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SanDisk leans on Flash Forward for 1Y nm flash products

Posted: 31 Jan 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:1Y nm generation semiconductors? Flash? FinFET? NAND?

Data storage product manufacturer SanDisk Corp, has recently announced that it has plans to start transitioning its Flash products to 1Y nm generation semiconductors in the third quarter of 2013.

The company is already producing high volumes of 19nm based products, more than 50 per cent of its output in 4Q12, although 24nm flash memory will have a "tail" that will last throughout 2013, the company said in a recent conference call to discuss its 4Q12 financial results.

In fact SanDisk's announcement means that Flash Forward Ltd., a manufacturing joint venture between Toshiba and SanDisk with a relatively new Fab 5 300mm wafer fab at Toshiba's Yokkaichi campus in Mie prefecture, Japan, will be making the most miniaturized commercial integrated circuits in the history of the semiconductor industry. That is unless one of the few rivals, IM Flash Technologies, Samsung or SK Hynix can get there first.

The SanDisk roadmap has the 1Y nm process lowering the cost of 128 Gbit memory ICs in 2013 and a 1Z nm process taking monolithic memory to 256 Gbits in 2014. But judging who is most miniaturized all depends on how you define the 1Y nm generation.

Over the last few years flash memory producers have started to become increasingly coy about declaring the minimum feature size of their processes. It started when one of the companies, I forget which, started talking of 30nm class and 20nm class manufacturing processes. By this the company meant a process with a minimum geometry between 30nm and 39nm and between 20nm and 29nm, respectively.

The other manufacturers quickly followed suit.

The psychology seems to be that if a company went public with the geometry detail before they got into volume manufacturing there would be concerns that a rival would somehow trump them and steal business. Of course once a product is out on the market it is possible for reverse engineering consultancies to cross-section chips and makes independent assessments of the minimum geometry.

This is way of labelling chip generations is slightly different to the logic business where for each node a number is given but the nomenclature is becoming increasingly arbitrary. We have the prospect of 16 nm and 14 nm FinFET nodes coming in 2013 or 2014 that will use 20 nm back end processes and are effectively 20nm processes.

What we now know is that for Flash Forward, Toshiba and SanDisk, the 2X nm node is a 24 nm node, while the 1X nm node is 19nm node. This would seem to put 1Y nm at somewhere around 15nm or 14 nm. That would give some room for the 1Z nm generation to come in at 11 or 10 nm, which is now being touted as the last possible generation of NAND flash. We will see.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times

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