NAND arms race: Samsung, Toshiba continue to expand production, Intel and Micron return strongly
With the continuous decline of NAND Flash prices, in order to prevent the excessive supply of NAND flash memory from causing the market to collapse, the three major NAND manufacturers, Intel, Micron and SK Hynix have jointly announced that they will take measures to curb the current situation of oversupply. Specifically, Slow down the production speed in all directions – cut wafers less and build new production lines slowly. The price of NAND Flash has stopped falling significantly since the second half of the year. Recently, Samsung, SK Hynix, Micron and other original manufacturers have once again launched a new round of arms race. Some new factories have begun to be officially planned or are about to be put into operation. What changes has the industry brought about? Is it an opportunity for China?
In 2014, Samsung built a factory in Xi’an and mass-produced the first generation of V-NAND. Since 2018, Samsung has continued to invest in the construction of the second phase of the project in Xi’an. According to the construction progress, the factory is expected to be completed by the end of 2019. Start mass production.
Now it is reported that Samsung’s Xi’an Phase II factory has installed some equipment and started trial operation to check the situation before mass production, and mass production is expected to start in February 2020. In addition to the second-phase factory in Xi’an, the construction of the newly built P2 Project not far from the Pyeongtaek factory has also been basically completed, and a small amount of equipment investment has been made.
Samsung’s new factory chose to start production in 2020. In addition to helping alleviate the current market oversupply, 5G mobile phones will set off a wave of replacement demand in 2020. China is an important market, and the demand for large-capacity NAND Flash will also increase. , Under trade tensions, Samsung has increased investment in new factories in China, which will better meet the needs of the Chinese market.
The M15 factory built by SK hynix in Cheongju has started production. The M15 factory is to produce 72-layer and 96-layer 3D NAND, so as to increase SK hynix’s dominance in the NAND Flash market. After the M15, the M16 factory was also put on the agenda. The factory started construction at the end of last year and is scheduled to be completed in 20202. The M16 factory will use the most advanced EUV lithography process.
In terms of technology, on June 26, SK Hynix announced that it has successfully developed the world’s first “128-layer 1Tb 4D NAND flash memory”, which will be put into mass production. The breakthrough of this technology provides a guarantee for SK hynix to compete in the enterprise-level solid-state drive (SSD) and 5G mobile communication smartphone market in the future, and can provide customers with a variety of solutions in a timely manner.
Micron has been expanding its Fab 10 plant in Singapore since last year, aiming to switch to a new 3D NAND process node and maintain the same wafer output as now. In August this year, Micron’s new Singapore Fab 10A plant was completed. Previously, Micron had two factories in Singapore, named Fab 10N and Fab 10X, which mainly produced NANDFlash wafers. The wafer output of these two factories accounted for about half of Micron’s overall NANDFlash production capacity.
In terms of technology, according to the latest news, Micron’s fourth-generation 3D NAND chips have completed the first batch of tapeouts. The new generation of products is based on Micron’s newly developed alternative gate architecture and will begin small-scale mass production next year. The CEO of Micron Group said that the first tape-out of 3D NAND chips with an alternative gate architecture has been successfully completed. This milestone has reduced the risk of product technology transition to next-generation technologies, and emphasized that the first-generation alternative gate architecture will be applied. On 128-layer NAND products, it will be applied to specific product lines in advance.
This year is a special year for Toshiba. Starting from October, Toshiba Storage will be renamed “Kioxia”, and the Chinese name will be “Kioxia”. After the renaming, Toshiba recently announced that the K1 factory in Iwate Prefecture, Japan, jointly invested by Western Digital, will be Production begins in the first half of 2020.
It is understood that the K1 factory will produce 3D flash memory to support the growing storage needs of applications such as data centers, smartphones and autonomous vehicles. A joint capital investment by Toshiba and Western Digital in equipment at the K1 plant will allow the plant to begin initial production of 96-layer 3D flash memory in 2020. In addition, Toshiba also plans to invest in the construction of the Fab 7 factory in Yokkaichi. The factory is planned to start construction in 2020 and put into production in 2022. After the new factory is completed, Toshiba will have 8 factories put into operation.
As one of the earliest companies to make memory, Intel has been the number one in global semiconductor sales for many years. Now, after 34 years, it announced that it will return to the memory market. Announced a new generation of memory business strategy, targeting the memory semiconductor manufacturers Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix.
Last month, Intel presented its latest developments on 3D NAND flash memory. Intel revealed that 96-layer 3D NAND flash memory products will be launched in the fourth quarter of 2019, and it is also the first in the industry to demonstrate 144-layer QLC (quad-level cell) NAND for data center-class SSDs, which is expected to be launched in 2020.
Intel adopts 3D Xpoint, a new flash memory technology jointly released with Micron. It is claimed to be a revolutionary breakthrough in storage technology in the past 25 years. It is 1000 times faster than the current NAND flash memory, has 1000 times the durability and 10 times the density of NAND. . But whether Intel can get what it wants depends on whether the 3D Xpoint product can win the favor of many server customers, and it is still too early.
It will take time for China to catch up
In the NAND Flash market, Samsung, Toshiba, Micron, SK Hynix, Western Digital, and Intel have long monopolized more than 99% of the global market share. Domestic storage still has insufficient influence in the global market. Toshiba executives said last month: “It will not be easy for Chinese memory manufacturers to catch up in two or three years. He believes that the oversupply situation in the market has ended, and the previous oversupply has Margins squeezed to the lowest level in 10 years.”
As a latecomer, Yangtze Memory has actually mass-produced 32-layer 3D NAND flash memory chips as early as 2018. However, in 2018, the 64-layer and 72-layer 3D NAND flash memory of each company is already the main product, and it has already been fully distributed. In early September, Yangtze Memory announced the start of mass production of 64-layer 256GB TLC 3D NAND flash memory based on the Xtacking architecture, and this is the first time China has achieved mass production of 64-layer 3D NADA flash memory chips, and China is one step closer to the international level.
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