3D NAND: SK Hynix Overtakes Micron Technology and Toshiba
SK Hynix, a South Korean memory semiconductor supplier is the world’s second-largest memory chipmaker after Samsung Electronics and the world’s fifth-largest semiconductor company.
Founded as Hyundai Electronics in 1983, this company today has manufacturing sites in Korea, the US, China and Taiwan. Hynix memory is used by Apple in some of their iMac, MacBook and Macbook Pro computers, by Asus in their Google-branded Nexus 7 tablets. The list of SK Hynix customers continues.
NAND memory chip industry has focused on improving the capacity and performance of memory chips by promoting the miniaturization of the process. This is not a surprise.
If the size of a chip is reduced, the number of chips that can be produced from a sheet of wafer with a diameter of about a foot increases. This allows the production of memory chips which can process data at a faster speed while consuming less electricity.
The processing miniaturization, however, faced technical limits several years ago, making it difficult for chip makers to make further progress. To overcome the so-called “showstopper” problem in microelectronics, chip makers developed 3D NAND. Instead of narrowing the line-width of circuits, they attempted to improve performance and speed by building circuits in layers. After more than 10 years of R&D efforts, Samsung Electronics developed a 24-stack model in late 2013 and launched the 48-stack one from August 2015.
Although Toshiba developed NAND flash memory first in the world and Micron, an industry giants, they both got surpassed by SK Hynix in 3D NAND production! This comes as a little surprise since last year Intel and Micron introduced their stacked 3D NAND making flash chips thicker. Much like Manhattan, when you’re out of space, the only way to go is up!
While 3D NAND technology has the potential to create fundamental market shifts the depth of the impact flash memory has had to smartphones and supercomputing is really just scratching the surface of what’s possible. The struggle for superiority continues.