Samsung Electronics said on July 10 that the company would start the world's first mass-production of the fifth-generation (96-layer) V NAND flashes. "Now, the V NAND layer-stacking competition is meaningless," Samsung Electronics said. "The key is how to solve issues such as speed and capacities that can occur in a stacking process rather than simply stacking them higher."
NAND flashes are a type of memory semiconductors. Unlike DRAM, they store data even when the power is off. They are loaded into smartphones and data center servers.
Samsung Electronics has been developing technology from the first generation in 2013 to the second generation (32 layers) in 2014, the third generation (48 layers) in 2015 and the fourth generation (64 layers). Samsung's fifth-generation V-NAND flash can send 1.4 gigabits per second, 1.4 times faster than a fourth-generation one. The operating voltage is 33% lowered from 1.8V to 1.2V, even though the cell of the fifth-generation V-NAND flash has increased.
The core technology of fifth-generation V NAND flash is a technology that complements weaknesses such as a drop in speed that may happen with an increase in the number of layers by lowering the height of each cell by 20%. A company official said, "We stacked layers like a pyramid and drilled tiny holes of a diameter of several hundred nanometers vertically from the top to the bottom," said a representative of Samsung Electronics. "This is the most challenging technology that forms more than 85 billion 3-D cells that store data."
This technology increased the number of layers 1.5 times (64 layers of the fourth generation to 96 layers of the fifth generation), but the height extended 1.2 times. Samsung Electronics explained that its productivity rose more than 30% compared to its productivity for production of fourth-generation products. "We will accelerate the change of the next-generation memory market by expanding our V NAND line-ups to one terabyte (Tb) and quad level cell (QLC) V NAND products," said Byeon Hyun, vice president of flash development at Samsung Electronics Memory Division.
Samsung Electronics' 5th generation V NAND mass production is the result of its efforts to widen its lead over Chinese companies, which are pursuing what they call a "semiconductor roaring." In addition, it widen the gap with Japan's Toshiba, which developed NAND for the first time.
YMTC (Yangtz Memory Technology Company), a Chinese semiconductor company, will begin mass production of 32-layer V-NAND flashes late this year. Toshiba is focused on 64-layer V-NAND flashes. SK Hynix is also producing the same fourth-generation 72-layer V-NAND flashes. Samsung Electronics has a four-year gap with Chinese companies and a one-year gap with Toshiba and SK Hynix. Within this year, SK Hynix is aiming to finalize the development of fifth-generation V NAND flashes that Samsung announced that the company will mass-produce.
According to market analysis agency IHS Markit, Samsung Electronics ranked first with a 38.2% market share in the NAND flash market in the first quarter of this year, followed by Toshiba (18.5%), Western Digital (13.6%), Micron (11.0%) and SK Hynix (10.3%).