Showa Denko K.K. (SDK) has unveiled the the company has finished the development of its next-generation heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) media for hard drives. The platters use all-new magnetic thin films with a very small crystal grain size in order to maximize their areal density, with the goal of eventually enabling 3.5-inch HDDs to be built with capacities of 70 TB to 80 TB.

SDK’s platters for HAMR HDDs use glass substrate and feature thin film magnetic layer made of an Fe-Pt alloy. To improve the magnetic coercivity of the media by several times over existing platters, Showa Denko used a new structure of magnetic layers and implemented new ways of controlling the temperature of the media during production.

UPDATE 2/21: As it turns out, Showa Denko will use glass substrates for platters designed for HAMD hard drives because of their superior heat resistance.

Driving these developments, it's critical to maximize the magnetic coercivity of next generation HDD platters because the crystal grains used to record data are getting extremely small. This has made them very easy to magnetize, but it has also reduced the strength of the individual magnetic signatures, which creates an unwanted magnetic inter-track interference (ITI) effect that makes it harder for HDD heads to read the data. Platters with high magnetic coercivity require energy assistance during writing and this is what energy assisted magnetic recording technologies (HAMR, MAMR, ePMR, etc.) are all about. Meanwhile, the platters must survive extreme temperatures they are subjected to during heat-assisted recording. According to Showa Denko, its new HAMR platters offer the industry’s highest read-write characteristics and durability.

Transmission Electron Microscopy Images of HAMR Media


Plain View                                                          Cross Section

SDK is not disclosing the recording density of its new platters nor are they making specific promises about when it intends to start mass production of next-generation disks. Meanwhile, the company notes that today’s leading-edge conventional magnetic recording (CMR) platters feature recording density of about 1.14 Tb/in2 and it is widely believed that this is not going to grow significantly without using energy assisted recording methods. By contrast, Showa Denko believes, HAMR-based media will achieve areal density of 5-6 Tb/in2 in the future, which will increase capacity of hard drives by several times, all the way to 70 TB – 80 TB per 3.5-inch drive without increasing the number of platters. For comparison's sake, today’s 16 TB CMR (PMR+TDMR) HDDs use nine disks, so increasing their density by ~5.2X would enable drives featuring capacities higher than 80 TB.

Showa Denko is the world’s largest independent maker of platters for hard drives, selling media to all of the HDD producers. That said, the large manufacturers — Seagate and Western Digital — also produce media themselves and tend to use their own leading-edge platters to cut costs and maximize product margins. So it will be interesting to see which of three remaining hard drive makers will be the first to use HAMR platters from Showa Denko.

Seagate will be the first company to adopt HAMR for commercial 20 TB drives in late 2020, but since Showa Denko now only plans to ‘make preparations for full-scale supply of the new HD media’, it is likely that the first HAMR drives will use Seagate’s own platters. Toshiba is expected to use Showa Denko’s 2 TB MAMR platters for its 18 TB HDDs that are projected to arrive later this year, but in the longer terms it will switch to HAMR (we have no idea when). By contrast, Western Digital uses its so-called energy-assisted PMR (ePMR) technology for its 18 TB and 20 TB HDDs due this year and will gradually move to MAMR and HAMR in the years to come.

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Source: Showa Denko



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  • bill.rookard - Thursday, February 6, 2020 - link

    Yeah - when Samsung put out the 15.7TB SSD, the MSRP on that one was in the neighborhood of $10k. I'm sure it's come down a bit since then, and they also released a 30TB drive. Not sure on the price for that one. These are both in the 2.5" format.

    Seagate put out a 60TB 3.5" drive, and I'm sure that's in the range of 'stupidly expensive'.
  • npz - Thursday, February 6, 2020 - link

    Yep, and that order of magnitude price difference will never come down as no producer in that enterprise space would ever want to give up those sweet, sweet margins. Reply
  • HardwareDufus - Thursday, February 6, 2020 - link

    Heat too... Reply
  • MenhirMike - Thursday, February 6, 2020 - link

    In ten years, who knows. But from now for the next 10 years? Yeah, storage density per $ is much better with spinning rust. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, February 6, 2020 - link

    I would think that as density increases on mechanical drives, we may begin to see data corruption from background level EMI impact long-term unpowered HDDs as we are already seeing with SSDs. What we really need is to put NAND and mechanical drives behind us by using storage technologies that mix the P/E durability and cold storage longevity of mechanical drives with the high throughput, low latency, and physical shock resistance of NAND. I was hopeful about Optane/Xpoint, but that technology and other potential replacements are simply not developing very quickly so we are instead getting a variety of bandaid and stopgap solutions on both sides of the storage development fence that fail to address the fundamental problems of each respective data storage method. Reply
  • prisonerX - Thursday, February 6, 2020 - link

    Most technological developments will be obsolete in 10 years time. You're assuming that spinning platters won't progress in those 10 years, just like they have every other 10 years since inception their inception. Ans they'll do so in a way that satisfies their niche. Reply
  • DanD85 - Thursday, February 6, 2020 - link

    Lol, I guess you've never heard about data tape then? 80TB hard drive? Magnetic tape has reached 330TB since 2017! Every storage technologies have its own places. Reply
  • npz - Thursday, February 6, 2020 - link

    That has NEVER made it to market. The current LTO gen is 192 TB max. The whole tape standard has also been frought and stalled a year ago due to licensing disputes. In any case, HD and tape is entirely different application Reply
  • cafehunk - Thursday, February 6, 2020 - link

    LTO 12, with 192 TB is on the roadmap, but not available. You can't even buy LTO 9, let alone 10 or 11 or 12 right now. LTO 8 which you can buy, is only 12.8 TB/cartridge. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, February 6, 2020 - link

    Cramming lot's of NAND in a tight space is not an issue, but paying for all those chips is. And yes, you can increase the cold storage time - at the cost of capacity. You have to go back to SLC, increase cell sizes and insulate them better (slower). Sounds pretty unattractive to me. Reply

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