Wednesday, May 14, 2014

3D NAND Race is On

[Image Source: Nikkei Electronics
Since Samsung announced their development of 3D NAND on August 2013 Samsung 3D Stacked NAND Flash has Engineering Samples . The other flash manufacturers have been trying to catch up while transitioning from planar NAND to 3D NAND. See below SunDisk and Toshiba announcement of their transitions plans (more information at 3D NAND Transition: 15nm Process Technology Takes Shape ).

Some background about 3D NAND and at 3D NAND flash is coming .  Also there is an interesting discussion regarding 3D flash from 2009 between Samsung and Toshiba 3D Cells Make Terabit NAND Flash Possible .

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 NAND Flash War

Toshiba, Sandisk Partnership to Mount Serious Challenge to Samsung

14 MAY 2014
Many computer memory chipmakers worldwide are said to be working to enlarge plants that produce NAND flash memory chips.  
According to the San Kei Shimbun on May 12, Toshiba, the world’s second-largest NAND flash memory chipmaker, decided to make an investment in a 3D V-NAND flash memory production facility in partnership with US-based semiconductor company SanDisk. Both companies are going to equally share the cost of the investment and inject 700 billion yen (7.419 trillion won, US$6.843 billion) for three years at the Yokkaichi Operation plant, the company’s memory production facility in Mie prefecture, Japan. At first, they estimated the amount at 400 billion yen. However, it nearly doubled after the two firms agreed to invest in the construction of a new facility and the replacement of the existing one.  
An increase in investment can be interpreted as Toshiba’s willingness to not lag behind its rival companies like Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix, and Micron. Given that Samsung completed the construction of its 3D V-NAND production facility in Xian, China on May 9, competition between Korean and Japanese firms to dominate the next-gen semiconductor memory market is expected to heat up again. 
Samsung began to mass-produce 3D V-NAND flash memory chips in its plant in Xian. 3D V-NAND flash memory where 40nm-class NAND flash memory is stacked up in 24 layers are twice as fast and last 10 times longer than 20nm-class planar NAND flash memory. The world’s largest computer memory chipmaker is planning to dominate the market by developing 3D V-NAND flash memory chips in a 36-layer stack soon.   
SK Hynix, the world's fourth-largest manufacturer of computer memory chips, is focusing on investing in NAND flash memory. For example, the firm converted its Cheongju M12 Plant that produced both DRAM and NAND flash memory chips into a NAND flash line last year in order to restructure the company whose focus was on DRAM. The chip-maker plans to mass-produce 3D V-NAND at the end of this year. Micron, which is in the third spot, recently changed its DRAM factory in Singapore into a NAND flash plant. 
Unlike its rivals, Toshiba only manufacturers NAND flash memory. Therefore, if competitors outperform the Japanese firm in the global NAND flash memory market, it will be fatal. Industry analysts are saying that Toshiba's lawsuit filed in March against SK Hynix for technology leakage despite its patent cross-licensing deal with the Korean firm was aimed at checking the Korean chip-maker's influence.  
According to the findings of market research firm IHS Technology, sales of NAND flash memory worldwide is estimated at US$25.8 billion last year, and the market continues to grow rapidly. In 2013, Samsung was the world's number one seller of computer memory chips with a 34.7 market share, followed by Toshiba (a 32.2 market share).