Wafer Shortages and DRAM/NAND

Mark Thirsk, Linx ConsultingRecently I have been hearing concerns that an impending wafer shortage might drive today’s DRAM and NAND flash shortages to epic proportions.

The Memory Guy doesn’t pretend to have any understanding of the raw wafer business, so I decided to consult Mark Thirsk, managing partner of Linx Consulting.  Mark has been in this industry for quite a while and has a very good understanding of the ongoing status of the semiconductor materials supply chain.

Mark and I were on a panel together at SEMICON Korea in February, and he presented an interesting chart to compare the costs of different technologies.  I asked him about this chart as well.

Here’s what Mark had to say:

“Our information is that major tier 1 manufacturers have secured contracts, but that the wafer suppliers are being careful offering the same terms to tier 2 fabs.  I would put all the DRAM and NAND flash companies in tier 1.  Supply and demand for 300mm and 200mm wafers are close to balance, and there is not too much upside on wafer capacity.  We suspect wafer supplier SEH will match announced Sumco expansions, but we are talking low single-digit capacity growth, which may be a brake on industry MSI growth in 2018 which we have at >7%.

“The cost graphic (below) is the sum of the costs of most direct materials and consumables for wafers of each type, averaged over several manufacturing nodes.  The models to calculate cost come at the problem slightly different ways for older and newer devices, but the results are broadly compatible.  Silicon and packaging is not included in the estimate.

Linx Consulting chart of Production Costs“DRAM can range a bit higher for <1x nm, but the costs tend to be in the low $200s.  Advanced ASICs from foundry could be more than MPU if complex SOC wafers are considered.  Remember that wafer supply chains are often specialized for the devices made (i.e. epitaxial wafers for advanced logic, high quality bulk silicon for DRAM, FZ for power etc.).  Small fabs will certainly be the ones to feel the pinch first, but we have even heard large foundries concerned about wafer supply.”

In a nutshell Mark is telling us that there may be some stress on DRAM and NAND flash wafer supplies, but the companies that will feel the greatest impact will be tier 2 chip makers who purchase the lowest cost wafers.  To learn the details behind all of this, though, you should contact Linx Consulting to receive the detailed information that they provide to their clients.  They can be reached at http://Linx-Consulting.com.

4 thoughts on “Wafer Shortages and DRAM/NAND”

  1. Hi Jim, What do you think is the cost differential between on-chip SRAM and DRAM on $/inch? I used to think it’s 10x costlier as a “rule of thumb”, but this chart makes me think otherwise now!

    1. Sajal,

      Some folks who know much better than I do have told me that SRAM cells get a whole lot larger on finer process geometries. This would make the cost differential really huge starting at 14nm.

      On the other hand, is $/inch the right measure for something like this? I would have assumed that $/GB would be a much better way to decide whether to use DRAM or SRAM.


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