabyte will far outweigh flash memory as a viable option for consumer electronics devices. As the need for consumer electronics products to increase in functionality and decrease in footprint grows. cost. thanks to the improved storage capacity needed to drive the digital world. The nearly 30-year drive to achieve perpendicular recording is a quest that will impact everyday personal and business lifestyles. PMR technology will greatly impact consumer electronics products over the next few years by providing up to ten times more storage space than previously thought possible. when put head-to-head with HDDs. which previously had potential to encroach on its territory in small handheld devices such as MP3 players and mobile phones. enabling a truly digital life. the right storage solutions will open new doors to digital information and entertainment products for the home. which removes capacity barriers. In addition. photo storage and work. business data. flash memory falls short on ruggedness and read/write ability over time. Creating Distance From Other Competing Storage Technologies PMR also gives the HDD a leg up on other storage technologies such as flash. particularly with its compact size and lower power requirements. Conclusion: The Road to PMR Ends With an Improved Digital Experience For many emerging devices. Flash capacities approaching 2GB had begun to come down in price making it a formidable competitor to the HDD. small form factor HDDs offer the ideal mix of capacity. the HDD will become an even more critical component in delivering a truly digital experience. office. music. 6 of 6 . However. video. adding PMR to small form factor drives like Toshiba’s 0. As a result.