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Sony Develops Fluid-Filled Bags For Hard Disks 144

Posted by kdawson
from the putting-on-the-brakes dept.
MsManhattan writes "Sony has filed for a US patent on a liquid-filled airbag that cushions hard disks from heavy shocks in portable electronic devices. 'The liquid used could be water or silicon oil,' and 'the electronics would of course be in a liquid-tight case.' Sony expects to use the technology in mobile devices such as cameras, media players, smartphones, and laptops." The article mentions a clever approach Sony has come up with to handle shocks of varying intensity.
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Sony Develops Fluid-Filled Bags For Hard Disks

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  • Solid state (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:46PM (#19735529) Homepage Journal
    I expect solid state storage to make redundant the need for liquid cushioning for hard drives and we won't be dealing with this cushioning problem for long. Already there have been a number of incidents where solid state memory is proving far more resistant to physical damage (shock and water immersion) than "rotational media" and with plummeting costs, consumers will have access to far more solid state media in the very near future anyway. Hey the people that are being really hard on their equipment [utah.edu] are going with solid state storage, so why should not the rest of us for our iPods, laptops and iPhones?

    Besides, I just don't know about fluid filled electronics. I've played around with liquid cooling in the past and have never been able to come up with a reliable (read: long term=years) solution that does not leak. We run our systems 24/7 and I thought that perhaps Apple had come up with a decent solution for liquid cooling on their older G5 towers, but we currently have a dual G5 in the shop that had managed to pee all over itself. Needless to say, that is a system that is awaiting a part from IBM and is down, not doing anything productive. Apple had the right idea in dumping the IBM and their liquid cooling necessity and I think that for the time being, I'll avoid drives bathed in liquid as well... Especially given that the articles focus is for equipment that receives more physical impacts than a desktop machine.

    P.S.... Not sure why this was posted under YRO...

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      P.S.... Not sure why this was posted under YRO...

      Because all the idiots are about to start complaining that this shouldn't be patentable because their fanfiction about robots with breast implants is prior art...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Iron Condor (964856)
        I don't know about fanfic, but I've gel-mounted HDDs since the middle nineties. This is entirely common in the aerospace industry. As a matter of fact, try running "hard disk gel mount" (without the quotes) through google one of these days for a long list of patents already granted for this idea.
    • Re:Solid state (Score:4, Insightful)

      by HockeyPuck (141947) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:50PM (#19735595)
      I put a lot more "wear and tear" on my running shoes which have a gel in the sole. In the 15 years I've been running, I've never had gel leak.

      • Re:Solid state (Score:4, Insightful)

        by BWJones (18351) * on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:52PM (#19735635) Homepage Journal
        I put a lot more "wear and tear" on my running shoes which have a gel in the sole. In the 15 years I've been running, I've never had gel leak.

        Yeah, but that gel is in an absolutely sealed envelope. Nothing (wires) needs to get in or out, whereas with a hard drive, unless you are powering by induction and have a wireless (radio or optical) way of transmitting data, you need wires to penetrate the envelope. *That* is where failure occurs.

        • So? (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Who cares. Remember the Sony DRM? They are evil. Sony sucks and Nintendo is way better. I bet this fluid filled bag has DRM, too. I for one would prefer not to have Sony DRM on my computer, so I will not be purchasing this product. DRM. Hopefully Nintendo will come up with an even more innovative product soon, like using rubber to protect the hard drive.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cowscows (103644)
          I think a system like the article is describing could also create some interesting challenges in regards to cooling as well. If you're basically wrapping hardware in a bag, then you need to create some way of getting the heat out. Perhaps the liquid filled bag itself could act as a sort of heat sink, but it seems like that would be quite a challenge to work out, finding the proper liquid/bag materials that absorb impacts properly and transmit heat well. Plus this system sounds like it involves the liquid mo
          • by Mr2cents (323101)
            Most(*) fluids conduct heat well. If you use a non-conducting liquid, why not get rid of the casing and immerse the electronics in the liquid, using it as coolant.

            *: I'd say all, but I'm sure that if I say that, nature will prove me wrong once more.
            • by binarybum (468664)
              not sure how good of an idea that would be for moving parts of a HD. Local pressure and viscosity changes in response to temperature, as well as dealing with fluid dynamics of movement or shock might interfere with plate-head movements critical to data storage/retrieval.
        • a torus or cup shaped gel-filled pocket absolves this problem
          • by nwbvt (768631)
            Except that would involve the hard drive outside of the bag, which isn't what they are describing. In fact that technology has existed for some time (check out Panasonic's Toughbook line), so it wouldn't be patentable.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by suv4x4 (956391)
          Yeah, but that gel is in an absolutely sealed envelope. Nothing (wires) needs to get in or out, whereas with a hard drive, unless you are powering by induction and have a wireless (radio or optical) way of transmitting data, you need wires to penetrate the envelope. *That* is where failure occurs.

          Well, what a stupid theory.

          I could take it further though. How did the liquid get into the envelope? It had to penetrate the envelope!

          Now spend few minutes thinking how you could shape a tightly sealed envelope wit
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by BWJones (18351) *
            Well, what a stupid theory.

            You don't have to resort to being an ass here...

            I could take it further though. How did the liquid get into the envelope? It had to penetrate the envelope!

            But then you can seal it with no need for "ports" to be maintained which as any engineer who deals with these sorts of problems will tell you, *are* failure points. Thus the whole industry of gaskets, seals etc...etc...etc... My point is that unless the benefits greatly outweigh the costs/hassle of dealing with liquids in elec
            • by suv4x4 (956391)
              You don't have to resort to being an ass here...

              I don't have to resort to it, since it's my permanent state.

              But then you can seal it with no need for "ports" to be maintained which as any engineer who deals with these sorts of problems will tell you, *are* failure points. Thus the whole industry of gaskets, seals etc...etc...etc...

              Those are failure points because they let you put air/water/whatever inside the device or let it out. In the case with hard drives, the hard drives are not floating in water thems
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by nwbvt (768631)

                "In the case with hard drives, the hard drives are not floating in water themselves, they are surrounded by a sealed packet of liquid."

                No, they actually are in the liquid themselves (well, technically they have a waterproof shell, but that is in the liquid solution). This is a patent for a system in which the hard drive is suspended in liquid (and no, its not simply filling a baggie with water and dropping the device in it, its a bit more complicated that that). Yes, the /. summary did not exactly make

            • by mgblst (80109)
              Well, what a stupid theory.

              You don't have to resort to being an ass here...

               
              No, he is correct. You are being stupid. One could say, you don't have to resort to posting your clearly stupid theories. Maybe you can learn from that next time.
          • Maybe they got the liquid into the envelope the same way that they get the soft flowing caramel inside the chocolaty pockets of the Caramilk bar.
          • by nwbvt (768631)

            "Now spend few minutes thinking how you could shape a tightly sealed envelope with liquid around a disk, and leave a hole for cables without using ice-pick to puncture it. Come on, it's not hard."

            Well, no, the disk is inside the bag, you can't shape it around the disk after its been tightly sealed. I'm fairly certain its still possible to seal the thing (we have had waterproofing technology for some time now), but its not as simple as shaping a fluid filled bag around the disk.

        • by Mr2cents (323101)

          Nothing (wires) needs to get in or out, whereas with a hard drive, unless you are powering by induction and have a wireless (radio or optical) way of transmitting data, you need wires to penetrate the envelope. *That* is where failure occurs.
          I think that should read "*That* is where failure occurs on badly engineered products.". I'm sure there are waterproof ways to solve this reliably.
        • That gel is in an absolutely sealed envelope. Nothing (wires) needs to get in or out, whereas with a hard drive, unless you are powering by induction and have a wireless (radio or optical) way of transmitting data, you need wires to penetrate the envelope. *That* is where failure occurs.

          Yes, if both the wires and enclosure were not well bonded, this would be where failure would be likely to occur. However, if you thermally bond the HD enclosure to the insulation of the wires, attach the HD through an open

        • by mrmeval (662166)
          How about fluid filled drives. CFCs are the perfect choice. ;)
          • by treeves (963993)
            Good idea, except the viscosity of the fluid, even if small for a liquid, becomes an issue with something rotating at 5400 rpm or faster in a fluid. Disk drives would need way more power and turn it into a lot of heat if they had to do that.
            • by mrmeval (662166)

              I'd guessed it was silly. It was the CFC part that was the bait for someone to give me an OHNOES!

              Your response is rational and fine.

              What ever happened to the 'solid state' drive that used DVD material but had no moving parts? Not only is it vaporware but the must have inhaled the vapor. It sounded like an outstanding idea.

          • by fractoid (1076465)
            Actually, maybe not so much for laptops... but the reason CFCs are an evironmental hazard, as you well know, is that they catalyze the breakdown of toxic but UV-light-absorbing ozone into oxygen. I wonder whether CFC 'scrubbers' could be used with ground-level high-voltage equipment to minimise ozone buildup?
        • by Jeremi (14640)
          Nothing (wires) needs to get in or out, whereas with a hard drive, unless you are powering by induction and have a wireless (radio or optical) way of transmitting data, you need wires to penetrate the envelope. *That* is where failure occurs


          That seems like an easy enough problem to solve... sandwich the hard drive (and wires, etc) in between two or more envelopes. Same effect, no penetration.

      • by BWJones (18351) *
        Since the gel is sealed in the sole, how would you know if you had a leak or not? Have you done forensics on all your shoes? That and I suspect you have not had the same shoes for 15 years either... :-) I get your point, but see my other post [slashdot.org] for a more complete explanation.

        • by Sparr0 (451780)
          Why not have the same shoes for 15 years? That is pushing it, but my current only pair of "normal" shoes is coming up on 8 years old (i also own a pair of boots and a pair of sandals, both slightly younger).
        • have little windows or even exposed areas where you can see the gel. Done quite frequently on Nike shoes as an advertising point ("Touch here and feel the gel comfort!") Trust me, if it leaked, you'd notice. I own a few pair of running shoes where the sole is filled with gel. If ever there was a leak, the bottoms of my feet would notice it as the cushioning would suddenly feel like I'm running in plain tennis shoes.
    • Re:Solid state (Score:5, Informative)

      by russ1337 (938915) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:54PM (#19735663)
      Panasonic have had a gel 'bag' protecting their hard-drives in their Toughbooks for some time. Surely they've suitably protected their IP.

      I even managed to find a picture of one on Ebay [ebay.com]

      FTA: Why is it called an "air bag" if it is filled with liquid?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nwbvt (768631)
        I was just thinking that (I actually still have one of those), but according to TFA, there is a lot more to it than the /. summary (as usual).
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Myself (57572)
        Yup, had one of those in my CF-25 [impactcomputers.com] six or seven years ago. I read TFA and don't see anything novel or non-obvious about Sony's claims. Le sigh.
    • by AP2k (991160)
      Cars can run their entire lives without leaking. My 23 year old car is just now developing a pressure leak and slowly letting steam out somewhere. If you have a leaky coolant system, you should probably learn from automotive engineers instead of "geek boutique" websites,
      • by BWJones (18351) *
        Yeah, well if I remember correctly, Apple outsourced the production of the liquid cooling systems for the G5s to GM or a GM subsidiary like Delphi. Perhaps if they outsourced them to Honda, we'd still be working on that liquid cooled G5 and it would not be in the shop...

      • 1 extra pound in a car is nothing. Weight is important, but you can make it up elsewhere. 1 extra pound in a laptop is death.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hack slash (1064002)
      The main reason gel filled cushions have been invented is the cost per gigabyte of solid state memory is astronomical compared to harddrives.

      Unscientific quick example, 160Gb 2.5" IDE harddrive = £70, 16Gb 2.5" IDE flash memory harddrive = £280. 10x the space for 1/4 the price.

      I know the price of flash memory storage is falling, but in comparison the price of harddrive storage is plummeting.
    • P.S.... Not sure why this was posted under YRO...

      I was about the say the same thing. This is definitely a patentable invention, and is quite novel. The idea of "fluid filled bags" may not be new, but the R&D to make it work, is substantial.

      Sometimes in this current "DRM/stupid patents/bullying" days, I forgot that Sony is primarily a electronics company that have actually invented some amazing stuff, and some of them have become VERY successful in their own right (eg the 3.5inch floppy drive, Trinitron TV)

  • ...the hell ist that YRO. seems quite technical...
    • Because.. (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      it had that p-p-p-.. oh, I just can't SAY IT! .. that WORD in it. That starts with P and means Pure Evil.

      (at least, it 's a possible reason. I don't have any problem with patents, myself.)

      - A. C.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bcmm (768152)
      Cause it mentioned Sony ;)
    • Because it's about patents, and some people have an allergy to that word as a matter of principle. You know, everyone should invest billions in research (considering that IIRC for medicine it costs over 100 million just to get it tested and approved, and for other high tech stuff research costs are even ridiculously higher) and then let everyone undercut their prices (it's easier to price your stuff cheaper when you don't any research costs to recoup.) People should just be proud to go bankrupt to further t
  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:48PM (#19735559) Homepage Journal
    Now that's logical!
  • "Sony expects to use the technology in mobile devices such as cameras, media players, smartphones, and laptops." Camera's have HDD's? O.o Surely a cushion of water wouldn't protect something like a cell phone hitting the concrete.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by OldeTimeGeek (725417)
      Camera's have HDD's?

      If the camera is carrying one of the several models of microdrives [wikipedia.org], they do. I've always stuck with CF because of write times and storage density, but I know a couple of photographers who like 'em.

      Surely a cushion of water wouldn't protect something like a cell phone hitting the concrete

      I would assume that the liquid would be considerably more viscous than plain water.

    • Re:Flash memory? (Score:5, Informative)

      by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @05:16PM (#19735931) Journal

      Camera's have HDD's?
      most of the time no, but almost every patent application attempts to patent the broadest possible terms so in this case if anyone ever (in the next 20 years) decides to incorporate a hdd and wants to add a shock absorber, they have to go through Sony. That is ignoring the fact that this is not patentable, but it's the intent.

      Surely a cushion of water wouldn't protect something like a cell phone hitting the concrete
      You may be surprised at the amount of cushioning something like this could provide. If the normal deceleration of the hard drive without an insert occurs in 5ms (let's say metal to concrete.) With something like the insert, I would expect the full deceleration to occur over times like a quarter to even a half a second. Just in doing so you have reduced the amount of force induced on the drive by a factor of 50-100.
      To demonstrate this in the real world, My last cellphone survived a fall of 70 feet onto a rock bed just because it hit on part of the plastic case that wasn't connected to the motherboard. If it would have hit on the bottom metal connector, it would have had very little or no chance. If instead there were a thin .5 inch layer of gel or liquid in a bag on the ground, I doubt it would have even received the chip that it did.
      • by kmac06 (608921)
        That is ignoring the fact that this is not patentable, but it's the intent.

        Why is this not patentable? The method they proposed does not seem obvious (using irises). Do you know of some prior art, or this just the typical /. anti-patent stance?
        • You're right, without seeing the claim language it is impossible to make that assumption. It is also true that they have a lot to overcome with Toughbook having their fluid-filled hdd bag holder in every device already. I guess we'll see in 18 months when this becomes PG-pub.
    • Camera's have HDDs? They sure do - there's an ever increasing number of Sony Handycams (both HD and SD) that have hard drives instead of a tape transport mechanism...
  • OO? (Score:4, Funny)

    by youthoftoday (975074) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:49PM (#19735589) Homepage Journal
    But will it hold linux?
    • by dangitman (862676)
      Nothing can hold Linux. It was born to be free, like a wild mountain goat crossed with some kind of tiger. Trying to hold Linux would be like trying to bottle sunshine.
      • by aquabat (724032)

        like a wild mountain goat crossed with some kind of tiger.
        Or maybe a penguin crossed with some kind of duck.
  • by incog8723 (579923) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:51PM (#19735621)
    When I throw her cell phone against the pavement, I expect it to break.

    Sigh.
  • Kiff (Score:5, Funny)

    by prestonmichaelh (773400) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:52PM (#19735627)
    Actually, I don't have bones. I am supported by a system of fluid-filled bladders...
  • to heck with my karma! How do they buffer the intense shock of their crappy PS3 sales figures!
  • by CheeseburgerBrown (553703) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:54PM (#19735665) Homepage Journal
    Rumours are surfacing that Sony has also been employing similar fluid sacs to absorb the blow of piracy. These fluid sacs are called "people" and, by inserting them into a judicial system, they can be induced release quantities of money.

  • by lhaeh (463179) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:57PM (#19735707)
    My 10 year old Panasonic Toughbook had a gel casing for the hard drive. I like that solution better since there is no potential for leaks. Even if the fluid was nonconductive you would still have to replace it.

    I hate to think what airlines would think of all this evil liquid being allowed on board as well.

  • Why do I feel like there's something funny to be said by linking "liquid filled bags" and soilent green in some way.
    • by dimeglio (456244)
      Because hard drives with liquid filled implants remind you of those 32DD belonging to Bianca Beauchamp.
  • Extra Feature (Score:2, Redundant)

    by sconeu (64226)
    As an added bonus, the disks come with the rootkit pre-installed!
  • Great idea... but all I can focus on are the 4 hours of airport security checks in which I will have to dismantle my portable media player, notebook and cellphone , remove their gel bags and toss them in a dirt bin before I can check in to my flight *sigh*
    • by leenks (906881)
      So you remove the content of all the batteries you take on flights too I guess?
  • Not trying to troll here, I'm just really curious what this has to do with m(Y) (R)ights (O)nline? I now have a right to bags full of silicone while using a computer? Oh, wait, that's been on the net for *ages*...
  • All we need now is to integrate these packs with some processor-type lifeforms and voila, Bio-Neural Gel Packs [memory-alpha.org]. Everyone's least favorite Star Trek Captain is closer than you think.
  • These bags go inside the drives! Plus they are "on the internet."
  • A topic about "Fluid-Filled Bags" and not a single pee joke to be seen. For shame on all of you.
  • Now if they'd only invent liposuction for Windows...
  • Is this story about hard drives or a porno?
  • After Sony inserted these fluid filled bags into my hard drive, I find myself staring at it more, and I can't stop fondling it.
  • by MBoffin (259181)
    Does anyone else see something wrong with calling it a liquid-filled airbag?
  • Oh man, how perfect is this? Now when their hard drives explode, the computer will be able to put itself out!
  • Sounds a lot like a typical oleo strut found on nearly all modern aircraft. Drive a rod whose diameter increases through a fixed opening and dampen the action with liquid. The idea has been around at least since the early 1900s and applied to all manner of shock-absorption needs. Sounds like a neat idea, but I wonder how well it will work since the idea is to increase the distance or time period (or both) over which the shock is applied. Small devices are already so small, will these air(liquid) bags be abl
  • by Azuma Hazuki (955769) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @06:19PM (#19736661)
    Since this is Sony, are they going to call these "Douche Bags?"

    Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all night.
  • 1. Air should have better shock absorption abilities (consider an airbag filled with *water* in your car.. won't be nice)
    2. And won't cause 'hardware casualties' upon container penetration (read: water or silicon gel all over your gadget/laptop).

    I just hope they use liquids because I'm missing something obvious (likely), and not because they're patently stupid (unlikely), or stopped by patents (a bit more likely).
    • by witte (681163)
      Your car analogy is flawed.
      FTA : "The idea is that the electronics will be wrapped in a fluid-filled bag"
      Better analogy : strapping yourself in a 10 inch layer of bubblewrapping before driving your car.
      (Hmm... something to try when I drive home from work. Gotta keep those non-geek colleagues a bit scared.)
  • If I'm not misktaken, there are filtered holes for air inake to provide a cushion between the head and platter... Without the air, the head crashes and digs into the drive platter. Now, I didn't RTFA, but still. Liquid-tight cases are also gas-tight, and my buddy O2 is a gas at parties.
  • I hope my hard drive doesn't develop breast cancer [wikipedia.org] or some other disease when they rupture...
  • 20 years ago my Biology teacher told our class a great way to protect anything is to wrap it in a large bag of fluid. He used pregnancy as an example. Sorry SONY, but a lot of prior art there! Wonder if my old Biology teacher can sue you? If it doesn't, it still falls under obvious.

    SONY, stick to what you're good at: Incompatible Consumer Electronics, rootkits, exploding batteries, and your stake in the RIAA Mafia.

    USPTO: Yeah, well, We'd expect nothing less from you.
  • Most of the fluid-filled bags at Sony work in their upper management, and frankly I'd like to shock-test more than a few of them. See if they burst when you drop them from the roof. I also don't really care if they leak when I poke some wires into them.

    Besides, using a gel or fluid to spread the force of an impact is an ancient idea. Come on, the stench of obviousness can be detected a mile away. Might as well patent using a pointing device for online shopping. There could certainly be some patentable as
  • It's nice to hear of a patent, for once, that isn't about a software process or algorithm; encouraging the sharing of inventions like this is the reason the patent system was created.
  • Do I get to call them fun-bags if I put games on the hard-disk?
  • I already have these in my spine [easyvigour.net.nz] and synovial joints. Also British railway carriages look like they use a larger version in their suspension.
  • by PPH (736903)
    Large silicone gel filled bags for cushions. I'll make a note of that in my preliminary design for an android girlfriend.
  • If it's *liquid* filled, it's not an "air"bag, now is it?

    Chris Mattern

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