Samsung begins production of 64-layer chip

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Samsung begins production of 64-layer chip

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Samsung Electronics has begun mass production of its latest 256-gigabit vertical NAND flash memory chips, with plans to expand its application to a variety of mobile devices, the company said Thursday.

To make its vertical NAND chips, or V-NAND for short, Samsung stacks memory cells vertically in a three-dimensional structure to increase the chip’s capacity and productivity.

By the end of the year, about half of Samsung’s NAND chip production will be dedicated to making the 256-gigabit chip, the fourth generation of its kind, with 64 layers of memory cells.

While the company has already been selling the 256-gigabit chip to enterprise customers since January, it plans to expand the V-NAND lineup for use in servers, personal computers and mobile devices in coming years.

The new chip, according to Samsung, can transmit data 50 percent faster than its predecessor, the 48-layer V-NAND chip.

It also has 30 percent improved energy efficiency, according to the company, with the amount of voltage needed for operation has been cut to 2.5 volts from 3.3 volts.

Samsung is the first semiconductor producer in the world to mass-produce the higher-capacity chips. It has led production in V-NAND chips thanks to its early research and development of the technology. In the past 15 years, the company has managed to secure over 500 patents related to the technology in markets including the United States and Japan, the company said.

Rivals like Japan’s Toshiba are also gearing up to produce 64-layer V-NAND chips by the latter half of the year. SK Hynix, a Korean competitor, set a goal earlier this year to jump straight to supplying 72-layer chips in the latter half of this year. The company said it has already completed development of the world’s first 72-layer NAND chip.

Not to be outdone, Samsung is already working on a 96-layer chip.

“We are focusing all our efforts on developing a 1-terabit V-NAND chip,” said Kyung Kye-hyun, executive vice president of flash products and technology at Samsung’s memory business, in a press release Thursday.

Such capacity would be possible by stacking more than 90 layers of memory cells. Samsung said it has secured core technology to create a 1-terabit chip in the process of mass producing the 256-gigabit chip.

Market research firm Gartner estimates the world’s NAND flash memory market at $46.5 billion this year and expects it to grow to $56.5 billion by 2021.

V-NAND products are expected to account for 43.4 percent of the market this year, a steep growth from 18.8 percent last year. By next year, the percentage could grow to over 66 percent, the firm said.

Such expansion is largely due to increasing demand for ever higher-capacity memory chips in mobile devices and other gadgets connected to wireless networks, also known as Internet of Things devices.

As of the fourth quarter last year, Samsung dominated the world’s NAND flash memory market with 36.1 percent, followed by Toshiba with 17.4 percent, Western Digital with 15.7 percent and Micron with 12.3 percent.

SK Hynix ranked fifth with 10.3 percent, according to data accumulated by IHS Markit.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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