SK Hynix and Micron announced their plans to develop and mass produce 10-nanometer DRAMs to catch up with Samsung Electronics. One nanometer (nm) is one-billionth of a meter.
According to foreign media, including Nikkei Asian Review, on May 29, Micron, the world’s third largest DRAM producer in terms of market share, plans to invest US$2 billion (2.24 trillion won) over the next two to three years to develop and research a 13nm DRAM process technology. To this end, the U.S. semiconductor manufacturer has already added clean-room facilities to the Hiroshima plant in Japan and purchased several pieces of cutting-edge chipmaking equipment. The industry expects that productivity will improve by more than 20 percent when the company completes the development of 13nm process, compared to the 18nm DRAM which started mass producing in the first quarter this year.
SK Hynix will also start mass producing 18nm DRAMs for computer in the second half of this year and then will expand to DRAMs for mobile devices. The South Korean chip maker plans to focus on raising the yield rate for its 21nm DRAM process first and then gradually transition from the 20nm process to the 18nm later next year. A SK Hynix official said the company is currently developing a 1y DRAM process but not sure when can mass produce it.
The industry believes that Micron is accelerating the development of fine processes in order to secure profitability. According to market research firm DRAMeXchange, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix had a 54 percent and 47 percent of the ratio of operating profit to the net sales as of the first quarter, respectively. Micron also saw its business profit rate increase by two times compared to the previous quarter but still lags behind its competitors with 32.5 percent.
Samsung Electronics, the No.1 company in the industry, maintains a stable profitability with its competitiveness in advanced processes which are one to two years ahead of its competitors. The company already started mass producing 18nm products in the second half of last year and plans to mass produce 15nm DRAMs in the second half of this year. According to market research firm IHS Markit, Samsung Electronics aims to increase the percentage of 18nm DRAMs to 30 percent by the end of this year, promoting the 10nm-level product.
Industry sources expects that Samsung Electronics will focus on securing profitability with its advanced processes rather than aggressive expansion as the DRAM market is already dominated by three big players.