Global semiconductor companies such as Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix, and Micron are trying to overcome a sharp drop in chip demand and prices with innovative technologies.
U.S. chipmaker Micron announced on Aug. 16 that it has developed the industry's first 16 Gb mobile DRAM LPDDR4X. This product excels Samsung Electronics' 12 Gb mobile DRAM, which has the industry’s largest capacity. Samsung Electronics began volume production of 12 Gb mobile DRAM LPDDR5 last month.
Semiconductor companies are speeding up product development for markets that will have explosive demand for memory semiconductors, such as 5G mobile communications and artificial intelligence (AI). Micron announced the 16 Gb LPDDR4X to target the 5G mobile market. This year, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, and Xiaomi of China released 5G smartphones. Next year, Apple is expected to launch 5G smartphones, intensifying 5G smartphone competition and expanding the market significantly.
Market research firm Gartner predicts that 5G smartphones will account for 6 percent of total mobile phone sales next year and 51 percent by 2023. Micron is betting on the 5G market to make up for its sales drop due to the U.S.-China trade dispute. The company has been hit hard in earnings since their exports to Huawei were suspended in May. Micron's sales in the mobile sector in the most recent quarter (March-May) shrank 33 percent on year.
Samsung Electronics developed 12 Gb DRAMs in just five months after it began mass-production of the 12 GB LPDDR4X mobile package, which realized the highest-ever capacity, in March. The mass production of the LPDDR5 package allows Samsung Electronics to provide a mobile DRAM solution that can further extend battery life while supporting ultra-high definition videos, AI and machine learning on next-generation 5G flagship smartphones. It will be first loaded onto its own smartphone Galaxy S11. The chipmaker will soon start developing 16 Gb LPDDR5 DRAMs.
SK Hynix is also speeding up the development of next-generation technology to take the lead in the future semiconductor market. The company announced on Aug. 12 that it has developed the world's fastest DRAM that can process 124 full-HD movies in one second. The company’s HBM2E DRAM is a high-speed memory semiconductor mainly used for graphics cards or AI and super computers that require high-speed, high-performance memories. SK Hynix increased the processing speed of its latest product by more than 50 percent in one year since developing HBM2 D-RAM last year.
Technology competition is also heating up in the NAND flash sector. On Aug. 6, Samsung Electronics began mass-production of the industry’s first solid state drive (SSD) for enterprise PCs based on 6th generation (128-speed) 256 Gb 3-bit VNAND. This product is said to have overcome the limitations of semiconductor microprocessing by applying a single etching step to drill a cell with more than 100 layers at a time.
In June, SK Hynix announced that it succeeded in developing the world's first 128-layer 4D NAND flash and would mass-produce it in the second quarter of this year. The company reached the milestone in eight months since the development of a 96-layer 4D NAND flash in October last year. This product boosts productivity by 40 percent compared to current 96-lyaer 4D NAND flashes while improving performance and pruning production cost.