Chen Wei-Hua, chief technology officer of Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC) that leads China's NAND industry, recently suggested in a media interview that the company would be able to mass-produce 64-layer 3D NAND flashes by the end of the year.
"We have a mass production plan in place," Chen said in an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review. Currently, YMTC is building a US$24 billion semiconductor plant in Wuhan under the support from the Chinese government. Nikkei explained that the plant would mass-produce 64-layer NAND flashes.
In the interview, Chen simply said, "YMTC’s plan for mass production of NAND flashes is proceeding smoothly without any hitches.” Chen did not officially declare that mass-production of 64-unit NAND flashes would start this year. However, semiconductor market experts say that Chen suggested that when the company’s mass production plan is achieved, it would be able to churn out 64-layer NAND flashes this year.
Currently, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are applying a 90-layer process to production of 3D NAND flash. SK Hynix began to mass-produce 96-layer NAND flashes after completing their development last year. Samsung plans to launch 100-layer NAND flashes in the second half of this year. If YMTC succeeds in mass production of 64-layer NAND flashes by the end of this year, its technology gap with Samsung Electronics will significantly narrow to around two years.
Most of all, there are concerns over the impact of YMTC's entry into the NAND flash sector as NAND prices usually drop more sharply than DRAM’s.
Some experts still doubt that YMTC would be able to start mass production of 64-layer NAND flashes this year as the Chinese chipmaker still cannot mass-produce 32-layer products now.
But overall, unlike in the DRAM sector, it seems that YMTC is making progress in the NAND sector. If YMTC supplies 64-layer NAND flashes to the market in the second half of this year, the Chinese government may demand that China's smartphone and PC makers use Chinese-made NAND flashes. If and when this happens, it will significantly undermine the profitability of the NAND flash business. This is what Samsung, Toshiba, Micron, Hynix among other NAND flash makers are worrying about.