The winds of a 3 dimensional (3D) trend are blowing in the memory semiconductor industry.
Recently, Samsung Electronics Company began mass production of its 3D vertical NAND (3D V-NAND) flash memory, triggering other memory production companies such as SK Hynix and Micron to announce their plans to make NAND flash using similar technologies.
According to sources in the memory semiconductor industry on August 29, memory production companies including SK Hynix made plans to mass produce 3D V-NAND initially released by Samsung.
3D V-NAND is a technology allowing cells that make up memory chips to be piled vertically. Until now, these cells were spread out horizontally.
Many memory production companies have jumped into the 3D V-NAND mass production competition because by doing so, they can make NAND flash with higher quality and lower cost.
SK Hynix will complete its 3D V-NAND technology development by the end of this year and begin mass production by 2015.
If the company can secure marketability and quality prior to that, it will be possible to begin mass production in 2014.
On August 13 (local time), SK Hynix researcher Cho Myung-kwan said, “A prototype will be ready by the end of this year,” at the Flash Memory Summit 2013 held in California, US.
The industry anticipates SK Hynix to use a more refined process than 16 nanometers for its 3D V-NAND.
A semiconductor industry associate explained, “The cell piling (stacking) 3D process is used to overcome a technical limitation in refining the process and reduce the production cost,” and added, “For 3D, the stack height is more important that the process refinement.”
Micron will release its own 3D V-NAND prototype in the first half of 2014, but details on it are sketchy. Toshiba is the latest in the competition, planning on its 3D V-NAND release to be in 2016. According to the industry, Toshiba will release a V-NAND flash prototype in 2015 and being mass production in 2016.
With competitors planning on mass producing 3D V-NAND, Samsung Electronics is planning on stepping ahead by applying a technique to increase the stack height to its mass production process.
Experts estimate Samsung is at least a year ahead of other companies in the 3D V-NAND competition. A Samsung associate said, “It looks like we can increase the stack height to 32 from the current 24.”