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

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

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

How Do You Erase and Program 3D NAND?

How FN Tunneling WorksSome of my readers have asked: “How is 3D NAND programmed and erased?  Is it any different from planar NAND?”

In a word: No.

(Before I get too far into this allow me to admit that The Memory Guy doesn’t understand quantum physics, so I will be presenting this only to the depth that I understand it.  There will be no band-gap diagrams or equations to wrestle with.)

Both 3D NAND and planar NAND use Fowler Nordheim Tunneling (FN) to both program and erase.  This differs from NOR flash which programs bits using Continue reading

3D NAND: Making a Vertical String

Toshiba's Original BiCS Diagram - IEDM 2007Let’s look at how one form of 3D NAND is manufactured.  For this post we will explore the original design suggested by Toshiba at the IEEE’s International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM) in 2007.  It’s shown in the first graphic of this post.  (Click on any of the graphics for a better view.)

Toshiba calls this technology “BiCS” for “Bit Cost Scaling.”  The technique doesn’t scale the process the way the world of semiconductors has always done to date – it scales the cost without shrinking the length and width of the memory cell.  It accomplishes this by going vertically, as is shown in this post’s first graphic.

This takes a special effort. This is where the real Continue reading

What is 3D NAND? Why do we need it? How do they make it?

3D NANDIn August 2013 Samsung announced its V-NAND, the first production 3D NAND, kicking off a big change in the way that NAND flash will be manufactured.  This new technology raises a number of important questions:

  • What exactly is a 3D NAND?
  • Why does the industry need to go to a 3D topology?
  • How the heck do they make such a product?

To answer these questions I assembled a series of articles posted as weekly segments on The Memory Guy blog during the fourth quarter of 2013.  The different sections are listed below, with hot links to each section.

Each of these is a topic that is complex enough to warrant its own post, so for the nine Fridays I published a post to explain each one in depth.  I hope you find it engaging and informative.

Micron NAND Reaches 16nm

Die Photo of Micron 16nm 128Gb NAND chipMicron has announced that it is sampling a new 128Gb NAND flash chip based upon a 16nm process, with production slated for the fourth quarter.  To The Memory Guy’s knowledge this is the tightest process available.

The company, with its partner Intel, gained a lead with its 20nm process generation through its use of a Hi-k tunnel dielectric, a new material that replaces more conventional silicon dioxide layer with a new material (Micron won’t say what) that yields the same capacitance with a thinner layer.  This has become very important with today’s tight processes because of issues of inter-cell interference.

Other NAND makers are migrating to Continue reading

SanDisk & Toshiba to Add NAND Capacity

Toshiba-SanDisk Wafer Fabs in Yokkaichi JapanSanDisk today announced that its joint venture with Toshiba would begin construction in August of its Fab 5 “phase two” shell.  Completion of this Yokkaichi, Japan wafer fabrication facility is slated for mid-2014.

SanDisk expects to use this facility for technology transitions of existing Yokkaichi wafer capacity.  The new clean room will provide the space for the additional equipment necessary to transition existing wafer capacity to next-generation 2D NAND technologies and to early generations of 3D NAND technology.  In this way it will perform support for Fab 3, Fab 4 and phase one of Fab 5.

This is consistent with the JV’s use of Continue reading

SanDisk & Toshiba Move to Next Process Node

SanDisk's explanation of old vs new 19nm processesSanDisk and Toshiba, in separate announcements, both today disclosed their next-generation process technology.

The companies introduced their new “1y” processing node that, according to SanDisk, produces 19nm x 19.5nm cell, versus the earlier “19nm” process (or “1x”) that used a 19nm x 26nm cell.

The graphic for this post (click to enlarge) was presented during SanDisk’s May 5th Analyst Day and compares the 24nm process to the 19 x 26nm process, moving to the 19 x 19nm process, and eventually to “1z” which neither company is yet revealing.  After the 1z process SanDisk believes 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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