Is the DRAM Market Entering a Shortage?

DRAM Spot Prices are Consistently above ContractLong-term clients of mine, even those dating back to my decade at Dataquest in the 1990s, are familiar with the concept that spot prices behave differently during a shortage.  When there is too much DRAM spot prices remain below contract prices, because OEMs who bought too much product clear their inventory at quarter end (and other times) by selling at a loss.

During a shortage the opposite is true: OEMS find that they can’t get as much DRAM as they wanted through their contract sources, so they shop for the balance on the spot market.  Since there are more buyers than sellers, spot prices invariably raise higher than contract prices.

When the prices change from one state of affairs to the other then it is safe to assume that Continue reading

Intel to Use Micron Hybrid Memory Cube

Micron: "Bursting Through The Memory Wall"Intel and Micron today announced that the new version of Intel’s Xeon Phi, a highly parallel coprocessor for research applications, will be built using a custom version of Micron’s Hybrid Memory Cube, or HMC.

This is only the second announced application for this new memory product – the first was a Fujitsu supercomputer back in November.

For those who, like me, were unfamiliar with the Xeon Phi, it’s a module that uses high core-count processors for problems that can be solved with high degrees of parallelism.  My friend and processor guru Nathan Brookwood tells me Continue reading

Making 3D NAND Flash – Animated Video

The good people at Coventor have graciously allowed me to post their video of the Pipe-Shaped BiCS 3D NAND flash process onto The Memory Guy blog site.  Click the image to see it play out.

Coventor tells me that they are the leading Continue reading

Samsung Begins Operations at its Xi’an Fab

Samsung's Xi'an, China fabSamsung has announced that the company’s newest memory fabrication plant (Fab) in Xi’an, China has “begun full-scale production operations”, adding that: “The new facility will manufacture Samsung’s advanced NAND flash memory chips: 3D V-NAND.”

I immediately asked whether the plant will build products other than 3D NAND, and the company has replied that this will be the only product produced in the Xi’an plant.  What Samsung has not said is what is meant by “full-scale production operations.”  Typically wafer fabs start with a very low production capacity as new tools are being qualified, only ramping to high-volume production a year or more after initial production.

Samsung points out that production has begun a mere 20 months after initial groundbreaking, which is quite Continue reading

Researchers Devise 4-D Memory

George P. BurdellOnly months after Samsung’s announcement of 3D memory production a new 4-dimensional memory has been prototyped by university researchers.  This memory not only has bits in the X and Y dimensions, like planar NAND, and the Z dimension, like 3D NAND, but it also grows in capacity over time, spanning the fourth dimension: time.

This research has been spearheaded by George P. Burdell, Assistant Associate Professor pro tem at Death Valley University.  The work is the culmination of a decades-long effort to find a way to increase memory sizes in systems without the need to replace chips or modules.

The team has created the name “Growing RAM” or “GRAM” for the technology.  Current prototypes exhibit very favorable Continue reading

Spansion’s Super-Fast HyperFlash NOR

Comparing Spansion's HyperFlash against the speed of alternative interfacesSpansion recently introduced a NOR flash that the company boasts is the: “World’s fastest NOR flash memory”.  Named HyperFlash, the chip taps into high-speed SPI interface, doubling its width and adding a differential clock to run at an I/O rates as high as 333MB/s.

In this post’s graphic (click to enlarge) Spansion compares the HyperFlash chip’s sustained read rate (right-hand column) to that of (from left to right) asynchronous parallel NOR, single-bit SPI, industry-standard DDR Quad SPI, and Spansion’s faster rendition of DDR Quad SPI, which Spansion tells us, until now, has been the fastest flash on the market.  The company points out that HyperFlash is five times the speed of industry-standard Continue reading

Comparing Samsung V-NAND to Micron 16nm Planar NAND

Andrew Walker, SchiltronI was recently directed to a very interesting blog post written by 3D technologist Andrew Walker of Schiltron in which he compares two NAND flash chips that were presented at the IEEE International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) on February 12.

The post, titled Samsung’s V-NAND Flash at the 2014 ISSCC: Ye Distant Spires… is on the 3D InCites website.

Dr. Walker puts a lot more time and effort into his graphic representations of 3D NAND chips than do others (The Memory Guy included) and this makes it much easier to understand the issues he points out.  He shows us that Samsung’s 3D NAND cell is about 5 times the size of a 40nm planar NAND cell and about 30 times that of Micron’s 16nm planar cell, and that the 3D NAND’s physical area is unlikely to change with any future 3D technology generations.

For this and other reasons (given in the article) he states that the Samsung V-NAND is “an impressive achievement but not a realistic foundation for the future.”

After having compiled my series on 3D NAND I can appreciate Dr. Walker’s opinion.  This is certainly going to be a difficult technology to master, and it could be quite some time before the cost structure for 3D NAND can compete against that of today’s planar technologies.

Give the Walker post a quick read and judge for yourself whether we are at the brink of a 3D conversion or if this technology can be expected to slip out a few years.

Why NAND is So Difficult to Scale

ASML chart chowing the lithography used for 4X, 3X, 2X, and 1Xnm planar NAND and 3D NANDNAND flash is the process leader in memory technology, and this puts it in a very challenging position: It must ramp to high volume production using techniques that have never been tried before.

The graphic for this post (click to enlarge), supplied by ASML, the semiconductor industry’s leading lithography tool supplier, illustrates the challenge of migrating from one process node to the next.  Across the bottom, on the X-axis, are representative process nodes ranging from “2D-45″, or two-dimensional (planar) 45nm NAND, to “3D-5x”, or three-dimensional 5xnm NAND.  Below these numbers are the year of volume production.

The vertical axis, labeled “Tolerance” represents the minimum Continue reading

Did SK hynix Beat Samsung to the 8Gb LPDDR4?

SK hynix (top) and Samsung (bottom) 8Gb 20nm-class LPDDR4Every so often something very strange happens that puzzles The Memory Guy.  On December 29 (or Dec. 30 in Seoul) something odd occurred.

I received two e-mails, one from SK hynix at 3:55 PM Pacific Time, and one from Samsung exactly one hour later.  Both were press releases.

The SK hynix release was titled: “SK Hynix Developed the World’s First Next Generation Mobile Memory LPDDR4″.  It announced that the company is sampling its 20nm-class 8Gb LPDDR4 DRAM to customers.

The Samsung release was Continue reading

3D NAND: Who Will Make It and When?

SK hynix 3D NAND Cross SectionThis series has looked at 3D NAND technology in a good deal of technical depth.  The last question to be answered centers around the players and the timing of the technology.  A lot has been said about the technology and its necessity.  Will everyone be making 3D NAND?  When will this big transition occur?

This post will provide an update as of its publication (13 December 2013) to show each company’s current status, to the best of The Memory Guy’s understanding.  Readers may want to refer back to the earlier posts in this series, as well as to a June 2013 Nikkei TechON article that gives a good review of the 3D NAND alternatives that have been presented at various technical conferences.

Let’s start with Samsung, the largest producer of NAND flash today.  Just prior to Memcon 2013 last Continue reading

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Jim Handy Objective Analysis Memory Market Research +1 (408) 356-2549 Jim.Handy (at) Objective-Analysis.com

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