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Samsung brings 3D NAND to mainstream

Posted: 13 Aug 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Samsung? 3D NAND? SSD? SK Hynix?

During the recent Flash Memory Summit chips, Samsung has unveiled its solid-state drives (SSDs) and systems designs aimed to drive 3D NAND into mass markets. However, analysts and some vendors said it could be another year or more before the technology is ready for the mainstream.

This month Samsung will start making a version of its 850 EVO SSDs using its latest 48-layer, 3bit per cell, 256Gb 3D NAND chips, said Jim Elliot, a marketing executive for Samsung. The chips sport twice the performance and more than 50 per cent better power efficiency than the company's current 32-layer chips, he said.

Samsung believes it can make future Tb-class chips with more than 100 layers, he said. An SK Hynix engineer said the company will start production in Q3 of 3D NAND chips that sport more than 30 layers and by 2019 make chips with more than 190 layers.

The dense chips promise many generations of continuing improvements in flash performance and decreases in costs. However today 3D NAND yields are still low and costs are still higher than traditional planar flash chips, said analysts.

Although Samsung was the first to announce production of 3D NAND, its rivals are catching up. Last week Toshiba announced it will sample in September a 256Gb 3D NAND chip with three bits per cell and 48 layers.

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People are making [3D NAND] announcements faster than I can put them on a slide, said analyst Mark Webb.

Samsung is shipping its V-NAND SSDs at a loss, and most vendors say a big ramp for 3D NAND won't come until 2017, said Jim Handy, an analyst at Objective Analysis. The 48-layer devices, once they enter volume production, should be the first to beat traditional flash on cost, said Mark K. Webb, a consultant at MKW Ventures.

The 32-layer 3D chips have 70 per cent higher wafer costs than traditional flash, but the 48-layer versions get 50 per cent more layers for only 5-10 per cent higher wafer costs, Webb said. The chips tend to start off at 50 per cent yields but after a year or so approach planar flash yield levels, he said.

Webb predicted 3D NAND won't make up the majority of flash bit sales until 2018 or later. "It takes a couple years for a new technology to mature," said Jetming Woo, a senior manager for SSD marketing at SK Hynix.

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