SK Hynix announced on Oct. 21 that it will mass-produce 16-gigabit (GB) DDR4 DRAMs using a third-generation 10-nanometer process beginning next year.
The company said it has succeeded in developing a 16 Gb DDR4 DRAM on the third-generation 10-nm (1z nm) production process.
The new chip has a 27 percent higher yield than the second-generation 10-nm (1y nm) DRAM chips.
The 10-nm DRAM chips are classified into first-generation (1x), second-generation (1y), and third-generation (1z), depending on the complexity of the fabrication process.
Semiconductor industry experts highly evaluated this move as SK Hynix has laid the groundwork for a timely response to the expected rebound in demand for semiconductors after next year.
Despite a recession in the DRAM market over the past year, competition is heating up among the big three DRAM producers -- Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix and Micron – to upgrade their production processes.
Samsung Electronics announced the development of a 1z-nm 8 Gb DRAM in March. But five months later, Micron, the third-largest chipmaker in the world, announced in August volume production of 1z-nm 16 Gb DRAMs. SK Hynix was the last among the big three to develop a 1z-nm fabrication process.
This development is quite meaningful in that it can flexibly respond to the downturn of the semiconductor market by simultaneously enhancing performance and pruning production cost. SK Hynix emphasized that the chipmaker boosted its productivity by about 27 percent compared to current second-generation (1y) products, and cost competitiveness because they can be produced without an expensive extreme ultraviolet (EUV) process. In addition, the company reduced power consumption by 40 percent compared to current second-generation products while achieving the highest speed.
Through this development, SK Hynix quickly narrowed its gap with Samsung Electronics, the No. 1 company. Until recently, the two chipmakers were two years apart in microfabrication technology, but the gap has been reduced to one year. This is because Samsung Electronics began mass production of 1z DRAMs last month, and SK Hynix is aiming to mass-produce them by the end of the first quarter of next year.
Semiconductor industry watchers believe that future DRAM leadership will be centered on an EUV process. Samsung Electronics already announced several times that it will introduce an EUV process in the next microfabrication process, and SK Hynix also said it will prepare another EUV line for the M16 Line. However, Micron, the third member of the DRAM Big 3, has yet to introduce an EUV process.