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Industry R&D Spending To Rise 4% After Hitting Record in 2020: IC Insights

Research and development spending by semiconductor companies worldwide is forecast to grow 4% in 2021 to $71.4 billion after rising 5% in 2020 to a record high of $68.4 billion, according to IC Insights' new 2021 edition of The McClean Report—A Complete Analysis and Forecast of the Integrated Circuit Industry. Total R&D spending by semiconductor companies is expected to rise by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% between 2021 and 2025 to $89.3 billion.

When the world was hit by the Covid-19 virus health crisis in 2020, wary semiconductor suppliers kept a lid on R&D spending increases, even though total semiconductor industry revenue grew by a surprising 8% in the year despite the economic fallout from the deadly pandemic. Semiconductor R&D expenditures as a percentage of worldwide industry sales slipped to 14.2% in 2020 compared to 14.6% in 2019, when research and development spending declined 1% and total semiconductor revenue fell 12%. Figure 1 plots semiconductor R&D spending levels and the spending-to-sales ratios over the past two decades and IC Insights' forecast through 2025.

Oversupply to Continue Affecting NAND Flash Prices, with 10-15% QoQ Decline Expected in 1Q21, Says TrendForce

The percentage distribution of 2021 NAND Flash bit demand by application currently shows that client SSD accounts for 31%, enterprise SSD 20%, eMMC/UFS 41%, and NAND wafer 8%, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. TrendForce expects NAND Flash ASP to undergo QoQ declines throughout 2021, since the number of NAND suppliers far exceeds DRAM suppliers, and the bit supply remains high. As Samsung, YMTC, SK Hynix, and Intel actively expand their NAND Flash bit output in 1Q21, the oversupply situation in the industry will become more severe, with a forecasted 6% QoQ increase in NAND Flash bit output and a 10-15% QoQ decline in NAND Flash ASP in 1Q21.

DRAM ASP to Recover from Decline in 1Q21, with Potential for Slight Growth, Says TrendForce

The DRAM market exhibits a healthier and more balanced supply/demand relationship compared with the NAND Flash market because of its oligopolistic structure, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. The percentage distribution of DRAM supply bits by application currently shows that PC DRAM accounts for 13%, server DRAM 34%, mobile DRAM 40%, graphics DRAM 5%, and consumer DRAM (or specialty DRAM) 8%. Looking ahead to 1Q21, the DRAM market by then will have gone through an inventory adjustment period of slightly more than two quarters. Memory buyers will also be more willing to stock up because they want to reduce the risk of future price hikes. Therefore, DRAM prices on the whole will be constrained from falling further. The overall ASP of DRAM products is now forecasted to stay generally flat or slightly up for 1Q21.

SK hynix Unveils the Industry's Most Multilayered 176-Layer 4D NAND Flash

SK hynix Inc. announced the completion of developing the industry's most multilayered 176-layer 512 Gigabit (Gb) Triple-Level Cell (TLC) 4D NAND flash. The Company provided the samples to controller companies last month to make a solution product.

SK hynix has been promoting 4D technology from the 96-layer NAND flash products that combine Charge Trap Flash (CTF) with high-integrated Peri. Under Cell (PUC) technology. The new 176-layer NAND flash is the third generation 4D product that secures the industry's best number of chips per wafer. This allows the bit productivity to be improved by 35% compared to the previous generation with the differentiated cost competitiveness. The read speed of cell increased by 20% over the previous generation adopting 2-division cell array selection technology. The data transfer speed also has been improved by 33% to 1.6 Gbps adopting speed-up technology without increasing the number of processes.

NAND Flash Revenue for 3Q20 up by Only 0.3% QoQ Owing to Weak Server Sales, Says TrendForce

Total NAND Flash revenue reached US$14.5 billion in 3Q20, a 0.3% increase QoQ, while total NAND Flash bit shipment rose by 9% QoQ, but the ASP fell by 9% QoQ, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. The market situation in 3Q20 can be attributed to the rising demand from the consumer electronics end as well as the recovering smartphone demand before the year-end peak sales season. Notably, in the PC market, the rise of distance education contributed to the growing number and scale of Chromebook tenders, but the increase in the demand for Chromebook devices has not led to a significant increase in NAND Flash consumption because storage capacity is rather limited for this kind of notebook computer. Moreover, clients in the server and data center segments had aggressively stocked up on components and server barebones during 2Q20 due to worries about the impact of the pandemic on the supply chain. Hence, their inventories reached a fairly high level by 3Q20. Clients are now under pressure to control and reduce their inventories during this second half of the year. With them scaling back procurement, the overall NAND Flash demand has also weakened, leading to a downward turn in the contract prices of most NAND Flash products.

SK hynix Inc. Reports Third Quarter 2020 Results

SK hynix Inc. today announced financial results for its third quarter 2020 ended on September 30, 2020. The consolidated revenue of third quarter 2020 was 8.129 trillion won while the operating profit amounted to 1.3 trillion won, and the net income 1.078 trillion won. Operating margin for the quarter was 16% and net margin was 13%.

Despite the Company saw the recovery of mobile DRAM demand in the quarter, both the revenue and operating profit decreased by 6% and 33% quarter-over-quarter (QoQ) respectively, as the server DRAM and SSD demands weakened, and the overall semiconductor memory price flow turned downwards in the quarter. For DRAM, SK hynix proactively responded to rising demands of mobile and graphics DRAM, and the expansion of consumer electronics DRAM demand as well. As a result, in spite of decreased server DRAM demand, the Company's DRAM bit shipment in the quarter still increased by 4% QoQ. However, due to the unfavorable price of server DRAM and other certain DRAM products, the average selling price decreased by 7% QoQ.

SK hynix Launches World's First DDR5 DRAM

SK hynix Inc. announced to launch world's first DDR5 DRAM. It is a high-speed and high-density product optimized for Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) as a next generation standard of DRAM. Since SK hynix announced the development of World's First 16 Gigabit (Gb) DDR5 DRAM on November 2018, the Company has provided its major partners including Intel with sample products, and has completed various tests and verification of its functions and compatibility. This will allow SK hynix to provide its customers with the products once the DDR5 market becomes active.

In the meantime, SK hynix has conducted joint-operation of on-site lab, system-level test, and simulation with System-on-Chip) (SoC) manufacturers to verify the functions of DDR5. Also, the Company validated compatibility of its DDR5 and the major components on DRAM module including register clock driver) (RCD), which affect DRAM performance, and power management integrated circuit) (PMIC). Through these verifications, SK hynix has been collaborating closely with its global partners.

SK hynix Invests in AI Specialized Company Gauss Labs Inc. to Lead SK's Future Value Creation

SK hynix Inc.announced that Gauss Labs Inc. was founded to lead manufacturing innovation through industrial AI solutions. Gauss Labs will start its Korean office later this month right after having established its headquarters in Silicon Valley, U.S. last month. SK hynix is the sole investor of its initial capital of $55 million through 2022.

SK Group has been promoting various types of AI businesses with its affiliates. "We should utilize innovative technologies such as AI and digital transformation (DT) to create social value, expand our market, and help our customers pursue happiness," said Mr. Tae-won Chey, the Chairman of SK Group at SK Icheon Forum in August last year. "If we fail to utilize innovative technologies, we cannot guarantee the future of SK." Gauss Labs is the first independent corporation from SK Group specializing in AI.

Gauss Labs initially aims to revolutionize semiconductor manufacturing through innovative AI technologies by utilizing an enormous amount of data generated at SK hynix's manufacturing sites. Through these technologies, SK hynix plans to make its overall manufacturing operations, including process control, yield prediction, equipment maintenance, defect inspection and fault prevention, more efficient and more intelligent.

Samsung and SK Hynix to Impose Sanctions Against Huawei

Ever since the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Huawei to stop it from purchasing parts from third-party vendors to bypass the ban announced back in May, some vendors continued to supply the company. So it seems like some Korean manufacturers will be joining the doings of the US government, and apply restrictions to Huawei. According to the reports of South Korean media outlets, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix will be joining the efforts of the US government and the Trump administration to impose sanctions against Chinese technology giant - Huawei.

It is reported that on September 15th, both Samsung and SK Hynix will stop any shipments to Huawei, where Samsung already stopped efforts for creating any new shipments. SK Hynix is said to continue shipping DRAM and NAND Flash products until September 14th, a day before the new sanctions are applied. Until the 14th, Huawei will receive some additional chips from SK Hynix. And it is exactly SK Hynix who is said to be a big loser here. It is estimated that 41.2% of SK Hynix's H1 2020 revenue came from China, most of which was memory purchased for Huawei phones and tablets. If the company loses Huawei as a customer, it would mean that the revenue numbers will be notably lower.

NAND Flash Revenue Rises 6.5% QoQ in 2Q20 Due to Pandemic-Induced Demand Growth for Cloud Services, Says TrendForce

The NAND Flash industry benefitted from strong demand for PCs and servers in 2Q20 as the COVID-19 pandemic caused a demand surge for cloud services and technologies that are related to working from home, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. This, in turn, kept demand high for SSDs. However, the smartphone and consumer electronics markets had not recovered from the impact of the pandemic. The demand for these products therefore declined compared to the previous quarter. In 2Q20, total NAND Flash bit shipment and ASP both experienced a minor increase of about 3% QoQ, while NAND Flash revenue reached US$14.5 billion, a 6.5% increase QoQ.

DRAM Revenue Rises by 15.4% in 2Q20, with Possible Decline in Prices Expected for 3Q20, Says TrendForce

The last cyclical upturn in DRAM contract prices began at the start of 2020 and was led by server DRAM, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. In 2Q20, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic shocked the global economy, but OEMs maintained or even stepped up procurement of components because they feared disruptions in the supply chain. As a result, DRAM suppliers' bit shipments surpassed expectations for the quarter, in turn widening the overall increase in DRAM ASP and raising the global DRAM revenue by 15.4% QoQ in 2Q20 to US$17.1 billion.

Nevertheless, TrendForce indicates that server OEMs are now carrying a rather high level of DRAM inventory after aggressively stocking up for two consecutive quarters. At the same time, customers of enterprise servers are holding back on procurement because the economic outlook is getting bleaker and more uncertain. Since server DRAM has the unique role of leading cyclical changes, this category is going to be first to experience price drop in the next downturn and thereby pull prices down for other types of DRAM products. As such, TrendForce forecasts at best a flattening of product shipments and decrease in DRAM prices in 3Q20, with DRAM suppliers suffering a decline in profitability.

DigiTimes Research: Korean Memory Makers See Output Value Surge in Q2

According to the latest DigiTimes Research report, it is said that Korean memory makers have experienced a surge in chip output value. Korean memory manufacturers are Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, which both have seen a massive growth of 22.1% on a yearly basis and 13.9% sequentially in the second quarter of 2020. This is no small feat as the demand for memory in the smartphone industry has been slowed in that period due to the COVID pandemic, however, it was offset by strong demand from servers and notebooks. When the output of Korean memory giants is fused, Samsung and SK Hynix had combined revenue of KRW22.9 trillion or about 20.8 billion USD. The demand for memory is expected to continue its growth due to the 5G headset market.

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.

SiFive Secures $61 Million in Series E Funding Led by SK Hynix

SiFive, Inc., the leading provider of commercial RISC-V processor IP and silicon solutions, today announced it raised $61 million in a Series E round led by SK hynix, joined by new investor Prosperity7 Ventures, with additional funding from existing investors, Sutter Hill Ventures, Western Digital Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, Intel Capital, Osage University Partners, and Spark Capital.

"Global demand for storage and memory in the data center is increasing as AI-powered business intelligence and data processing growth continues", said Youjong Kang, VP of Growth Strategy, SK hynix. "SiFive is well-positioned to grow with opportunities created from data center, enterprise, storage and networking requirements for workload-focused processor IP."

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.

SK hynix Starts Mass-Production of HBM2E High-Speed DRAM

SK hynix announced that it has started the full-scale mass-production of high-speed DRAM, 'HBM2E', only ten months after the Company announced the development of the new product in August last year. SK hynix's HBM2E supports over 460 GB (Gigabyte) per second with 1,024 I/Os (Inputs/Outputs) based on the 3.6 Gbps (gigabits-per-second) speed performance per pin. It is the fastest DRAM solution in the industry, being able to transmit 124 FHD (full-HD) movies (3.7 GB each) per second. The density is 16 GB by vertically stacking eight 16 Gb chips through TSV (Through Silicon Via) technology, and it is more than doubled from the previous generation (HBM2).

HBM2E boasts high-speed, high-capacity, and low-power characteristics; it is an optimal memory solution for the next-generation AI (Artificial Intelligence) systems including Deep Learning Accelerator and High-Performance Computing, which all require high-level computing performance. Furthermore, it is expected to be applied to the Exascale supercomputer - a high-performance computing system which can perform calculations a quintillion times per second - that will lead the research of next-generation basic and applied science, such as climate changes, bio-medics, and space exploration.

NAND Flash Revenue Undergoes 8.3% QoQ Growth in 1Q20 in Light of Surging Demand from Data Centers, Says TrendForce

According to the latest investigations by the DRAMeXchange research division of TrendForce, NAND Flash bit shipment in 1Q20 was relatively on par with 4Q19. The overall ASP of NAND Flash products also climbed during the period. As a result, the global NAND Flash revenue for the quarter went up by 8.3% QoQ to US$13.6 billion.

In 1Q20, demand for enterprise SSDs exceeded supply because cloud service providers' procurement for data centers had been growing progressively since 4Q19. Also, inventories of NAND Flash suppliers mostly returned to normal during the period. Consequently, most NAND Flash products for the major applications experienced a rise in contract prices. As for the impact of COVID-19 during the Lunar New Year, TrendForce's investigations at the time found that the server supply chain managed to make a better recovery than the supply chains for notebook computers and smartphones. The impact of the outbreak on the storage demand from the cloud services sector was thus quite limited. On the other hand, the production of notebooks and smartphones was affected by logistical problems and breakage in the component supply chain. Because of this, notebook and smartphone manufacturers have gradually resumed production since March.

Intel Ready with 144-layer 3D NAND On its Own, Talks 4-layer 3DXP, "Alder Stream" and "Keystone Harbor"

Intel's memory and storage products division now has a completely independent NAND flash technology development team post its split with Micron Technology, with which it was part of the IMFlash Technologies joint-venture. Intel is close to gaining a technological lead over Micron with a new 144-layer 3D NAND flash chip which will ship roughly around the time Micron begins pushing out its 128-layer 3D NAND chips. SK Hynix will begin shipping its 128-layer 3D NAND flash chips later this year. KIOXIA will put out 112-layer chips before the turn of the year. YMTC is developing its portfolio at a breakneck pace.

The 144-layer 3D NAND flash chip by Intel can handle up to four bits per cell (QLC), and can be configured to function as TLC or SLC, at lower densities. Intel will launch its first SSD based on this 144-layer QLC NAND flash chip, codenamed "Keystone Harbor," later this year. Development is underway at Intel for PLC (5 bits per cell) technology, which should drive up densities by 25 percent. Intel is also close to launching its second generation 3D X-point memory technology.

AMD to Support DDR5, LPDDR5, and PCI-Express gen 5.0 by 2022, Intel First to Market with DDR5

AMD is expected to support the next-generation DDR5 memory standard by 2022, according to a MyDrivers report citing industry sources. We are close to a change in memory standards, with the 5-year old DDR4 memory standard beginning a gradual phase out over the next 3 years. Leading DRAM manufacturers such as SK Hynix have already hinted mass-production of the next-generation DDR5 memory to commence within 2020. Much like with DDR4, Intel could be the first to market with processors that support it, likely with its "Sapphire Rapids" Xeon processors. AMD, on the other hand, could debut support for the standard only with its "Zen 4" microarchitecture slated for 2021 technology announcements, with 2022 availability.

AMD "Zen 4" will see a transition to a new silicon fabrication process, likely TSMC 5 nm-class. It will be an inflection point for the company from an I/O standpoint, as it sees the introduction of DDR5 memory support across enterprise and desktop platforms, LPDDR5 on the mobile platform, and PCI-Express gen 5.0 across the board. Besides a generational bandwidth doubling, PCIe gen 5.0 is expected to introduce several industry-standard features that help with hyper-scalability in the enterprise segment, benefiting compute clusters with multiple scalar processors, such as AMD's CDNA2. Intel introduced many of these features with its proprietary CXL interconnect. AMD's upcoming "Zen 3" microarchitecture, scheduled for within 2020 with market presence in 2021, is expected to stick with DDR4, LPDDR4x, and PCI-Express gen 4.0 standards. DDR5 will enable data-rates ranging between 3200 to 8400 MHz, densities such as single-rank 32 GB UDIMMs, and a few new physical-layer features such as same-bank refresh.

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 Unveils DDR5 Memory Details, Production to Start This Year

SK Hynix has today posted an update on their blog about the upcoming DDR5 memory, which they have developed in co-respondence with JEDEC's progression of the standard. They have noted a few key things, among which some of the most interesting are features like the maximum speed of 8400 Mbps. The DDR5 standard is very flexible, allowing manufacturers to release their chips with frequencies ranging anywhere from 3200-8400 Mbps. While the lowest speed is 3200 Mbps, manufacturers are starting with 4800 Mbps chips and building their way up from there. The minimum density of a single DDR5 die is 8 Gb, while the maximum is 64 Gb, quadrupling the maximum capacity of DDR4 dies.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes besides capacity and speed improvements is the addition of Error-Correcting Code (ECC) support for memory. This feature is now not exclusive to special dies, like with DDR4, but rather is built inside every die. The DDR5 memory chips use 32 banks, split into 8 bank groups, which is designed to provide as much bandwidth as possible. Burst Length is doubled to 16, compared to 8 of DDR4, so memory access availability is better. Operating Voltage is decreased to 1.1 V, from the previous 1.2 V of DDR4, resulting in an overall decrease of 20% of power consumption. The mass production of SK-Hynix's DDR5 chips will start this year, however, exact timing is unknown.
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Driven by Strong Demand from Data Center Clients, 4Q19 NAND Flash Revenue Grows 8.5%, Says TrendForce

According to the DRAMeXchange research division of TrendForce, 4Q19 NAND flash bit shipment increased by nearly 10% QoQ thanks to demand growth from data center clients. On the supply side, contract prices made a successful rebound due to shortages caused by the power outage at Kioxia's Yokkaichi production base in June. In sum, 4Q19 NAND flash revenue reached $12.5 billion, an 8.5% increase QoQ.

The stronger-than-expected 4Q19 performance from the demand side helped improve supplier inventory back to normal levels. In response, NAND suppliers were able to reduce their allocations to the wafer market and instead focus on shipping products with comparatively higher margins.

SK Hynix Licenses DBI Ultra 3D Interconnect Technology

Xperi Corporation today announced that it entered into a new patent and technology license agreement with SK hynix, one of the world's largest semiconductor manufacturers. The agreement includes access to Xperi's broad portfolio of semiconductor intellectual property (IP) and a technology transfer of Invensas DBI Ultra 3D interconnect technology focused on next-generation memory.

"We are delighted to announce the extension of our long-standing relationship with SK hynix, a world-renowned technology leader and manufacturer of memory solutions," said Craig Mitchell, President of Invensas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Xperi Corporation. "As the industry increasingly looks beyond conventional node scaling and turns toward hybrid bonding, Invensas stands as a pioneering leader that continues to deliver improved performance, power, and functionality, while also reducing the cost of semiconductors. We are proud to partner with SK hynix to further develop and commercialize our DBI Ultra technology and look forward to a wide range of memory solutions that leverage the benefits of this revolutionary technology platform."

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.
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