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Hitachi Maxell Develops Wafer-Thin Storage Disc 83

narramissic writes "Hitachi Maxell Ltd. has developed an optical disc that is less than 1/10 of a millimeter thick. Working prototypes on display at this week's Ceatec Japan 2006 exhibition are based on DVD technology and are capable of holding 4.7 GB each. Making discs so thin doesn't come without its problems, however. To make the discs rigid enough for the laser to remain in focus on the disc's surface, the company has fitted inside each drive a 0.6 millimeter-thick piece of glass through which there are holes. Air is drawn through the holes when the disc spins causing the flexible disc to be drawn against the rigid piece of glass to make it flat."
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Hitachi Maxell Develops Wafer-Thin Storage Disc

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  • Am I wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rekab ( 990669 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @02:37PM (#16309499) Homepage
    Or would breaking these things be a real issue.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @02:45PM (#16309605)
      They said that about condoms but it's not stopped people using them.
      • Dude, there's a big difference between condoms and hard drives.

        Yes it was tough keeping a straight face while typing that.
    • by daeg ( 828071 )
      Breaking them isn't a defect, it's a feature.
    • You're wrong (Score:1, Informative)

      by solevita ( 967690 )
      The article states that the disks come in packs of ten, sealed within cartidges. These carts go into the drives, which removes individual disks for use. You, nor I, never have to get out fat fingers anywhere near the delicate little disks.

      Now that that's cleared up, I still can't think of much of a use for these things.
      • Just what computers need. More moving parts!

      • depending on the size of the package vs. media per package - it could be more effective than DVDRWs in data density.

        Then again, by the time this comes to market, we'll probably have something much better than it is anyway. Of the upcoming storage tech, this does look the least impressive.
        • I would have thought the money could have been better spent improving flash memory, or at least making it cheaper. As you say, data densities are up, but there must be a better way to do it than this.
    • Re:Am I wrong? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @03:00PM (#16309813) Homepage
      According to the article:
      It's targeted at commercial storage applications. The company says that a system about the same size as a tower PC and will be able to hold 4.7T bytes of data. A 19-inch rack mount model will be able to hold three times that amount of data.

      So it seems that these aren't meant to be something that you'd carry around loose the way you do with CDs/DVDs. They'd be encased in cartridges, and those cartridges would be in some sort of device. So I think the question would be, how would this technology compare with hard drives?

      • Re:Am I wrong? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by daeg ( 828071 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @03:29PM (#16310253)
        I can see these being very valuable in applications where holding data is forbidden or where the must be destroyed at regular intervals or at the end of a project. Destroying hard drives (and wiping them is time consuming and prone to user error) could get expensive, but replacing a few tiny disks could be very cheap.
        • by Firehed ( 942385 )
          So? They make DVD shredders, and all these things are by the sounds of it are pointlessly-thin DVDs (seeing that the actual data storage layer of a DVD is about the same thickness, and the rest of it is so that they don't break!)
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Iron Condor ( 964856 )

        The company says that a system about the same size as a tower PC and will be able to hold 4.7T bytes of data.

        I may be missing somehting here somewhere (I often do) but "4.7TB of data" comes to less than 7 run-of-the-mill (by now) 750GB HDDs. Which already fit into a PC tower. Even a mini-tower. And require no new technology. And have much faster immediate random-access times than a drive that has to pick a thin disk from a spindle somewhere.


        • But it's only...wafer-thin.
        • That's why I said that the question should probably be about how this tech compares to hard drives. It may be slower, and I didn't catch any indication as to whether it's available as RW or just R. So it might be that this technology is aimed at archival purposes, i.e. the same people who would buy DVD-R jukeboxes for archival backups.

          I don't know, though.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by NayDizz ( 821461 )
      Just what I thought. Aren't optical discs fragile enough? Instead of making discs with higher and higher capacity or thinner profile, why doesn't anyone make a DVD that isn't rendered useless when my niece gets a scratch on it?

      Oh yeah, this way I just have to go buy another.

  • by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @02:40PM (#16309527) Homepage
    Immediately jumped to mind.

    Hitachi: Eet Ees Waf-fer theen.
    PC: I can't eat another Byte, I'm gonna puke..

    Followed by a sony-battery-meltdown.
    • by smaerd ( 954708 )
      How are you today, m'sir?
      Better.
      Better?
      Better get a bucket. I'm gonna puke.

      Same thing I always think of when I hear "wafer thin."
  • 100 pk. spindles of discs that take up as much room as 2 jewel cases, think of all the new places that your lost cd/dvd's can go at this size
  • ...Is what percentage of a Library of Congress can be fit onto one of these and how many human hairs thick is it?
  • by millennial ( 830897 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @02:51PM (#16309687) Journal
    So it uses air to keep the disc rigid... Does it suck or blow?
    • And will this make my PC as loud as my vacuum cleaner?
    • "So it uses air to keep the disc rigid... Does it suck or blow?"

      It's interchangeable. New technology generally sucks and blows...
    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )
      Didn't you read the summary?

      Air is drawn through the holes when the disc spins causing the flexible disc to be drawn against the rigid piece of glass to make it flat."

      The air is sucked through the holes, pulling the disc against the piece of glass.
      • How long was the procedure? You know, the one where they surgically removed your sense of humor.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Hal_Porter ( 817932 )
          > How long was the procedure? You know, the one where they surgically removed your sense of humor.

          I don't think it's possible to surgically remove a sense of humour. A person's sense of humour is spread of a large volume of brain matter, shared with many other vital functions. It's very unlikely that a subject would even survive such an operation. Since the American Handbook of Neurosurgery contains no approved procedures, it would be hard for the surgeon to obtain malpractice insurance. Indeed attempti
  • Big deal. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Belial6 ( 794905 )
    Big deal. The main bulk of CDs and DVDs are for structural integrity. So, they reduced the amount of plastic use to keep the disc from falling apart. That's a little like (using the traditionally bad car analogy) making a hummer out of paper... bragging that it only weighs 200lbs... Then having to warn people that the car will collapse if you lean on it.
    • It is nice in cases where you are giving the disk away (like in a magazine)... takes up much less landfill space too. I wouldn't be holding my breath waiting for them to hit the consumer market though.
      • If magazines are worried about bulk, perhaps they should debone the 3 1/2 lbs of corrugated cardboard inserts, attached shampoo samples, and full-length product catalog foldouts.
    • I don't really see where this is going. The public basically abandoned cartridge-based removable storage a few years ago; it reached its height with the Iomega Zip and was all downhill from there. (Actually this technology reminds me a little of the Zip; a thin, fragile, high-density storage media inside of a rigid case.) They would have to offer a lot more than just thinness to get the public to go back there.

      Removable disks went out with a whimper, not with a bang, and the last few generations of them were pretty sorry. (Anyone remember the Castlewood Orb? Or any of the other HD-based removables? I do; the cost per MB was atrocious.)

      Why would anyone want to move back to the days of proprietary cartridges and drives, when we've come so far from there? I'd much prefer improvements to the existing CD/DVD formats which preserve at least the physical format (allowing for easy backwards compatibility), if not the near-universal standardization.
      • by flooey ( 695860 )
        Why would anyone want to move back to the days of proprietary cartridges and drives, when we've come so far from there?

        We certainly wouldn't, but businesses that need to back up a whole mess of data are still often stuck in the proprietary cartridge and drive space. A cartridge-style solution that has higher density would likely be marketed to them.
      • The public basically abandoned cartridge-based removable storage a few years ago;

        Only because CD caddies were an expensive mess. That soured everyone on the idea, despite the problems of bare discs.

        (Anyone remember the Castlewood Orb? Or any of the other HD-based removables? I do; the cost per MB was atrocious.)

        Caddies can't make underlying tech any better. Why do you blame it for all these formats' shortcommings?

        Why would anyone want to move back to the days of proprietary cartridges and drives, when we'

    • That would be fine as long as the hummer you made was only a display model. That is kind of what they are doing here. This is not for portable storage, this is for inside your computer storage.
  • Now I have a use for all those 5.25" floppy diskette sleeves.
  • by Peter Trepan ( 572016 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @02:58PM (#16309787)
    :slices through a tin can:
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @02:59PM (#16309809) Journal
    the company has fitted inside each drive a 0.6 millimeter-thick piece of glass

    A typical double-sided DVD consists of two 0.6mm polycarbonate layers sandwitched back-to-back.

    So basically, this just trades a cheap external more-or-less disposeable disc with an attached and well-protected media layer, for an expensive internal (to the drive) point of failure, with a separate, very fragile media layer.

    Woo woo, where oh where can I trade my entire DVD collection in for some of these magic beans?

    The price of a DVD or CD doesn't come from the cost of a few grams of polycarbonate, it comes from the cost to license the content. This seems like a useless device - unless they have the goal of increasing the frequency with which people need to replace movies they already bought, due to physical failure.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by solevita ( 967690 )
      I think you're being a little unfair; we should be able to see a half decent idea within this product:

      The disks are protected within cartridges as packs of ten until they go into the drive and gain the magic piece of glass. All optical media needs this bulk to protect it; the new system simply reuses the bulk so that 1 drive and 500 disks has 1 protective layer, rather than 500. This is a good idea: The same end result is achieved, but the media is thinner, allowing more to fit in the same place and 470 gi
  • a micrometre !
    Oh god, give my a dictionnnaryes :-)
    • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @03:21PM (#16310109) Journal
      NOT a micrometre it is 100 micrometres! See here [wikipedia.org] for details.

      Oh god, give my a dictionnnaryes :-)

      On that we definitely agree.
    • actually 100 micrometers, which is just about the thickness of bond paper, which in turn prompts one to ask the question: why WAFER-thin?
      Silicon wafers are about 1mm thick, wafers that you eat are even thicker. So why not describe it as "paper-thin"?
      • by Roduku ( 950552 )
        Thank you. "Paper thin" actually gives me a better visual perspective than "1/10 of a millimeter"
    • ..."less than 1/10 of a millimeter thick"...
      ..."fitted inside each drive a 0.6 millimeter-thick piece of glass"...
      So they invented a way to put 10 gallons of shit in a 5 gallon bucket? How do you put something over half a millimeter thick *inside* something a tenth of a millimeter thick?
      Walk away from Slashdot, and read a book.
  • Lame? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tuxlove ( 316502 )
    Somehow this technology seems academically interesting, but practically kind of lame. Who cares how thin the media is? It's so thin that it must be carried inside something else that's obviously got to be much larger than the media. This could be cool if they could layer numerous levels of these inside a standard thickness disc, but aside from that it seems fragile and dubious.
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • Great! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @03:15PM (#16310011) Homepage Journal

    So, if this technology can shave off 1 mm of the disc's thickness, it means you can use 9 mm jewel cases instead of the regular 10 mm versions. Thus solving the storage problem once and for all! Of course, you'll probably need an extra strong case to protect this extra fragile disc.

    In other words, most of the storage space with CDs/DVDs isn't due to the disc itself, it's due to the ginormous case that some people insist on having around. DVD movie cases are even worse. Personally, I prefer slim "CD single" cases whenever possible.

    • How is this modded insightful? The disks are not to replace CDs/DVDs/BlueRay Disks/etc. The article clearly states that they are going to be much more like a hard disk drive. Sure the disks are fragile, but the consumer will never touch them.
      • The disks are not to replace CDs/DVDs/BlueRay Disks/etc. The article clearly states that they are going to be much more like a hard disk drive.

        And as we all know, most of the space taken up by a hard drive is due to the thickness of the disk platters... or is it?

        • I said nothing about the thickness or performance. As stated above in the discussion "This is not for portable storage, this is for inside your computer storage." That would make his statement about the thickness of jewel cases totally irrelevant to the discussion. I would say RTFA but no one does that anymore :p
  • Those of us in semiconductor manufacturing will recognize this as a vaccuum chuck.

    We use them to hold the silicon wafers still whilst going through the various fabrication and testing processes.

  • by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @03:51PM (#16310589)
    MAITRE D:
    And finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin disc.
    MR. CREOSOTE:
    Nah.
    MAITRE D:
    Oh, sir, it's only a tiny, little, thin one.
    MR. CREOSOTE:
    No. Fuck off. I'm full.
    MAITRE D:
    Oh, sir. Hmm?
    MR. CREOSOTE:
    [groan]
    MAITRE D:
    It's only wafer thin.
    MR. CREOSOTE:
    Look. I couldn't eat another byte. I'm absolutely stuffed. Bugger off.
    MAITRE D:
    Oh, sir, just-- just one.
    MR. CREOSOTE:
    [groaning] All right. Just one.
    MAITRE D:
    Just the one, monsieur. Voila.
    MR. CREOSOTE:
    [groaning]
    MAITRE D:
    Bon appetit.

  • by Farrside ( 78711 )
    I'll have to buy the White Album again.
  • by Ice Wewe ( 936718 )
    Hitachi Maxell Ltd. has developed an optical disc that is less than 1/10 of a millimeter thick.

    In a toally unrelated story, the writers and producers of the James Bond movies, Q, and Sean Connery are sueing Hitachi for stealing their idea from the next James Bond movie...

  • Novel, but useless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stuartkahler ( 569400 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @05:11PM (#16311867)
    The article says that the media (presumably rewritable) will be sealed in bulk in a cartridge that allows you to put 470GB in a space roughly the size of a DVD drive. Sounds potentially nice if full cartridges sell for the price of a spindle (100) of DVDs. Otherwise, anyone with a brain will just buy a 500GB hard drive. This tech would likely be ungodly slow, full of moving parts to break and prone to jamming. Considering all of the super specialized tech required to make this happen, it would probably be much more cost effective to just build a larger system that shuffles off-the-shelf DVD-rw media and can be upgraded to higher density media later. Speaking of which, isn't blueray or hddvd already pretty close to the 47GB/mm spec that the article implies.
  • Air is drawn through the holes when the disc spins causing the flexible disc to be drawn against the rigid piece of glass to make it flat

    The bernoulli disk [iomega.com] lives again!

    • by macraig ( 621737 )
      No, it's not at all the same principle used in the Bernoulli Boxes. I know, I still have two of the 90MB drives and a dozen of the cartridges. The Iomega products depended upon airflow and lift to keep the read-write heads from contacting the flexible media; the media was never 'sucked onto' any more rigid backing. The flexible disks were at all times supported by nothing more than centrifugal force and airflow; there were no perforated glass disks involved.
  • Outer Space (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mr_stinky_britches ( 926212 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @05:37PM (#16312281) Homepage Journal
    Technology which relies on the effects of wind resistance to work have no future in the space shuttles, I would imagine. This seems like a 'new' device which is actually more primitive than what we have..
    • Technology that relies on air (like humans) have no future in the space shuttle... The space shuttle's environment most damaging factor would be the shocks and high-g loads during launch and reentry (launch only for payload).
  • For archival storage (Score:3, Informative)

    by hamjudo ( 64140 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @08:30PM (#16314809) Homepage Journal
    This is just the first generation of the technology, and like most first generation products, it is only good for a fairly narrow niche. This is an alternative to tape cartridges. The initial cartridge is the size of two jewel cases and holds 470Gbytes. This can be compared to other tape cartridge technologies based on the usual things, access speed, write speed, read speed, cost and reliability. Don't expect the first generation to make economic sense.

    This is just a different way to handle the data layers of optical disks. Expect the data density per disk to catch up with other disk formats. Also expect them to figure out how to make the individual disks thinner. First generation disks are stored in sleeves in cartridges. If the handling system gets better, it won't need sleeves. So future cartridges will hold more disks, and each disk will hold more data.

    Whether it becomes better than tape cartridges depends on media cost, access speed, read/write speed, drive cost, drive reliability, media reliability. DVD writers are really cheap. These devices share the same optical mechanism, so they have the potential of being fairly cheap. The media is paper thin, so the media handler might be as cheap as the paper feeder in a printer (but probably not).

    For comparison, pricewatch says that LTO-3 tape cartridges, which only hold 200GB, are $60 each. So first generation cartridges would still be price competitive, even if they cost $100 each.

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