While I don’t claim to be an expert in 3D NAND technologies, I do keep my eye on what’s happening in the 3D NAND market. So when two 3D NAND-related EE Times articles crossed my 3D radar in two days, I naturally checked it out. After reading both articles, I have questions.
First of all, Gary Hilson, EE Times, posted a news analysis piece provocatively titled, Samsung Ramps Up 3D NAND Fab in China, but after leading with “Samsung’s memory fab line in China has kicked into gear with full-scale manufacturing of its 3D V-NAND flash memory chips” and a link to last August’s announcement of “mass production of a 128 Gbit/s NAND flash memory integrated in multiple layers and 3D V-NAND products being manufactured in Korea”, there’s no further mention of actual 3D NAND production by Samsung in China. Rather, the story shifts to the construction of Samsung’s 3D NAND fab facility in China, and touches on other 3D NAND activities by competing companies: Toshiba, SanDisk, and Micron. Do you see my confusion? How can Samsung be in full scale manufacturing of 3D NAND chips if the fab hasn’t been completed yet? Apparently the facility will be completed by the end of the year, in time to meet customer demand for its 3D NAND products in China.
Not to be outdone by Samsung’s construction plans, Toshiba announced it is tearing down its No. 2 Fab at Yokkaichi Operations in Japan, and will replace it with a new fab on the same site that will be dedicated to 3D NAND. This story is covered here in EE Times by Julien Happich. According to this post, SanDisk is also joining forces with Toshiba to invest jointly in the facility and to secure space for its 3D NAND products. Toshiba expects to begin mass production of its 3D Memory in 2015 and SanDisk at the beginning of 2016. But first, the old building has to be demolished. It reportedly has been used as an office building since its 200mm production ended in 2010. Happich also reports that Toshiba’s Bit Cost Scalable (BiCS) (its approach to 3D NAND) is still under development. Perhaps by it will be ready by the time the new fab is complete? 2016 is the target date.
The optimist in me says this is good news, and demonstrates an eventual widespread commitment to the transition to 3D memory solutions for Flash. (Don’t confuse this with the 3D DRAM story – that’s a horse of a different color). The cynic in me says this is just smoke and mirrors while the real issues – working out the remaining kinks for production of a truly viable 3D NAND solution. As previously mentioned, I am not a 3D NAND (or any kind of NAND) expert. So I look forward to your comments on this – both optimists and skeptics alike. ~ F.v.T.