By 2017, nearly two-thirds--or 65.2 percent--of all NAND memory chips shipped worldwide will be produced using 3-D manufacturing processes, up from less than 1 percent this year, according to a Flash Dynamics brief from
"There's widespread agreement that just one or two generations may be left before NAND flash made using conventional planar semiconductor technology reaches its theoretical limit," said
A major factor driving NAND makers to keep improving their products is demand from products like media tablets and smartphones. These devices are demanding higher capacity and less expensive storage of content, including pictures, music and video.
Another dimension of flash manufacturing
Historically, NAND flash makers have employed miniaturization to increase the capacity and reduce the costs of their products. Miniaturization is the process of shrinking the NAND flash cells with each successive technology generation, allowing suppliers to fit more bits on each silicon wafer.
With 3-D technology, the emphasis shifts away from miniaturization and toward increasing density by layering NAND flash cells on top of each other. This will be the most cost-effective way of pushing NAND to the next level because most of the existing manufacturing equipment can continue to be used, minimizing expenses while maximizing return on investment.
Samsung said commercial production of V-NAND, the company's name for its 3-D flash memory products, started during the second quarter. The end product will be a V-NAND-based solid-state drive, in 480- and 960-gigabyte densities, initially targeting the enterprise market. V-NAND, Samsung says, will be more reliable than 1x-nanometer NAND, consume less power and also deliver higher performance in sequential as well as random writes.
The cost differential between a V-NAND solid-state drive and one powered by traditional flash memory will be quite large, IHS expects, which would explain why Samsung is aiming the product first at the enterprise market.
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