NAND flash moves into the next dimension, as 3-D manufacturing technology overtakes the market

NAND flash memory suppliers are adopting 3-D production techniques and it is estimated that nearly two-thirds of all NAND memory chips will be produced using 3-D manufacturing processes by 2017.

11/13/2013


With conventional semiconductor manufacturing technology soon to reach its limit in the NAND flash segment, suppliers of these memory chips are set to adopt 3-D production techniques in order to boost the capacity of their devices.

By 2017, nearly two-thirds—or 65.2 percent—of all NAND memory chips shipped worldwide will be produced using 3-D manufacturing processes, up from less than 1 percent this year, according to a Flash Dynamics brief from IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS). The share of the overall NAND market accounted for by 3-D technology is set to jump to 5.2 percent in 2014, and then surge to 30.2 percent of total flash memory shipments in 2015. In 2016, 3-D NAND will enlarge its market share to 49.8 percent—representing about half of the entire flash memory market, as presented in the attached figure.

“There’s widespread agreement that just one or two generations may be left before NAND flash made using conventional planar semiconductor technology reaches its theoretical limit,” said Dee Robinson, senior analyst, memory and storage for IHS. “As lithographies shrink further, performance and reliability may become too degraded for NAND to be used in anything but the very lowest-cost consumer products. Because NAND suppliers are compelled to continue building products with higher densities and lower prices, they will migrate to 3-D manufacturing quickly in the coming years.”

NAND flash memory suppliers are adopting 3-D production techniques and it is estimated that nearly two-thirds of all NAND memory chips will be produced using 3-D manufacturing processes by 2017. Courtesy: IHS

A major factor driving NAND makers to keep improving their products is demand from products like media tablets and smartphones. These devices are demanding higher capacity and less expensive storage of content, including pictures, music and video.

Another dimension of flash manufacturing

Historically, NAND flash makers have employed miniaturization to increase the capacity and reduce the costs of their products. Miniaturization is the process of shrinking the NAND flash cells with each successive technology generation, allowing suppliers to fit more bits on each silicon wafer.

With 3-D technology, the emphasis shifts away from miniaturization and toward increasing density by layering NAND flash cells on top of each other. This will be the most cost-effective way of pushing NAND to the next level because most of the existing manufacturing equipment can continue to be used, minimizing expenses while maximizing return on investment.

Invention dimension

Samsung and SK Hynix, the biggest players in the global memory trade, announced their initiatives in 3-D NAND in August during the Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, Calif.

Samsung said commercial production of V-NAND, the company’s name for its 3-D flash memory products, started during the second quarter. The end product will be a V-NAND-based solid-state drive, in 480- and 960-gigabyte densities, initially targeting the enterprise market. V-NAND, Samsung says, will be more reliable than 1x-nanometer NAND, consume less power and also deliver higher performance in sequential as well as random writes.

The cost differential between a V-NAND solid-state drive and one powered by traditional flash memory will be quite large, IHS expects, which would explain why Samsung is aiming the product first at the enterprise market.

Samsung archrival SK Hynix is also planning to manufacture 3-D NAND; its initial 3-D product will be very similar to Samsung’s V-NAND, to be available in 128-gigabyte capacity. But this is part of a two-pronged approach, as the company is also sampling a 16-nanometer product.

Market acceleration

While both Samsung and SK Hynix have previously mentioned internal development of 3-D NAND, the timeline for production has moved faster than expected, and the accelerated pace is much quicker than many in the industry had anticipated.

Other memory manufacturers, however, have decided to continue with planar NAND for at least one more generation, pushing any 3-D plans to a later date. In this group are makers like SanDisk of California, Idaho-based Micron Technology and Toshiba of Japan.

All told, initial production of 3-D NAND will be limited, and failure analysis will be difficult because of the multilevel structure of the device. Still, an initial ramp-up of higher-performing products into the enterprise segment will enable suppliers to generate margins and allow processes to mature, IHS believes, even though it may be some time before 3-D contributes meaningfully to overall industry bit growth.

At any rate, the 3-D race for NAND has already begun, solidifying the timeline for the new technology. NAND suppliers that have yet to address the change are likely to feel pressure to innovate as a result.



The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Doubling down on digital manufacturing; Data driving predictive maintenance; Electric motors and generators; Rewarding operational improvement
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Research team developing Tesla coil designs; Implementing wireless process sensing
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me