The data storage industry has evolved leaps and bounds over the past few decades. Hard disk drives (HDD’s) have become increasingly capable of storing more data than ever before.

Linear based assembly for CO2 cleaning

Linear-based automated CO2 cleaning system

Developed by IBM in the year 1956, the average HDD has shrunk in volume by a factor of 15,000 and has increased in storage capacity by a factor of two million. The worldwide data storage component manufacturing industry is now worth an estimated $32 billion.


The industry is so vital because of the important business, personal, and confidential data stored on HDDs. What makes the HDD so special you ask? It features multiple intricate components working together.

HDD Parts

Hard disk drives are very complex structures with many small components. The basic HDD stores data using magnetic material coated directly onto rotating platters (or disks). The components of an HDD generally include two electric motors. The first one is used to spin the magnetic metal-coated disk around while the other, known as the actuator motor, is used to position the read/write head assembly used to retrieve or deposit information onto the drive. The head assemble is made up of an array of magnetic parts that are designed to interact with the disk. The actuator engine is connected to amplifier electronics by thin printed cables in the tiny unit.

With all of these components, manufacturers are challenged in the cleaning process. Any small particle can cause a defect in the functionality of the HDD. Stringent cleaning methods are needed and that’s when CO2 spray cleaning became an option.

CO2 Cleaning

Currently, HDD components in prime production are cleaned using a few methods, ultrasonics, solvent hand wiping, or air blowing. Each of these has drawbacks in time it takes to clean, waste disposal, effectiveness in removing all particles, and labor costs. CO2 cleaning, or snow cleaning, on the other hand is completely dry improving the cleaning process with an automated approach.

CO2 particles shown removing particles with precise spray

This recently developed alternative uses dry ice crystals for surface cleaning. Solid particles of CO2 are ejected from a nozzle onto the surface for precision cleaning (pictured to right). This waterless process effectively cleans without causing any damage to the part while removing particles down to 0.3 microns. The non-condensing CO2 spray cleans the internal parts of the drive, thus leaving it dry and spotless. The accuracy of the spray can be automated making sure only certain parts of the drive are cleaned.

The prime production process is automated ensuring the correct amount of time needed to clean each HDD. Parts are cleaned front and back simultaneously. Furthermore to avoid contamination of the disks, the machines used to dry clean HDD’s are hands-free. This means that operators only need to instruct the cleaning software as to what component needs cleaning and avoid smearing their natural body oils on the parts by touching them directly.

Lastly, rework of HDD’s is another area that CO2 has greatly benefited. Before, the cost of taking apart a HDD was not worth fixing. Every little piece needed to be hand washed and it was very time consuming. CO2 spray does not damage the components and is dry, so it is the perfect solution. Spray the CO2 particles on the area that needs to be reworked and it cleans it right up!

The CO2 cleaning process only takes a few seconds to clean a HDD and the impressive results have prompted a lot of manufacturers in South East Asia to adopt the technique for use on their products.

As data storage becomes an increasingly important need in our world, it’s critical that manufacturing and maintenance of these devices become increasingly efficient and effective.  With Cool Clean’s unique systems, multiple HDDs can be successfully cleaned in a single day, which helps manufacturers keep up with the high demand for their important products without compromising quality.