Samsung 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 commendable for a facility of this size. The plant’s floor space is 230,000 square meters or about 2.5 million square feet. This is equivalent to the area of 40 football fields. Another way to look at it is that the floor area of this building is roughly equal to three years’ worth of its total output in square meters of finished NAND chips.
V-NAND involves a number of processes that have never previously been attempted in semiconductors of any kind, and such innovation usually leads to significant delays, so it is possible that this fab will ramp more slowly than other NAND fabs. These processes are detailed in a Memory Guy series explaining the “Whys” and “Hows” of 3D NAND.