As memory semiconductor prices decline and the uncertainty of the semiconductor industry grows due to the U.S.-China trade dispute, 3D memory attracts attention as a future technology. At the same time, the number of related patent applications shows a sharp upturn.
According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) on June 6, the number of patent applications related to 3D memory was only 150 per year before 2013, but it started to increase rapidly from 2014, reaching more than 300 applications filed each year.
The 3D memory technology is a semiconductor manufacturing method that maximizes the storage capacity per unit area by stacking semiconductor elements in layers. The 3D NAND flash in the non-volatile memory field and the high bandwidth memory in the volatile memory field are representative semiconductors established by the 3D memory technology.
A 3D NAND flash is a memory semiconductor in which two-dimensionally arranged semiconductor elements are stacked vertically in order to overcome the limitations of processing technology that has been used to manufacture 2D semiconductors. Currently, 96-layer 3D NAND flash is mass-produced.
Looking at the patent application of the 3D NAND over the past five years, domestic companies account for 78.6 percent of the total filings, prevailing over overseas companies that accounted for 21.4 percent. This is because Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix invested heavily in the development of related technologies in order to maintain the technological gap with the second-tier companies in the memory semiconductor field.
High bandwidth memory is a multi-layer memory semiconductor made of several layers of stacked DRAM interconnected using through silicon via (TSV). It has become the next generation semiconductor technology because it has low power consumption with high data processing capacity and is easy to connect with system semiconductors such as GPU. Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix accounted for 81.4 percent of the high bandwidth memory applications, and overseas companies that filed for patent included TSMC, Intel and Micron.