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Analyze This

Inside Western Digital: How Tomorrow's Storage Gets Made
By
Analyze This

Forty percent of the San Jose 2 facility is dedicated to analysis. Despite the innocuous simplicity of a shiny little disk, there’s a substantial amount of examination and validation needed to confirm that each platter works as it should. Each disk has a sort of soft underlayer, then a couple of magnetic metal layers, then a carbon overcoat. Each layer may only be a few angstoms thick, and each needs to be analyzed for its individual characteristics.

One machine for doing this is the Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM). When I approached this room, the door was closed and plastered with warnings, reminiscent of a studio recording chamber or a photography darkroom. After a few moments, the technician inside ushered us into a tiny space not much larger than the desk you see here. Modern TEMs can achieve magnifications of over 1 million times. In this setting, WD is using the TEM to examine media crystal structure, grain dimensions, and sputtered layer thickness. According to the technician who showed us this room, “it can also provide high-spatial resolution diffraction or chemical element analysis.”

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Top Comments
  • 18 Hide
    milosz , February 15, 2010 8:26 AM
    It's amazing that all this precision work and exotic manufacturing technology can be had for $150
  • 14 Hide
    r0x0r , February 15, 2010 10:38 AM
    KubiksovsNice walktrough but hey it's 2010. You should put bigger, less compressed images than these 1999. thumbnail sized pics.


    Click the zoom button then click on the image you want to see at full size
  • 13 Hide
    alagadnidonald , February 15, 2010 7:01 AM
    a video tour like the one from AMD Dresden would have been 10x better...
Other Comments
  • -4 Hide
    zelog , February 15, 2010 5:58 AM
    I'm guessing the metal plate on the floor in picture 29 is slightly elevated to let the water drain.
  • 13 Hide
    alagadnidonald , February 15, 2010 7:01 AM
    a video tour like the one from AMD Dresden would have been 10x better...
  • 4 Hide
    johnbilicki , February 15, 2010 8:01 AM
    There are a lot of DOA complaints on Newegg and even with 40% of that place is required to make sure the drive works before it leaves the building it still has to go through shipping...UPS shows up eight hours after FedEx and the drive it dead because during shipping your package was the substitute baby for 'kick the baby'.
  • -8 Hide
    johnbilicki , February 15, 2010 8:02 AM
    DOA for all drives (even SSD), not just WD.
  • 18 Hide
    milosz , February 15, 2010 8:26 AM
    It's amazing that all this precision work and exotic manufacturing technology can be had for $150
  • -5 Hide
    anamaniac , February 15, 2010 8:49 AM
    Awesome. =D
    I've switched to Samsung drives though. ^_^

    And at the pic on page 26, she's checking her farmville. (At my job we hired an insanely expensive technician to fix some really expensive equipment, which he did with his laptop... and he has checking his farmville... at a few hundred dollars per hour on the company dime of course.)

    Interesting that there appeared to be no drainage for the emergency shower. They just jerry rig that thing up at the last moment and hope no one has to use it?

    Also, that walkthrough video is quite depressing. Yellow rooms as far as the eye can see, without a smile in sight.

    Thank you very much for this wonderful article. As much as I'd like to, I doubt I could ever work there, because my handa aren't stable enough just to take a damned picture, nevermind handle extremely precise equipment. =)

    But I wonder, how many drive failures have they had because an employee dropped a contact into the drive?

    Also, great to see that little sneak preview on WD NAND based storage.

    Now, how about Intel and 32nm?
  • 0 Hide
    kikireeki , February 15, 2010 9:18 AM
    And a new HDD is born and it is DOA! "sarcasm"

    I just hope that WDD has done it right this time!
  • 0 Hide
    jhanschu , February 15, 2010 9:26 AM
    I'm under the assumption that most of the pictures were taken in a "clean room" environment. As such, the floor grating would be elevated (as previously mentioned) for the laminar air flow and there may possibly be a drain below. Also if I noticed correctly, the ceiling "tiles" were actually HEPA filters.
  • -6 Hide
    g00ey , February 15, 2010 9:52 AM
    I'm not buying that every step visualized on these photos are being applied to each and every platter that is manufactured on this facility. For example I don't think they examine the layers of every platter in the TEM. I believe the photos don't only show the manufacturing line but also some of the research facilities for next generation products.

    I think the manufacturing process is very much like an assembly line process where the production flow is rather fluent which is not the impression I get at a first glance when looking through these photos. They obviously achieve som degree of economies of scale. It would be interesting too see some figures such as how long it takes to produce a platter, head, and so on and how many units/components per hour that is being produced etc.

    Then look at for example picture 28 (or 25-32); I don't understand how these large electoplated platters turn into read/write heads of a harddrive. I don't see the part where these wafers are punched into small needles (sliders/heads) and how this is done.
  • 4 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , February 15, 2010 10:20 AM
    I find it marvelous to see all this expensive hightech and amongst those things find old crt monitors and I think in one picture about #20 I even spotted an old hp dx2000 in the right side of an image (in front of an older 13" or so crt. Really nice to see expensive mashinery associated with expensive downtime being operated using windows antique and old hardware. Seems you don't always NEED a quadcore to be effective.

    Great article btw. Not sure I share the authors humor, but I suppose it beats kevins.
  • -7 Hide
    Anonymous , February 15, 2010 10:20 AM
    Nice walktrough but hey it's 2010. You should put bigger, less compressed images than these 1999. thumbnail sized pics.
  • 14 Hide
    r0x0r , February 15, 2010 10:38 AM
    KubiksovsNice walktrough but hey it's 2010. You should put bigger, less compressed images than these 1999. thumbnail sized pics.


    Click the zoom button then click on the image you want to see at full size
  • 2 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , February 15, 2010 10:40 AM
    Nice article.
  • -5 Hide
    Jaans , February 15, 2010 11:05 AM
    Please, these images are too small. At this size you might as well leave them out. At least offer the option to see a much larger image when clicking on image.
  • -7 Hide
    Jaans , February 15, 2010 11:10 AM
    My point above is that even the so called "Zoom" images are way too small to enjoy this story.
  • 8 Hide
    cangelini , February 15, 2010 11:18 AM
    Clicking once opens the gallery. Clicking the image in the gallery will open the full-sized shot. I know there is some debate as to the efficiency of this three-click process (mainly, it's not), and I've opened up some dialog here with regards to ways we can improve it. In the meantime, however, I simply right-click->open in new tab when I want to use the gallery without losing my place in the editorial content.
  • -5 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , February 15, 2010 12:19 PM
    cangeliniClicking once opens the gallery. Clicking the image in the gallery will open the full-sized shot. I know there is some debate as to the efficiency of this three-click process (mainly, it's not), and I've opened up some dialog here with regards to ways we can improve it. In the meantime, however, I simply right-click->open in new tab when I want to use the gallery without losing my place in the editorial content.

    When you enter the dialogue consider suggesting the designers to make scripts perform according to standards. After all the javascript bugs have been around for like a year now without anyone solving it. (the one where, in ie7,ie8,chrome or firefox3, clicking submit just gives a 'javsscript void' statement in the status bar but doesn't submit anything ; usually rating and citing doesn't work in those situations either, but not always) or perhaps suggest making the talkback equal on both toms hardware and guide. Sometimes on toms guide the links to talkback aren't in the 'news' section of the forum which generates a different layout where our belowed avatars are still shown but the citation and rating features are less available due to design.
    Also the login bug should be adressed some time - u know ... the one in ie where you're being redirected to an error page if you don't press escape quickly enough (to stop faulty script playback likely caused by the adds).
    Anyway the gallery's annoying too ofc. Not only the fact that images aren't sorted in the order the article uses them, but also the multistage opening you mentioned.
  • 0 Hide
    gtvr , February 15, 2010 12:22 PM
    background of image 2 - guy with a beard and no face mask?
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , February 15, 2010 12:35 PM
    gtvrbackground of image 2 - guy with a beard and no face mask?

    That was the dressing room no? perhaps he just wasn't dressed up yet
  • -1 Hide
    g00ey , February 15, 2010 1:00 PM
    gtvrbackground of image 2 - guy with a beard and no face mask?

    A pub with no beer and a man with no beard ...
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