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Intel-Micron duo drives NAND to next node

Posted: 19 Apr 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel-Micron? 20nm NAND process? 8GB NAND flash? multilevel cell technology?

Intel Corp. and Micron Technology Inc. have heeded calls to step up and drive the NAND flash market to the next process node.

Their answer: A new 20nm process technology for manufacturing NAND flash memory, which produces an 8GB multilevel cell (MLC) NAND flash device long expected by market watchers. IM Flash Technologies LLC (IMFT), Intel and Micron's NAND flash joint venture, spearheaded the development of the new process.

Until now, Toshiba Corp. and SanDisk Corp. were the process technology leaders in the market. The two companies, which have a joint manufacturing venture, are ramping up a 24nm NAND line. Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd are also separately ramping up 2x-nm-class devices.

''This release of the 20nm node clearly places IMFT at the leading edge of all the NAND manufacturers,'' said Alan Niebel, CEO of Web-Feet Research. ''Toshiba announced their 24nm NAND last week in production along with their SmartNAND. Where is Samsung in the NAND technology race? They claim to be at the 20nm node range, but in reality they are at 27nm and possibly shipping in volume. Their next node is either 22nm or 20nm, but when will they ship in volume, late 2012 or sooner? IMFT does have the technology leadership, but will they ever have the production volume leadership rivaling Toshiba or Samsung?''

''It's inspiring to see this partnership continue to stay so far ahead of the pack. Not only have they maintained the lead for four generations, but they are also four generations past the projection that Intel made in 2003 that flash would not scale past the 60nm node,'' added Jim Handy, an analyst with Objective-Analysis.

The new 20nm 8GB device from the Intel-Micron duo measures just 118mm2 and enables a 30 to 40 percent reduction in board space (depending on package type), compared to the companies' existing 25nm 8GB NAND device. The new 20nm process maintains similar performance and endurance as the previous generation 25nm NAND technology.

This provides a high-capacity, small form factor storage option for saving music, video, books and other data on smartphones, tablets and computing solutions such as solid-state drives (SSDs). The growth in data storage combined with feature enhancements for tablets and smartphones is creating new demands for NAND flash technology, especially greater capacity in smaller designs.

The 20nm, 8GB device is sampling now and expected to enter mass production in the second half of 2011. At that time, Intel and Micron also expect to unveil samples of a 16GB device, creating up to 128GB of capacity in a single solid-state storage solution that is smaller than a U.S. postage stamp.

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