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The road is long for China's 3D NAND flash mfg

Posted: 11 Apr 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:big fund  3D NAND  wafer foundry  NAND flash memory 

Right on the money

However, considering the explosive demand for memory devices expected in the booming big data era, Yunogami said that China is smart to pursue the memory business.

To justify its big appetite for memory, researcher Sanford C. Bernstein estimated that China in 2013 spent more money importing chips than it spent on oil.

More telling is a keynote speech Simon Yang, XMC's CEO, gave at last November's Summit on Memory and Data Storage Technologies in China.

XMC CEO

Figure 3: XMC'S CEO, Simon Yang

At that time, Yang concluded that developing memory will be an "inevitable battle" if we want to seek rapid breakthroughs in the integrated circuit industry and domestic supply.

Making comparisons to the CPU business—which requires "a quite complex ecosystem," Yang said, "It is equally difficult to seek technological breakthroughs in the area of memory, but the production capacity would go up quickly if the bottleneck is overcome and product quality is maintained."

Yang cited three reasons why XMC should invest in memory.

More than 55% of market demand comes from China. Domestic enterprises will gain a competitive edge if their quality is good enough. Second, memory development is guaranteed money and policy support from the government. Third, good projects might attract a lot of talent to China.

Other international memory suppliers responding to China's call for memory products include Samsung, whose 3D V-NAND flash memory chip production is already up and running in Xi-an; and Intel, who announced last October to convert its 300mm logic fab in Dalian for the production of 3D NAND.

Sino King to emerge

Also pursuing China's memory ambitions, and Big Fund money that comes with them, is Taiwan's Sino King Technology, headed up Yukio Sakamoto, the former CEO of Elpida Memory Inc.

Nikkei, Japan's economic newspaper,reported in late February Sino King's plan to be "a part of a roughly 800 billion yen (₹47,548 crore) project by the Chinese city of Hefei to build a plant" to develop a low-power DRAM for the Internet of Things.

Sakamoto

Figure 4: Former CEO of Elpida Memory Inc., Yukio Sakamoto

The official announcement was subsequently pulled, and no final deal is forthcoming from China.

Memory technology watchers here in Japan speculate that Sakamoto, tired of waiting for the official word, might have leaked the news to put pressure or China.

The Nikkei report said that Sino King is planning "mass production slated to start as early as the second half of 2017."

Making Yunogami skeptical of Sino King's plan is Sakamoto's boast to "hire experts in design and production technology, mainly from Japan, Taiwan and China, aiming to employ around 1,000 engineers."

Sino King was formed with 10 Japanese and Taiwanese engineers. Certainly, Sakamoto can attract additional Japanese engineers. "But collecting 1,000 engineers: experienced in memory technologies is virtually impossible," observed Yunogami.

But aren't there a lot of ex-Renesas engineers out there? "Not so much," Yunogami said. "Many of them have already gone from Renesas to Toshiba, working on 3D NAND flash."

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times


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