South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix Inc. said on Monday that it has developed the world’s first 72-layer 256 gigabit (Gb) non-volatile storage (NAND) flash memory and plans to mass-produce the high-performance chips in the second half of the year.
Flash leaders Samsung Electronics Co. and Toshiba Corp. have already begun mass production of fourth-generation 3D NAND chips in 64-layer. Regardless of the layer difference, the three products provide equal storage capacity.
According to SK Hynix, the company has developed 72-layer 256Gb NAND flash in just five months after its predecessor, allowing it to secure the industry’s “finest product portfolio.”
It started supplying 36-layer 128Gb NAND chips in April last year and mass producing 48-layer 256Gb three-dimensional (3D) NAND chips in November. Data storage of a single 256Gb can be converted to 32 gigabytes (GB).
The latest NAND chip has been developed using SK Hynix’s own technology. It uses triple level cell (TCL) flash that can store three bits of data per cell. 3D vertical NAND flash memory technology also allows data cells to be stacked up vertically, which allows more storage space for semiconductor chips compared to 2D NAND technology. A 72-layer 3D NAND chip, for example, can stack up 1.5 times more cells than its 48-layer predecessor, which is the highest in the industry so far.
SK Hynix said that achieving its 72-layer 256Gb NAND flash technology has been difficult - like fitting 4 billion 72-story buildings in an area that is the size of a dime. It uses existing mass production facilities but allows 30 percent more manufacturing productivity than its predecessor. The technology applies high-speed circuit design - doubling internal operation speed - and has improved the speed of data reading and writing by 20 percent.
SK Hynix plans to develop solutions to apply its latest 3D NAND flash technology to next-generation storing device solid state drive (SSD) or smartphone-use embedded multi-media cards (eMMCs).
Meanwhile, demand for 3D NAND is forecast to increase rapidly in the era of fourth industrial revolution led by artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and cloud storage. According to market research company Gartner, total revenue of NAND flash market is expected to reach $46.5 billion this year and $56.5 billion in 2021.
By Lee Dong-in
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