The Secret Sauce
Here’s the back side of the sputter system. There are 16 machines lined up, each of which controls a different detail of the deposition process. The deposition “recipe” gets figured out at the MMO, then the Asia facilities, which contain an identical copy of this sputter system, put it into mass production.
“Every knob can be tweaked,” noted my supervising engineer guide. “The configurations are infinite if you think about temperature, power, number of chambers, and number of elements you can put together in a target. The struggle to get to the next generation is pretty much infinite in all directions. There is no procedure saying ‘do this, now do this’ to get to the next generation of technology. Every little advance has to be figured out here through a lot of trial and error.”
Naturally, WD doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel (or platter) with each new design. Ninety-nine percent of the basic design and cutting-edge work is already done. It’s just that little, novel one percent that makes the difference between today’s generation and what comes next. If there’s single “secret sauce” to WD’s research efforts, the place where that magical one percent comes into being, it happens here. This is the system that refines what mass storage technologies we’ll be buying six months to two years from now.