Memory Markets

Backing Out DRAM Process Rules

Inotera HQInotera recently announced earnings and posted an impressive 55% gross margin.  Inotera is a pure-play DRAM maker, so it’s not too difficult to estimate the company’s process geometries based on its financials.

The Memory Guy thought it might be interesting to determine what I could from the 55% gross margin number.

First of all we can estimate Inotera’s manufacturing cost/GB based on the gross margin and an assumption about the company’s sales price/GB.  The WSTS price per gigabyte for November was $7.83.   Assuming that Inotera’s ASP was equal to this number, then at a gross margin of 55% the company’s cost/GB would have been $3.52.

Inotera’s acts as a foundry for Micron Technoogy.  If Inotera sold to Micron at some lower price, then Inotera’s production costs would necessarily be proportionally lower to maintain the same gross margin.

Using the WSTS price: At a processed wafer cost of $1,600 (my rule of thumb) a $3.52/GB cost would require 454 8Gb dice to be produced Continue reading

Memory Issues in Space & Medical Applications

How an alpha particle disrupts a memory bitThe Memory Guy was recently asked about using memories in a satellite. What would be a good technology to use in a space application?

The problem with space is that there is a lot of radiation.  Radiation on the earth’s surface is lower because it is stopped by the atmosphere, but in space there is an abundance of radiation that interferes with most semiconductors.  Radiation is also a concern in certain medical applications where a memory must maintain its contents while undergoing sterilization through irradiation.  Experiments on conventional flash memories have shown data loss at only 2% of the Continue reading

3D NAND’s Impact on the Equipment Market

Costs to Migrate to Next Lithography Node - Applied Materials (click to enlarge)A very unusual side effect of the move to 3D NAND will be the impact on the equipment market.  3D NAND takes the pressure off of lithographic steps and focuses more attention on deposition and etch.  The reason for going to 3D is that it provides a path to higher density memories without requiring lithographic shrinks.

This sounds like bad news for stepper makers like ASML, Canon, and Nikon while it should be a boon to deposition and etch equipment makers like Applied Materials, Tokyo Electron, and Lam Research.

In its summer 2013 V-NAND announcement, Samsung explained that it would be Continue reading

Micron Announces Processor-In-Memory

Micron's Automata Processor on a standard DDR3 DIMM (Micron press photo)During the Supercomputing Conference in Denver today Micron Technology announced its new twist on processing: A DRAM chip with an array of built-in processors.

Dubbed: “The Automata Processor” this chip harnesses the inherent internal parallelism of DRAM chips to support a parallel data path of about 50,000 signals to attain processor-DRAM bandwidth that can only be dreamed of using conventional DRAM interfaces.  The processor is a Graph-Oriented architecture.

The chip lends itself to Continue reading

SIA: Memories Drive Record Semi Revenues

SIA LogoThe SIA yesterday released the WSTS semiconductor sales data for September.  Monthly revenues reached a record $27 billion driving third-quarter revenues to their own record of $81 billion.  This was the seventh straight month of semiconductor growth, the first such run-up since 2010.

This quote, by SIA CEO Brian Toohey really caught The Memory Guy’s eye: “Sales of memory products have increased sharply compared to last year and continue to be a major driver of industry growth.”

A lot has been happening to drive this increase in memory revenues: The recent SK hynix fire increased DRAM prices, but Continue reading

Hynix Squeaks Out Another Update

Hynix Wuxi FireIn its own uniquely minimalistic style, Hynix has updated the status of the second line of its Wuxi fab, the one that was hit by a fire on September 4:

We would like to provide the following update on the recovery status of  SK Hynix Wuxi fab that was affected by the fire on Wednesday September 4, 2013. The air ventilation system and cleanroom in the line that was affected by the fire have now been substantially restored, and we have resumed partial utilization in this line from Thursday October 10, 2013. We will gradually raise utilization and make every effort to recover normalized level of pre-fire utilization in November as planned.

This statement should put to rest Continue reading

Applied’s Take on 3D NAND

Applied Materials expects for 3D NAND to grow the etch & CVD markets by 50%Early this month I was invited to participate in Applied Materials’ (AMAT) Analyst Day.  The sessions were rich in data covering the markets that would profit the company over the next few years.

Naturally, The Memory Guy fixated on those presentations that dealt with memory.  When it came to the upcoming transition to 3D NAND, AMAT had a lot to say.

A later post will explain what 3D NAND actually is.  Suffice it to say that today’s approach to making NAND flash has nearly reached its limit, and the approach that manufacturers plan to use in the future involves making NAND strings that stand on their ends.  This has phenomenal implications on Continue reading

A Retrospect of Toshiba’s NAND Production Cut

Did Toshiba's 3Q12 Capacity Reduction Really Happen?There are some who still believe that Toshiba made good on its announcement to cut NAND flash production by 30%.  Let’s take a close look to see if that really happened.

Readers may recall that Toshiba stated last July that it would immediately cut NAND flash production by 30%.  At the time NAND was selling below cost for spot prices as low as 31 cents/GB.

The Memory Guy questioned both the wisdom of the move and its authenticity in a blog post at that time, since this level of cut would reduce Toshiba’s market share while increasing its Continue reading

DRAM Prices on the Rise

2013-03-12 DRAM Spot PricesThere’s been a lot of talk recently about increasing DRAM prices.  Although this trend has been ongoing since late November (see chart) it has only recently garnered the attention of the press.

What is going on, and how is it likely to play out?  The prices in the chart represent the lowest spot market prices reported by market tracker InSpectrum for the past year.  These prices typically remain below contract prices as long as there is an oversupply, and stay above contract prices during a shortage.

According to InSpectrum’s figures, today’s lowest spot market DRAM prices are about double Continue reading

Why Most NAND Rankings Ignore SanDisk

SanDisk Doesn't Show Up in NAND Market Share FiguresEvery so often I run into someone who asks about the discrepancy between various analysts’ NAND market share rankings and SanDisk’s shipments.  After all, SanDisk is a leading producer of flash memory and has captive manufacture through its joint venture with Toshiba.  Yet, most market share rankings leave SanDisk out.

What’s going on here?

Owing to a long-standing convention SanDisk’s NAND chips aren’t counted since they are sold as “Systems” (with a controller.)  The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) set that rule up, and most analysts 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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