You need three things from a solid-state disk (SSD): speed, capacity, and reliability.
You need three things from a portable SSD: speed, capacity, reliability, and diminutive size. And you can’t get much smaller than packing an SSD into the form factor of a USB memory stick. That’s exactly what LaCie has done with its FastKey drive. It’s packed a 30 to 120Gbyte USB 3.0 SSD into the form factor of a slightly oversized USB memory stick but the LaCie FastKey doesn’t perform like a memory stick. Depending on capacity, the read/write speeds of the LaCie FastKey are 210/70 to 260/180 Mbytes/sec. Add in 64Mbytes of DRAM cache and 256-bit AES encryption and you’ve got one Hulk of a memory stick.
Now I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems to me that you can’t build a product like this with conventional IC packaging. The volumetric allowances argue for more of a 3D chip assembly approach. And whether or not this particular product employs 3D assembly, the existence of the LaCie FastKey points the way to a future where the innards of many such memory-stick SSDs will make use of 3D assembly. After all, plastic IC packaging really adds no value to this sort of product and merely gets in the way.
Increasingly, 3D assembly is going to become a competitive advantage when the end product’s size matters. It already matters in mobile phone handset design and 3D assembly is widely used in this niched (but very large) market segment. As time unwinds, 3D assembly techniques will improve and get less costly because of high-volume mobile handset market demands. The rest of the industry will follow.