This week both the Toshiba-Western Digital team and Samsung disclosed details of their 64-layer 3D NAND designs at the IEEE’s International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC). The Memory Guy thought that it would be interesting to compare these two companies’ 64-layer chips against each other and against the one that Micron presented at last year’s ISSCC.
Allow me to point out that it’s no easy feat to get to 64 layers. Not only must the process build all 64 layers (or actually pairs of layers plus some additional ones for control) across the entire 300mm wafer with high uniformity and no defects, but then holes must be etched through varying materials from the top to the bottom with absolutely parallel sides at aspect ratios of about 60:1, that is, the hole is 60 times as deep as it is wide. After this the fab must deposit uniform layers of material onto the sides of these skinny holes without any variation in thickness.
None of these processes have ever been used to build any other semiconductor — it’s all brand new. This is what makes 3D NAND so challenging, and it’s why the technology is already 3 years behind its original schedule.
It’s not easy to tell from the conference papers whether or not Continue reading
According to a Business Korea article Samsung announced, during a June 14 investor event, plans to reduce its DRAM capital spending and shift its focus to 3D NAND.
The Memory Guy sees this as an unsurprising move. This post’s chart is an estimate of DRAM wafer production from 1991 through 2014. There is a definite downtrend over the past few years. The peak was reached in 2008 at an annual production of slightly below 15 million wafers, with a subsequent dip in 2009 thanks to the global financial collapse at the end of 2008. After a slight recovery in 2010 the industry entered a period of steady decline.
The industry already has more than enough DRAM wafer capacity for the foreseeable future.
Why is this happening? The answer is relatively simple: the gigabytes per wafer on a DRAM wafer are growing faster than the market’s demand for gigabytes.
Let’s dive into that in more detail. The number of gigabytes on a DRAM wafer increases according Continue reading
The answer really depends upon who you ask. An article in the Financial Express quoted Samsung as saying that it would have a minimal impact, and that full-scale operations should resume in a few days. The article also said that Samsung estimated that the wafer loss would be below 10,000 wafers.
Assuming that the entire loss consisted of Samsung’s most advanced 48-layer 256Gb 3D NAND a 10,000-wafer loss would be less than 1% of total industry gigabyte shipments.
Korea Times quoted an anonymous fund manager who said: “The one-time incident will cost Samsung up to 20 billion won, which is very minimal. It won’t make heavy impact on Samsung’s chip business and the entire industry.”
For almost two years there has been a lot of worry about DRAM spot prices. This post’s graphic plots the lowest weekly spot price per gigabyte for the cheapest DRAM, regardless of density, on a semi-logarithmic scale. (Remember that on a semi-logarithmic scale constant growth appears as a straight line.)
The downward-sloping red line on right side of the chart shows that DRAM prices have been sliding at a 45% annual rate since October 2014. This has a lot of people worried for the health of the industry.
What most fail to remember, though, is that DRAM spot prices hit their lowest point twice in 2011, at $2.40 in August, and then $2.20 in November. Today’s lowest DRAM spot prices have only recently dipped below the $2.52 point hit in October of 2014.
The black dotted line in the chart is intended to focus readers’ attention on DRAM costs, which decrease at a 30% average Continue reading
Beleaguered Toshiba finally unveiled its restructuring plan on Friday. The plan aims to return the company to profitability and growth through management accountability.
A lot of the presentation focused on the memory business, a shining star of the Toshiba conglomerate, which has so far included appliances, nuclear power plants, and medical electronics.
Toshiba has big plans for its Semiconductor & Storage Products Company, calling it “A pillar of income with Memories as a core business”. The company plans to enhance its NAND flash cost competitiveness by accelerating development of BiCS (Toshiba’s 3D NAND technology) and by expanding its SSD business. There are three parts to this effort:
- Grow 3D NAND production capacity
- Speed up 3D NAND development
- Increase SSD development resources
This post’s graphic is an Continue reading
It was sad to hear today of the passing of Andy Grove, Intel co-founder and former president.
Although I did not know him well, Andy was a part of my brief 1½-year stint at Intel in the early 1980s. He played a key role in my “IOPEC” new employee training, and he and I were in cubicles on the same floor of the same Intel office building, so we would run into each other from time to time during the business day.
Plenty has been said about this man’s competence as a manager, and plenty more will be said. He drove the creation of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturer.
I think I was most impressed, though, when he agreed to be interviewed for a PBS television special on the history of the semiconductor industry: “Silicon Valley: American Experience” despite the fact that his battle with Parkinson’s Disease had already rendered it difficult for him to speak.
I always meant to write to him to tell him how impressed I was that he would do that. I guess I won’t have the chance now.
The post in the Hackaday blog, written by Al Williams, covers drum memories, the Williams Tube and its competitor the Selectron (both briefly discussed in my earlier 3D XPoint post), mercury delay lines, dekatrons, core memory (the original Storage Class Memory), plated wire memory, twistor memory, thin-film memory, and bubble memory.
It also links to interesting videos about these devices.
Think of this as a companion piece to the EE Times memory history slideshow I covered in an earlier post. It’s a fun and educational read!
Naturally, the first question is: “How do they do that?”
To get all the chips into the DIMM format Samsung uses TSV interconnects on the DRAMs. The module’s 36 DRAM packages each contain four 8Gb (1GB) chips, resulting in 144 DRAM chips squeezed into a standard DIMM format. Each package also includes a data buffer chip, making the stack very closely resemble either the High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) or the Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC).
Since these 36 packages (or worse, 144 DRAM chips) would overload the processor’s address bus, the DIMM uses an RDIMM protocol – the address and control pins are buffered on the DIMM before they reach the DRAM chips, cutting the processor bus loading by an order of magnitude or more. RDIMMs are supported by certain server platforms.
Objective Analysis has just introduced a new report that you might want to consider: A Close Look At The Micron/Intel 3D XPoint Memory.
The report covers the Intel-Micron 3D XPoint memory and includes Intel’s new Optane support products that are based on this technology. The report explains the technology and its special manufacturing challenges. It includes details of how 3D XPoint memory will be used, and provides an analysis of the benefits of its persistent nature.
Forecasts project how the market will develop and include optimistic and pessimistic forecast scenarios. Particular attention has been paid to its impact upon the DRAM, SSD, and other markets. Finally, the report analyzes different end-market segments to predict how this technology will impact each of them.
The Memory Guy, report author Jim Handy, will present the report’s findings during the Pre-Conference Primer of the Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) Storage Developer Conference (SDC) this Sunday, September 20, at 2:00 PM, In Santa Clara, CA.
This breakthrough report is based on Continue reading
A July 13 Wall Street Journal article disclosed that China’s state-owned Tsinghua Unigroup has bid to buy Micron Technology for $21 a share or $23 billion, which would make this the largest-ever Chinese takeover of a U.S. company.
Objective Analysis has been telling our clients for the past few years that either China or India would create a new DRAM/NAND manufacturing company, especially since memory chip makers have enjoyed a long period of profits, and this usually motivates outsiders to invest in new DRAM makers. We did not anticipate an acquisition.
Countries with heavy industry typically move into the semiconductor business during an extended upturn, and become DRAM suppliers since DRAM is an undifferentiated commodity. Commodities sell almost solely on price and success is based on little more than manufacturing strength. This is a business model that industrial economies understand.
In addition to Micron’s tangible assets, including Continue reading