TDK’s advanced HDD head technology accelerates the digital transformation of society

With the increasing popularity of technologies such as cloud computing and 5G communications, the digital transformation (DX) of society is accelerating. As a result, the amount of data being generated globally is exploding. We live in an era where every piece of captured information is recorded as data. To meet the unlimited demand for data storage, TDK is developing next-generation technology for magnetic heads (components used to read and write data), which will allow for further expansion of hard disk drive (HDD) capacity.

With the increasing popularity of technologies such as cloud computing and 5G communications, the digital transformation (DX) of society is accelerating. As a result, the amount of data being generated globally is exploding. We live in an era where every piece of captured information is recorded as data. To meet the unlimited demand for data storage, TDK is developing next-generation technology for magnetic heads (components used to read and write data), which will allow for further expansion of hard disk drive (HDD) capacity.

HDD provides a high-capacity, low-cost data storage solution for the DX era
The Development of HDD Recording Technology Driven by Magnetic Head
What are the next-generation recording technologies MAMR and HAMR that have attracted much attention?

HDD provides a high-capacity, low-cost data storage solution for the DX era

Today, vast amounts of data generated by individuals, businesses, IoT devices and sensors are sent over the Internet and recorded for later use. Typically, digital data is recorded ON HDDs and solid-state drives (SSDs). Based on flash memory and featuring high speed and low power consumption, SSDs are now widely used in personal computers; nevertheless, HDDs, with their large capacity and excellent cost per bit (cost per unit of recordable data volume), are widely used in data centers The nearline storage*1 used still plays a leading role. With the growth of 5G communications and IoT devices and the advent of edge computing*2, the amount of data that needs to be stored in data centers will continue to increase, which is expected to further drive demand for HDDs.

The amount of digital data generated globally each year

TDK’s advanced HDD head technology accelerates the digital transformation of society
Source: Data Age 2025, IDC (graphics by TDK)

By 2025, the amount of data generated globally is expected to increase to 175ZB per year (1 ZB equals 1 billion terabytes (TB), 1 TB equals 1,000 gigabytes (GB), and 1 GB equals 1,000,000 megabytes (MB). )).

The Development of HDD Recording Technology Driven by Magnetic Head

With the popularity of personal computers, the capacity of HDDs has also grown in tandem, starting from a few tens of megabytes in the 1980s and typically reaching several terabytes in the 2020s, an increase of more than 100,000 times. The key factor driving such a dramatic increase in capacity is the technological innovation behind the magnetic heads, the components used to read and write data in HDDs.

As a leading manufacturer of HDD heads, TDK has been developing innovative head technology for many years. In 1987, we developed thin-film magnetic heads*3, which greatly increased the recording density compared to conventional magnetic heads. In 2005, we commercialized the perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR)*4 head, which broke the density limit of PMR*5. The vertical TMR head using high-sensitivity TMR technology*6 further increases the recording density, enabling higher-capacity HDDs.

Heads inside HDD

TDK’s advanced HDD head technology accelerates the digital transformation of society

The recording density of HDDs has recently exceeded 1Tb/in2 (terabits per square inch). That’s the equivalent of a trillion magnets lined up in a square inch. With such high densities, the size of the recording bits within the recording (magnetic) layer has become so small that writing with current head technology is approaching the physical limit.

To solve this problem, TDK is working to develop two next-generation recording methods. One is microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR). The other is heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) using a laser. Moris Dovek, CTO of Headway Technologies, a head manufacturer of the TDK Group, explains why they are working on both future approaches.

TDK’s advanced HDD head technology accelerates the digital transformation of society
Moris Dovek, CTO of Headway Technologies

“We are currently developing two technologies, MAMR and HAMR. As the only dedicated manufacturer of HDD heads in the world, we think we need to be ready for both because we don’t yet know which technology will take the lead in the near future. become mainstream.”

Development of Magnetic Recording Method and HDD Recording Density

TDK’s advanced HDD head technology accelerates the digital transformation of society

With the introduction of magnetic recording head technologies such as GMR and TMR read heads, the recording density of HDDs continues to increase.

What are the next-generation recording technologies MAMR and HAMR that have attracted much attention?

Affected by the increase in HDD density, the recording bits become finer, which requires higher coercivity*7 for the recording bits to maintain thermal stability. However, as the coercivity increases, the magnetic field in the head becomes insufficient for writing data, requiring external energy to assist writing.

MAMR emits microwaves from the spin torque element*8 at the tip of the head to temporarily weaken the coercivity of the recorded bits during recording. HAMR, on the other hand, uses a laser beam to instantaneously heat the recording disk and locally weaken the coercivity during recording. These next-generation recording methods are expected to increase the recording density of HDDs to as high as 4Tb/in2, enabling 3.5-inch HDDs to reach capacities of 40 to 60TB, four times the capacity available today.

Next Generation Magnetic Recording Technologies MAMR and HAMR

TDK’s advanced HDD head technology accelerates the digital transformation of society

TDK’s advanced HDD head technology accelerates the digital transformation of society
(Top) MAMR (Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording): Microwaves are generated from a spin torque element at the tip of the magnetic head to reduce the magnetic field of the recording medium used for recording.
(Bottom) HAMR (Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording): The medium is instantaneously heated with a bit-sized laser spot while recording is performed in order to locally reduce the coercive force.

As the world’s only specialized manufacturer of magnetic heads, TDK supplies HDD manufacturers around the world. Dovek said: “As each HDD manufacturer has unique needs, by working with them, we can receive a variety of performance data and feedback, which is very beneficial to us and helps to improve our work. About MAMR and HAMR, we have joined research in both technologies, and we can take advantage of this to mutually absorb what has been achieved in both fields. Ultimately, our motivation comes from challenging ourselves to continually exceed customer expectations.”

As the backbone of data storage, HDDs will continue to evolve. TDK will continue to play a key role in the development of the digital society by developing magnetic heads, a key component of HDDs.

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