3D Hardware: What’s It All About?
When people think of 3D, they usually think of images that “jump out of the screen.” While that isn’t untrue, it’s not the whole picture (no pun intended) either.
3D is more than just pretty graphics viewable from multiple angles. It actually denotes three basic, relatively perpendicular pathways (or dimensions; what the “D” stands for) that, when taken all together, form depth that dramatically increases the number of pathways virtually infinitely from every conceivable angle.
Despite its current popularity, visual images given “body” is just one practical application of the 3D concept. A far more interesting application is the one computer manufacturers are working on now: 3D hardware.
Simply stated, 3D hardware is desktop or laptop parts maximizing space to carry out higher spec performance. This is done by stacking dice (a die [singular] is a silicon square carrying an integrated circuit) one on top of the other and, like multi-story buildings, makes the most out of a relatively small ground-level area.
Additional space giving additional performance headroom is what manufacturers are going for here. Imagine having a CPU that can process more data faster because information doesn’t just travel back and forth, but sideways and from top to bottom as well. Or how about a memory stick that allows more data to pass through because more information paths are opened up. And it’s also quite possible to have a hard drive that can store ridiculously vast amounts of data , so much so that is could make terabytes look nano by comparison.
Data capable of moving in all directions presents obvious benefits. As with many things, though, such technology doesn’t come easily.
Hurdles to Jump Over
In the same way that skyscrapers require careful and precise planning, stacked silicon dice also need computer engineering wizardry to make it all possible. Two main problems need to be tackled. The first one, of course, begs the question of how exactly the die stacking should be carried out. That is, you can’t just stack a processor chip on top of another and call it a day. You have to figure out the way these dice communicate with each other. Their actual physical placements also have to be considered: How thick the layers can go, how thin you can make the spaces between each die be, how to regulate the power levels so as not to overwhelm a chip’s interfacing with other hardware, etc.
The second problem is how these individual layers can be kept functional without overheating. This is a huge drawback to the further development of this technology because not only has component cooling been a persistent problem, but with 3D hardware, the problem is multiplied a hundredfold.
Nevertheless, when has any problem ever stopped science? With the rate computer technology development is going right now, it isn’t so hard to imagine 3D hardware becoming standard before the decade is up. Keep your fingers crossed!