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SanDisk, Toshiba inch closer to 3D NAND with 15nm

Posted: 14 May 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:NAND  flash  SanDisk  Toshiba 

SanDisk, along with its foundry partner Toshiba, is getting a head start on 3D NAND with an announcement to implement 15nm process technologies to fabricate NAND flash.

SanDisk's 1Znm technology will be applied to both 2bit-per-cell and 3bit-per-cell NAND flash memory architectures with production ramp to begin in the second half of 2014. The 15nm technology scales chips along both axes, and will be used across a broad range of SanDisk offerings, from removable cards to enterprise SSDs.

Toshiba's new process replaces its 19nm process technology, and is aimed at providing a transitional step to 3D NAND, said Scott Nelson, senior VP of Toshiba America Electronic Components' memory business unit. Toshiba's 15nm process works in conjunction with improved peripheral circuitry technology to create chips that achieve the same write speed as chips formed with second generation 19nm process technology, but boost the data transfer rate to 533Mbit/s—1.3 times faster—by employing a high-speed interface.

Nelson said there is room to advance floating gates before moving to 3D NAND. "3D is a new technology and to really bring it to market means you have to have a cost-effective solution to the current floating-gate solution," he said. "We felt it would take another year or so to get to that point. That's why we chose to continue the floating-gate path."

Most suppliers are on the same vector, Nelson added. 3D NAND won't make sense until 2015 or 2016. Toshiba is now applying the 15nm process technology to 3bit-per-cell chips, and aims to start mass production in June 2014. The company will develop controllers for embedded NAND flash memory in parallel and introduce 3bit-per-cell products for smartphones and tablets, and it will subsequently extend it to notebook PCs by developing a controller compliant with SSDs.

The 19nm process technology won't immediately disappear, however. Nelson said the enterprise market segment, which is rapidly adopting SSDs, will require legacy support, so both processes will run in parallel for the foreseeable future. Generally, he said, new process geometries are being announced every 12 to 16 months. "Floating gate could continue to shrink; the question is do the characteristics of that further reduced geometry meet the requirements of the market," he said. "Floating gate is nearing the end of its ability to shrink effectively. The cost benefit gets less and less."


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