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Memory vendors kick off NAND scaling race

Posted: 01 Jul 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:NAND? memory market? DRAM?

The Intel-Micron duo, Samsung and Toshiba are racing each other for bragging rights in terms of NAND scaling leadership. But is the scaling race a moot point, given the terrible memory downturn right now?

In any case, the Intel-Micron duo are talking about a 2x-nm part, while rival Samsung is quietly sampling a 3x-nm device. Micron also plans to produce 3bit-per-cell technology in Q4, according to an analyst.

In DRAM, meanwhile, Samsung is also sampling a 46nm DRAM product, according to an analyst. Samsung could take the technology lead in DRAM with that part.

Who is the scaling leader in NAND right now? Earlier this year, NAND partners SanDisk Corp. and Toshiba Corp. took the scaling lead and rolled out a 32nm device.

Now, Intel Corp. and Micron Technology Inc. are seeking to regain the lead. The Intel-Micron duo recently rolled out a 34nm NAND part. The two companies have a joint NAND venture, dubbed IM Flash Technologies LLC.

Micron is now readying a 2xnm NAND device. "We are not sampling a 2xnm NAND at this time, but will begin sampling in Q4," according to a spokeswoman for Micron.

"The move to produce NAND flash at 3xnm process geometries is well under way and being led by Micron and Intel. Micron stated in its recent financial earnings call that it has completed its transition to 34nm and that it was able to reduce its costs 35 percent during its fiscal quarter," said Joseph Unsworth, an analyst with Gartner Inc., in a report.

"Micron and Intel intend to retain a strong cost leadership position by starting an industry-leading 2xnm node transition late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter. Micron also plans to produce 3bit-per-cell technology in the fourth quarter; however, this will be a small amount (below 10 percent) of its production capability in that quarter," the analyst said.

Not to be outdone, Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd is also off and running. Market leader Samsung is delivering 42nm NAND parts.

In terms of shipments, "Samsung's 42nm product is currently accounting for 30 percent of the mix, with the rest at 5x-nm node," said C.J. Muse, an analyst with Barclays Capital Equity Research, in a report. "Additionally, Samsung is starting to sample 3x-nm node (devices) in order to catch up with Toshiba (32nm) and Micron (34nm)."

Two NAND partners, Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Numonyx B.V., are trailing the pack. They have recently rolled out a line of NAND flash memory parts based on a 41nm process.

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