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Spansion all set for Numonyx challenge

Posted: 02 Jul 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:phase-change memory? NOR? ovonic unified memory? NAND?

Sizing up Numonyx BV as its new competitor, Spansion Inc. said it will keep a close eye on the company.

Numonyx is the memory spin-off of Intel Corp. and STMicroelectronics Inc. ST holds about a 49 percent stake in Numonyx, Intel has 45 percent, and Francisco Partners owns 6 percent. The new venture, which was recently formed, is pushing NOR, NAND and PCM based on Ovonyx Inc.'s technology.

Both Numonyx and Spansion claim to be the world's largest NOR flash-memory vendors. Both are also struggling to get out of the red amid the ongoing NOR glut and lackluster demand in the arena. Hurt by ongoing losses and lackluster demand for NOR flash memory, Spansion said it is eliminating approximately 500 positions worldwide.

Views on new rival
Bertrand Cambou, president and CEO, Spansion, declined to comment on the state of the NOR flash business, saying that Spansion is in the "quiet period.''

Commenting on Numonyx, Cambou said he is taking a wait-and-see approach about the company's new rival. "You have to respect the competitors," Cambou said during a recent press event.

Regarding Numonyx' push into PCMs, he added, "PCM is pure marketing fluff." "Aside from delays in the technology, PCM has both a huge cell and die size," he noted, stressing that, "You can land a helicopter on it."

Intel's endeavor
Intel has been doing R&D on ovonic unified memory (OUM) or PCM with Ovonyx since 2000. OUM is seen as possible replacement for NOR flash. In 2000, Intel took a stake in Ovonyx. STMicroelectronics entered the development with Ovonyx in 2001.

Numonyx has finally shipped PCM products amid some delays, after introducing the device last year. The device, tagged ''Alverstone,'' is a 90nm, 128Mbit part. Going forward, the company is skipping the 65nm node for the next device and shifting quickly to the 45nm node.

In addition to his responses about the necessity for PCMs, Cambou shared a similar opinion about MRAM. Some see MRAM as a possible fit in the embedded space as an SRAM replacement, but Cambou said, "The jury is still out." "Use MRAM, to do what?'' he queried.

For its part, Spansion believes that it can scale NOR, which continues to see new applications. Spansion's technology, dubbed MirrorBit, doubles the density of a flash memory array by storing two physically distinct quantities of charge on opposite sides of a memory cell. In this 2bit cell, each bit serves as a binary unit of data (either 1 or 0) that is mapped directly to the memory array.

Spansion's new memory
Seeking to solve the major power problem in computing, Spansion recently rolled out a new class of memory that is believed to replace DRAMs in the datacenter, which it called as EcoRAM.

Initially, Spansion will ship EcoRAM based on 65nm technology. "The company will go to production as quickly as possible," Cambou said.

"It will produce the parts within its own 300mm fab in Japan, dubbed SP1. The company also has a previously announced foundry deal with China's Semiconductor International Manufacturing Corp. (SMIC)," he added. "SMIC of Shanghai will act as a second production source for EcoRAM," he noted.

Spansion has already ''taped out'' devices based on 45nm technology. The company plans to ramp 45nm devices in 2009 and shift to 32nm production in 2010.

The road map is designed to accelerate the progression of NOR, which has fallen behind its cousin NAND in process technology. For example, the Intel-Micron partnership has already announced a 34nm NAND device.

"We used to be a generation or two behind NAND and now, we're catching up," Cambou said.

"Like at the past nodes, Spansion will continue to use 193nm immersion lithography at 32nm," he added.

Cambou noted that the company will push single-exposure techniques at 32nm, avoiding the dreaded and expensive migration to double-patterning techniques.

For 45nm, Spansion will make use of ASML Holding NV's 1700i, a 193nm immersion tool. At 32nm, the company will use ASML's 1900i, a more advanced 193nm immersion scanner.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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