Thin drives -- the next generation of portable memory

Nov 17, 2011
First prototype of DSI’s thin hybrid hard disk drive implemented with the new axial field motor design

Tablets are fast becoming the media device of choice nowadays for work and play, particularly with the advent of iPads and the Samsung Galaxy Tab into the mobile device market. With a volume of 19.5 million of media tablet sold in 2010, and the sales volume is projected to reach over 200 million units by 2014. As media tablets seem to be an emerging trend and continues its expansion into mass consumer market, there is a lot of potential to improve the performance of the media tablet, especially in the area of memory and storage.

Although the current memory and storage of choice for tablets is Flash memory, the A*STAR, Data Storage Institute (DSI) believes that moving forward, thin hybrid drives would provide a good alternative to Flash memory due to the scaling and performance limitations of Flash memory. Additionally, hybrid drives could potentially lessen , reduce costs and increase storage capacity. Currently, the thinnest hard disk drive in the market for a 2.5 inch form factor is about 7 mm. However, in order to break into the media , the ideal thickness of a hard disk drive should be 5 mm or less.

Researchers at DSI aim to produce a hard disk drive thin enough to fit into a tablet, taking the thickness of the current iPad2 (which is at 0.34 inch or 8.8 mm) as the benchmark target. The DSI also proposed a in order to mitigate the issues of portability, reliability of data, and power consumption. Compared to Flash or solid state drives (SSD), hybrid drives can provide a larger storage capacity, and performances at a significantly lower cost; whilst compared to hard disk drives, hybrid drives can reduce power consumption by about 30%.

Overall thickness of the first prototype of DSI’s thin hybrid hard disk drive is 5mm.

One of the main challenges faced in scaling down the thickness of a hard disk drive is the ability to scale the thickness of the current spindle motor while maintaining the such as the non-repeatable run-out (NRRO). DSI has designed an axial field motor (the current motor is based on a radial field design) that is 4 mm thick, and can spin at 5400/7200 revolutions per minute (rpm). The axial field design eliminates cogging torque and unbalanced magnetic pull that in turn helps to reduce friction loss of the bearing, vibration and acoustic noise. This novel and slim spindle motor will be demonstrated in DSI’s thin drive with a 5 mm thickness.  

“DSI is very excited about the direction that we are taking. We strongly believe there is an opening in the market for thin drives. We are capitalising on our years of R&D experience in hard disk drive and data centre technologies and are working passionately to make the concept of thin into reality,” said Dr. Pantelis Alexopoulos, Executive Director of DSI.  

Explore further: SDSC joins the Intel Parallel Computing Centers program

Provided by Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR)

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User comments : 14

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zweistein_2
not rated yet Nov 17, 2011
Installing mechanical devices inside a tablet or cell phone it is not a good idea. You can use an external drive for large file support.
As far as internal storage : there are 32GB microSD cards for sale with 64GB on the way. Glue 10 of this together and you have a fast enough 320 ~ 640 GB internal storage.
gopher65
not rated yet Nov 17, 2011
I don't know about fast enough. microSD cards are horribly slow, not to mention unreliable. But even so, what you suggest isn't exactly what they do for current tablet SSD, but it isn't far off.
kaasinees
0.3 / 5 (23) Nov 17, 2011
32GB is plenty for a laptop.
use a Linux distro and not crappy windows.
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (2) Nov 17, 2011
Actually, this was just a press release.

A*STAR is the Singapore Agency for Science, Technology and Research. Essentially an academic/trade organization to promote specific Singapore industries.

Not that it matters, but it puts it in perspective. The only reason they are pushing ancient technology is the fact that they have a heavy investment in it. SSD would clearly be the preferred choice.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (3) Nov 17, 2011
This has "Fail" written all over it.
MIBO
4 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2011
kaasinees, What planet are you on.
In you can live with 32GB then you don't do any real work.
I often process 400GB data files on a laptop, and flash for this is just too slow.
It might have resonable read access times, but for write access it's just impractical.
Hard Disk is the way to go at least until NV ferro-magnetic memory is an option.
Nerdyguy
not rated yet Nov 17, 2011
It might have resonable read access times, but for write access it's just impractical.
Hard Disk is the way to go at least until NV ferro-magnetic memory is an option.


Except that their intended market is tablets and other handheld devices. Essentially toys IMO. Or, not used for much serious computing.
Noumenon
1 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2011
Cloud storage will make such thin HDD's obsolete before they hit the market, with faster mobile telecommunications services,... we're already streaming movies.
PPihkala
5 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2011
I think there will be market for rotating disks for tablets if they can get the price to be right. SSD is currently much more expensive than HDDs per byte.
rwinners
1 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2011
I agree with Nerdy... I'll be sticking with my laptop. Toys are for kids.
BTW, what is the storage capacity of these super thin drives? Manufacturers might begin using them in laptops and give us a gain in weight and battery life.
wwqq
not rated yet Nov 19, 2011
32GB is plenty for a laptop.
use a Linux distro and not crappy windows.


32 GB is a joke for anything but word processing, surfing and very light gaming.

32 GB barely fits my photo collection. It would barely fit my music collection(memory is so cheap, why use anything but .flac if you don't have to?).

It's about enough to fit 4 reasonably modern games. Hell my steam folder alone is 90 GB.

Unless you do really lightweight stuff you'll need to make some really draconian trade offs on what to keep and what to have installed and what quality to store photos and music in. It's just not worth it.
kaasinees
0 / 5 (21) Nov 23, 2011
32 GB is a joke for anything but word processing, surfing and very light gaming.

Your life is a joke.
Linux only uses 2GiB, that leaves 30 gibibytes of temporary files.

32 GB barely fits my photo collection. It would barely fit my music collection(memory is so cheap, why use anything but .flac if you don't have to?).

Use an external tebibyte drive or a NAS for storing many/big files.

It's about enough to fit 4 reasonably modern games. Hell my steam folder alone is 90 GB.

Oh wow, what laptop will ever be able to run such games smoothly let alone uncomfortably behind a small screen.
And even if you want to play a game you still have 30 gigs of space which is enough to run any game. And if you really worry about it that much install it on a flash drive.

Retard.
MIBO
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2011
kaasinees,
try a Novatech G90 ( Clevo D900F ), runs every game on the market smoothly, and never seems to crash or even slow down no matter how much you ask it to do.
Honestly, who wants external drives, just more to carry. I have many data files bigger than 32GB, I can generate that in a single short simulation.
External HDD are also simply too slow, I run a raid system to get speed, how can I possibly do that without 2 external e-sata drives?.
rwinners
not rated yet Nov 24, 2011
Cloud storage is a commie operation...