The proportion of 3D NAND flashes among Samsung's NAND flash products surpassed 80% in 4Q last year. Samsung Electronics plans to raise the percentage of NAND production in total NAND production to over 90 percent by converting most NAND flash products to 3D ones within this year except for some automotive memory products.
According to the industry on January 2, 3D NAND flash semiconductors accounted for more than 80% of Samsung Electronics’ production of NAND flash semiconductor in the fourth quarter of last year. It is estimated that the proportion of 3D NAND flashes exceeded 70% on the last year's yearly basis. Toshiba, Western Digital (WD), SK Hynix and other competitors' 3D NAND flash production is still less than half of the total, Samsung Electronics’s NAND flash production is growing at the fastest rate.
In the semiconductor industry, analysts say that Samsung Electronics is speeding up its production process in preparation for NAND flash supply competition among major memory semiconductor companies which will start next year. It is construed as a gambit for the plan to increase production of 3D NAND flashes which are more advantageous than conventional flat NAND flashes in terms of cost per capacity.
64-layer 3D NAND flashes which account for about half of Samsung's total NAND flash production, is particularly quite symbolic. Current 3D NAND flashes such as 24-, 32-, and 48-layer ones are a little high or almost equal in terms of production cost per capacity compared with flat NAND flashes but 64 or bigger 3D NAND flashes dwarf flat ones in productivity and performance.
Samsung Electronics is planning to dial up the proportion of 64-layer 3D NAND flashes to more than half of its total NAND flashes internally and to produce the next-generation 96-layer 3D NAND flashed in the first half of this year. Starting in the second half of this year, the company aims to fill more than 90% of its total NAND flash production with 3D NAND flashes.
"We cannot completely stop producing flat NANDs because some NAND products such as UFS products for automobiles have much longer product warranties than those for mobile devices and PCs,” a Samsung official said. 3D NAND flashes will be applied to virtually all products except for some special products starting this year."
Toshiba, which occupies the second largest share of the global NAND flash market after Samsung Electronics, began to catch up with Samsung Electronics. In particular, Toshiba has gotten its act together since the sell-off of Toshiba memory last year and will scale up its market share while focusing on expanding its production capacity and technology development this year.
Toshiba's Yokkaichi Y6 Plant scheduled to begin operating in the second half of this year will begin mass production of 3D NAND with a monthly capacity of 15,000 wafers and will gradually increase its production volume. Toshiba announced a plan to build two new production lines in addition to Y6 Plant. Like Samsung, Toshiba set its goal of raising the share of 3D NAND flashes to the 90% level next year.
SK Hynix is planning to elevate its market share by increasing the supply of 3D NAND flashes. "We will mass-produce 256 Gb triple level cell (TLC) 3D NAND flashes beginning in the fourth quarter. Then, we will roll out 512 GB products soon,” SK Hynix said in its third-quarter conference call last year.
"32- and 48-layer 3D NAND flahses, which were the main products of memory companies last year, was no different from existing flat NAND flashes," a semiconductor industry official said. It has become more highly likely that the NAND market will face a supply glut this year as big companies such as Samsung Electronics and Toshiba will increase the proportion of processes for production of 64- or higher layer 3D NAND flashes and full-scale competition among companies."