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Intel reveals $5.5B-plan to build 3D NAND in China

Posted: 22 Oct 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel? 3D NAND? SSD? memory?

Intel Corp. has announced its plan to shell out up to $5.5 billion to manufacture 3D NAND flash for its solid state drives (SSDs). The company said the first production of 3D NAND at the fab, located in the Northeast China city of Dalian, is forecast to start in 2H16.

In March, Intel and partner Micron Technology Inc. announced the availability of jointly developed 3D NAND, billed as the world's highest density flash memory. 3D NAND stacks layers of data storage cells vertically to create storage devices with higher capacity than competing NAND technologies. The devices were presumably going to be built in Micron fabs.

China is widely believed to be pushing hard to establish memory chip manufacturing within the country. In July, a Chinese-government backed investment firm bid $23 billion to acquire Micron. The proposal has reportedly since been scrapped because it was considered unlikely to win the approval of U.S. regulators.

It is not known whether Intel is receiving government financial support to help fund the transition to 3D NAND production at the Dalian fab. A spokesman for Intel declined to comment. "Unfortunately, we do not disclose the details of our investment agreements with governmental authorities," the spokesman said.

Rob Crooke, GM of Intel's non-volatile memory group, said in a memo that Intel's collaboration with the Dalian government "has been and continues to be an excellent partnership."

Joseph Unsworth, research VP for semiconductors at market research firm Gartner Inc., said Intel's decision to convert the Dalian fab from logic to 3D NAND flash manufacturing would allow Intel to ramp the jointly developed technology at its own pace. "Ultimately, Intel remaining in non-volatile memory manufacturing serves its goal to fuel its enterprise SSD business and continue to reduce the storage bottleneck within data centres," Unsworth noted.

Intel's Dalian fab has been in production since 2010. It has to date been used to build 65nm logic chips.

In the memo, Crooke said Intel's SSD sales posted double digit YoY increases in every quarter this year. Crooke said Intel has a long-term plan for 3D NAND manufacturing at the Dalian fab and "may invest up to $5.5 billion over the coming years to transition this site to support leading-edge non-volatile memory production."

Crooke added that the expansion is part Intel's global multi-source supply strategy.

- Dylan McGrath
??EE Times

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