Toshiba: Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording Technologies Are Still Under Consideration

HAMR May Not Necessarily Be the Next Big Thing for Hard Disk Drives - Toshiba

by Anton Shilov
07/13/2012 | 01:12 PM

Even though it is widely believed that heat-assisted magnetic recording technology (HAMR) is the next big thing for hard disk drives, Toshiba Corp. believes that it is not cast on stone that HAMR is the de-facto standard for future platters as numerous technologies are explored these days. Moreover, even HAMR can be implemented in different ways, which means that the term may be inaccurate.


Heat-assisted magnetic recording is a technology that magnetically records data on high-stability media using laser thermal assistance to first heat the material. HAMR allows to increase areal density of recording and therefore capacities of hard drives to at least around 1Tb/inch2, significantly more than today's areal densities of around 620Gb/inch2. It is widely believed that HAMR is the next technology that hard drive manufacturers and HDD platter makers will implement in order to increase capacities.

Seagate Technology this year demonstrated an operating prototype of a hard drive with HAMR platters featuring 1Tb/inch2 areal density. But HAMR may not be too close to production. Moreover, even approaches to HAMR by various companies may be different: media may be heated using lasers or microwaves, which leads to fundamentally different reading/recording heads.

"It is not altogether clear that HAMR will be the next major magnetic recording system to be commercialized. [...] The term HAMR is a vendor’s proprietary term. The industry may soon come to term the technology TAMR (thermal-assisted magnetic recording), and may or may not include lasers as microwave heating technology is also being explored as an option outside of the lasers that have been used in previous demonstrations of HAMR or TAMR. Toshiba is the one HDD vendor that has high volume production experience with lasers from its work with CD and DVD operations. We look at both the advantages and challenges associated with multiple lasers mounted in an enclosed HDD design and feel that there are options which should be explored beyond lasers," said Joel Hagberg, vice president of marketing at storage products business unit of Toshiba America Electronic Components, in an interview with X-bit labs.

Toshiba is currently working on many new magnetic recording technologies to power its next-gen hard drives together with its partners from TDK and Showa Denko KK. Some technologies like bit patterned media (which promises to offer 1Tb/inch2 - 3Tb/inch2 areal density) look promising, others, like two dimensional magnetic recording (TDMR, 10Tb/inch2 areal density) look very challenging and it is unclear when they become viable.

"Thermal-assisted magnetic recording is just one candidate. We are also working with other energy-assist technologies as well as discrete track (DTR) and bit pattern media for the possibility of future integration into HDDs. [...] There are a number of complex technology development and manufacturing issues which need to be addressed to approach the 10Tb/inch2  level areal density. It is difficult to speculate when the challenges may be overcome and enable such significant achievements in manufacturing technology," said Mr. Hagberg.