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SK hynix to Acquire Intel NAND Flash Memory Business for $9 Billion

SK hynix and Intel today announced that they have signed an agreement on Oct. 20, KST, under which SK hynix would acquire Intel's NAND memory and storage business for US $9 billion. The transaction includes the NAND SSD business, the NAND component and wafer business, and the Dalian NAND memory manufacturing facility in China. Intel will retain its distinct Intel Optane business.

SK hynix and Intel will endeavor to obtain required governmental approvals expected in late 2021. Following receipt of these approvals, SK hynix will acquire from Intel the NAND SSD business (including NAND SSD-associated IP and employees), as well as the Dalian facility, with the first payment of US $7 billion. SK hynix will acquire from Intel the remaining assets, including IP related to the manufacture and design of NAND flash wafers, R&D employees, and the Dalian fab workforce, upon a final closing, expected to occur in March 2025 with the remaining payment of US $2 billion. Per the agreement, Intel will continue to manufacture NAND wafers at the Dalian Memory Manufacturing Facility and retain all IP related to the manufacture and design of NAND flash wafers until the final closing.

SK hynix to Expand United States Market Presence with the Launch of the World's First 128-Layer NAND Consumer PCIe NVMe SSD

SK hynix Inc., a global semiconductor supplier based in Korea, announced today the release of its newest PCIe SSD: the SK hynix Gold P31. The latest edition is the world's first 128-layer NAND flash-based consumer SSD and the company's first consumer-facing PCIe SSD launched in the United States under the SK hynix brand.

The Gold P31 is intended for all PC users with a particular focus on gamers, designers, and content creators. The drive supports the PCIe NVMe interface based on 4D NAND flash technology and is now available for purchase in 1 TB and 500 GB capacities on Amazon U.S. The Gold P31 offers best-in-class read speeds of up to 3,500 MB/s and write speeds of up to 3,200 MB/s. The drive is a reliable choice for gamers whose PCs must support long hours of play, as well as professional creators and designers for whom performance and stability is essential. The Gold P31's reliability has been tested and validated through 1,000 hours of high-temperature operating life tests (HTOL) with mean time between failures (MTBF) reaching 1.5 million hours. The SSD also comes with a five-year warranty.

SK hynix Inc. Reports Second Quarter 2020 Results

SK hynix Inc. today announced financial results for its second quarter 2020 ended on June 30, 2020. The consolidated revenue of second quarter 2020 was 8.607 trillion won while the operating profit amounted to 1.947 trillion won, and the net income 1.264 trillion won. Operating margin for the quarter was 23% and net margin was 15%.

Despite uncertainties of business environment due to COVID-19, both the Company's revenue and operating income increased by 20% and 143% quarter-over-quarter (QoQ) respectively, as the surging demand for server memory maintained favorable memory price while numerous factors including the increase of the main products' yield rate led to cost reduction.

Phison Announces Support for YMTC 128-layer and 64-layer 3D NAND Flash Memory

SSD controller manufacturer Phison Electronics announced that its entire lineup of controllers are compatible with 64-layer 3D NAND flash memory chips by Yangtze Memory Technology Company (YMTC), the Chinese semiconductor firm specializing in memory devices, which is in the news for rapid product portfolio development in aid of China's plans to reduce dependence on foreign technology.

The company also announced readiness for YMTC's upcoming 128-layer 3D NAND flash memory chips. Phison's controllers feature industry-standard NAND flash interfaces, and supporting YMTC's chips would be as simple as developing an optimized firmware. YMTC leapfrogged from 64- to 128-layer, skipping the 96-layer product cycle. YMTC's 64-layer chips have been in mass-production since September 2019, and 128-layer chips will start shipping out later this year. Phison's first collaboration with YMTC will be for client-segment products, before developing enterprise-grade drives.

China's Yangtze Memory Technologies' 64L Xtacking NAND Competitive Against Mainstream Manufacturers' Solutions

China's plans for world domination include the country slowly retracting itself from its dependency on western companies' technologies, via heavy acceleration of plans for and production of a myriad of semiconductor technologies. One of the more important technologies amongst those due to its relative ease of manufacture and overall market value is, of course, NAND technology. And the days of China being undoubtedly behind other manufacturers' technologies seems to be coming to an end, with the countries' Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC) 64-layer Xtacking TLC NAND design already achieving pretty impressive results compared to its mainstream counterparts.

Xtacking technology is expected to disrupt the $52 billion NAND memory market and its big players such as Micron, Samsung, SK Hynix, Kioxia, Western Digital, and Intel. The technology separates periphery circuits and memory cell operations towards a separate wafer, which allows for increased performance and throughput compared to other designs. Senior technical fellow Jeongdong Choe at Ottawa, Canada-based TechInsights (a company specializing in reverse-engineering semiconductor technology) has told EE Times YMTC's 64-layer, 256 Gb die bit density is 4.41 Gb/mm, which is higher than the Samsung equivalent 256 Gb die at 3.42 Gb/mm.
Cross-section SEM image along BL direction showing YMTC Xtacking architecture Objective Analysis’ annual report, China’s Memory Ambitions 2019

SK hynix to Commence Mass-Production of 128-layer NAND Flash in Q2

SK hynix, in its Q1-2020 financial results commentary, confirmed that the company will commence mass-production of its next-generation 128-layer 3D NAND flash memory within Q2-2020 (before July). This would mark the company's transition from 96-layer 3D NAND flash, which formed the bulk of the company's NAND flash output through 2019. SK hynix is developing 128-layer 3D NAND flash chips in both TLC and QLC offerings. The company also mentioned that in Q2, it could diversify its portfolio of PCIe (NVMe) SSDs covering more markets and form-factors.

SK hynix Inc. Reports First Quarter 2020 Results

SK hynix Inc. today announced financial results for its first quarter 2020 ended on March 31, 2020. The consolidated revenue of first quarter 2020 was 7.20 trillion won while the operating profit amounted to 800 billion won, and the net income 649 billion won. Operating margin for the quarter was 11% and net margin was 9%.

Despite abrupt changes of external business conditions due to COVID-19, our first quarter revenue and operating income increased by 4% and 239% quarter-over-quarter (QoQ) respectively, driven by increased sales of server products, yield rates improvement, and cost reduction. For DRAM, strong demand of server clients offset the weak mobile demand which declined due to both seasonal slowdown and the COVID-19 impact. As a result, the Company's DRAM bit shipments declined only by 4% QoQ and DRAM average selling price increased by 3% QoQ.

YMTC to Supply NAND Flash Chips to Lexar

Mainland Chinese semiconductor firm Yangtze Memory Technologies Co (YMTC), has reportedly struck a NAND flash memory chip supply deal with popular solid-state storage products brand Lexar, which specializes in SSDs, memory cards, and USB flash drives; and more importantly, enjoys a prominent market presence in the West. Micron Technology had, in 2017, sold the Lexar brand to Longsys, a Chinese electronics conglomerate. YMTC's first products sold to Lexar will be a 512 Gbit 128-layer 3D QLC NAND flash memory chip for Lexar's nCard line of microSDXC cards, which ships in 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB densities, offering transfer speeds of up to 90 MB/s reads, with up to 70 MB/s writes.

YMTC Launches 128-layer 3D NAND Flash Memory Chip

Mainland Chinese semiconductor firm Yangtze Memory Technologies Co (YMTC) formally launched a product that could serve as a technological milestone for the company, a 128-layer 3D QLC NAND flash memory chip. Carrying the product naming series "X2-6070," the chip implements YMTC's XTracking 2.0 memory stacking architecture. This is a particularly big development for the company considering the chip's immediate predecessor is a 64-layer chip based on XTracking 1.0, which entered mass-production as recently as in September 2019, a time when most foreign firms such as Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron, had moved on to 96-layer mass-production, having announced their 128-layer designs around June 2019. YMTC hence appears to have pole-vaulted 96-layer.

"With the launch of Xtacking 2.0, YMTC is now capable of building a new business ecosystem where our partners can play to their strengths and we can achieve mutually beneficial results," said Grace Gong SVP of sales and marketing at YMTC. "This product will first be applied to consumer-grade solid-state drives and will eventually be extended into enterprise-class servers and data centers in order to meet the diverse data storage needs of the 5G and AI era," Gong added. YMTC, part of the state-owned conglomerate Tsinghua Unigroup, is one of the dozens of beneficiaries of the Chinese government's initiative of localizing cutting-edge electronics technology, and reducing reliance on foreign hardware.

SK Hynix Inc. Reports Fiscal Year 2019 and Fourth Quarter Results

SK hynix Inc. today announced financial results for its fiscal year 2019 and fourth quarter ended on December 31, 2019. The consolidated revenue of fiscal year 2019 was KRW 26.99 trillion won while the operating profit amounted to 2.71 trillion won, and the net income 2.02 trillion won. Operating margin for the year was 10% and net margin was 7%.

In order to respond to changing market conditions, SK hynix proactively adjusted both investment and output level last year to maximize business management efficiency. However, amid increasing global economic uncertainty, the increase of inventory burden and conservative purchasing policies on the side of the customers led to a slowdown in demand as well as price falls. As a result, the Company's earnings decreased year-over-year (YoY).

A Walk Through SK Hynix at CES 2020: 4D NAND SSDs and DDR5 RDIMMs

Korean DRAM and NAND flash giant SK Hynix brought its latest memory innovations to the 2020 International CES. The star attraction at their booth was the "4D NAND" technology, and some of the first client-segment SSDs based on it. As a concept, 4D NAND surfaced way back in August 2018, and no, it doesn't involve the 4th dimension. Traditional 3D NAND chips use charge-trap flash (CTF) stacks spatially located next to a peripheral block that's responsible for wiring out all of those CTF stacks. In 4D NAND, the peripheral block is stacked along with the CTF stack itself, conserving real-estate on the 2-D plane (which can then be spent on increasing density). We caught two 128-layer 4D NAND-based client-segment drives inbound for 2020, the Platinum P31 M.2 NVMe, and Gold P31 M.2 NVMe. The already launched Gold S31 SATA drive was also there.

SK hynix Displays its Semiconductor Technologies Leading the 4th Industrial Revolution

SK hynix Inc. presents its innovative semiconductor technologies leading the 4th Industrial Revolution at CES 2020, the world's largest trade show for IT and consumer electronics in Las Vegas, USA, from January 7-10, 2020. In line with its "Memory Centric World" theme, SK hynix depicts a futuristic city which effectively utilizes enormous amounts of data. The Company also showcases its semiconductor solutions across six crucial business fields - artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) / virtual reality (VR), automotive, Internet of Things (IoT), big data and 5G.

Headlining at CES 2020 are SK hynix's memory solutions including HBM2E, DDR5 for servers, and SSD, which are already highly regarded and widely used in 4th industrial fields such as 5G and AI for their stability, speed, power consumption and density excellence. Other cutting-edge products set to make headlines in January are the Company's highly durable LPDDR4X and eMMC 5.1, which are optimized for automobiles. What's more, SK hynix is displaying its LPDDR5 and UFS that enhance the performance of 5G smartphones as well as CIS (CMOS Image Sensor) which is essential in establishing effective environments for AR/VR and IoT.

Micron Tapes Out 128-layer 3D NAND Flash Memory

Micron Technology has taped out its 4th generation 3D NAND flash memory with 128 layers. This paves the way for mass production and product implementations in 2020. The 4th gen 3D NAND by Micron continues to use a CMOS-under-array design, but with Replacement Gate (RG) Technology instead of Floating Gate, which Micron and the erstwhile IMFlash Technology had been using for years. Micron is currently mass-producing 96-layer 3D NAND flash, and TLC remains the prominent data-storage physical layer despite the advent of QLC (4 bits per cell).

Micron comments that this 4th gen 128-layer 3D NAND will be a stopgap restricted to a select few applications, and may not see the kind of adoption as its current 96-layer chips. The company appears to be more focused on its evolution, possibly the 5th generation 3D NAND, which are expected to bring tangible cost-per-bit gains for the company, as it transitions to a newer silicon fabrication node, and implements even newer technologies besides RG. "We achieved our first yielding dies using replacement gate or "RG" for short. This milestone further reduces the risk for our RG transition. As a reminder, our first RG node will be 128 layers and will be used for a select set of products. We don't expect RG to deliver meaningful cost reductions until FY2021 when our second-generation RG node is broadly deployed. Consequently, we are expecting minimal cost reductions in NAND in FY2020. Our RG production deployment approach will optimize the ROI of our NAND capital investments," said Sanjay Mehrotra, CEO and president of Micron.

Yangtze Memory Begins Mass-production of 64-layer 3D NAND Flash Memory

Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC), a Chinese state-backed semiconductor company founded in 2016 as part of the Chinese Government's tech-independence push, has commenced mass-production of 64-layer 3D NAND flash memory chips, at a rate of 100,000 to 150,000 wafers per month leading into 2020. The 64-layer 3D NAND chips are based on YMTC's "in-house" Xtracking architecture. The company is already developing a 128-layer 3D NAND flash chip, and is skipping 96-layer along the way.

YMTC's capacity will be augmented by a new fab being built by its parent company, Tsinghua Unigroup. Tsinghua is a state-owned company which holds a controlling 51 percent stake in YMTC, and is a beneficiary of China's National Semiconductor Industry Investment Fund. When it goes online in 2021-22, the new Tsinghua fab, located in Chengdu, will augment YMTC's capacity by an additional 100,000 12-inch wafers per month. Its existing fab in Nanjing will also receive a capacity expansion.

SK Hynix Reports Second Quarter 2019 Results

SK hynix Inc. today announced financial results for its second quarter 2019 ended on June 30, 2019. The consolidated second quarter revenue was 6.45 trillion won while the operating profit amounted to 638 billion won and the net income 537 billion won. Operating margin for the quarter was 10% and net margin was 8%.

As demand recovery did not meet expectations and price declines were steeper than expected, the revenue and the operating profit in the second quarter fell by 5% and 53%, respectively, quarter-over-quarter (QoQ). DRAM bit shipments increased by 13% QoQ as the Company actively responded to the mobile and PC DRAM markets, where demand growth was relatively high. However, DRAM prices remained weak and the average selling price dropped by 24%. For NAND Flash, the bit shipments increased by 40% QoQ because of demand recovery due to price declines, while the average selling price decreased by 25%.

Toshiba and Western Digital Readying 128-layer 3D NAND Flash

Toshiba and its strategic ally Western Digital are readying a high-density 128-layer 3D NAND flash memory. In Toshiba's nomenclature, the chip will be named BiCS-5. Interestingly, despite the spatial density, the chip will implement TLC (3 bits per cell), and not the newer QLC (4 bits per cell). This is probably because NAND flash makers are still spooked about the low yields of QLC chips. Regardless, the chip has a data density of 512 Gb. With 33% more capacity than 96-layer chips, the new 128-layer chips could hit commercial production in 2020-21.

The BiCS-5 chip reportedly features a 4-plane design. Its die is divided into four sections, or planes, which can each be independently accessed; as opposed to BiCS-4 chips that use a 2-plane layout. This reportedly doubles the write performance per unit-channel to 132 MB/s from 66 MB/s. The die also reportedly uses CuA (circuitry under array), a design innovation in which logic circuitry is located in the bottom-most "layer," with data layers stacked above, resulting in 15 percent die-size savings. Aaron Rakers, a high-technology industry market analyst with Wells Fargo, estimates that Toshiba-WD's yields per 300 mm wafer could be as high as 85 percent.
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