Intel, Micron jointly release 20nm flash memory

Subject: Storage | April 14, 2011 - 08:30 AM |
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Just over a year ago, PC Perspective witnessed IMFT production of 25nm flash memory. Today Intel and Micron have announced that IMFT will be cranking out 20nm flash!
 
From left: 2x 34nm dies, 1x 25nm die, and 1x 20nm die.
All three represent the die space needed to store 8GB of data.
20nm flash die, coming in at a relatively tiny 118mm2 (compared to a 25nm die at 167mm2).
 
You may be asking yourself why shrink the die if you can't increase the capacity? It's all about yield. With the reduced width of this new die, IMFT can net a 50% gain in GB capacity per wafer. This translated to an even further reduction in flash memory costs, and will translate to even further reductions in the cost of SSD's, which is good news.
 
 

A whole lot of 25nm flash memory, as seen at IMFT early last year.

All prior flash memory die shrinks have come with a corresponding reduction in write cycles and therefore usable life. Normally these reductions are offset by the gain in ultimate capacity per die. While IMFT claims 'similar performance and endurance as the previous generation 25nm flash memory', it will be interesting to see how this die shrink plays out in terms of practical use and wear longevity of SSD's.

Intel, Micron Extend NAND Flash Technology Leadership, 
Introduce Industry’s Smallest, Most Advanced 20-Nanometer Process

New 20nm, 8-gigabyte Device Delivers Highest Capacity in Smallest Form Factor for
 Tablets, Smartphones, SSDs and Other Consumer and Compute Devices
 
 
NEWS HIGHLIGHTS
 Intel and Micron deliver industry’s smallest, most advanced NAND flash process technology at 20nm.
 IM Flash Technologies leads the industry with 20nm process and quick transitions of the entire fab network.
 Measuring just 118mm2, the 8GB MLC NAND device provides high capacity for smartphones, tablets, SSDs and more.
 
SANTA CLARA, Calif. and BOISE, Idaho, April 14, 2011 – Intel Corporation and Micron Technology Inc. today introduced a new, finer 20-nanometer (nm) process technology for manufacturing NAND flash memory. The new 20nm process produces an 8-gigabyte (GB) multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash device, providing a high-capacity, small form factor storage option for saving music, video, books and other data on smartphones, tablets and computing solutions such as solid-state drives (SSDs). 
 
 The growth in data storage combined with feature enhancements for tablets and smartphones is creating new demands for NAND flash technology, especially greater capacity in smaller designs. The new 20nm 8GB device measures just 118mm2 and enables a 30 to 40 percent reduction in board space (depending on package type) compared to the companies’ existing 25nm 8GB NAND device. A reduction in the flash storage layout provides greater system level efficiency as it enables tablet and smartphone manufacturers to use the extra space for end-product improvements such as a bigger battery, larger screen or adding another chip to handle new features. 
 
 Manufactured by IM Flash Technologies (IMFT), Intel and Micron’s NAND flash joint venture, the new 20nm 8GB device is a breakthrough in NAND process and technology design, further extending the companies’ lithography leadership. Shrinking NAND lithography to this technology node is the most cost-effective method for increasing fab output, as it provides approximately 50 percent more gigabyte capacity from these factories when compared to current technology. The new 20nm process maintains similar performance and endurance as the previous generation 25nm NAND technology. 

“Close customer collaboration is one of Micron’s core values and through these efforts we are constantly uncovering compelling end-product design opportunities for NAND flash storage,” said Glen Hawk, vice president of Micron’s NAND Solutions Group. “Our innovation and growth opportunities continue with the 20nm NAND process, enabling Micron to deliver cost-effective, value-added solid-state storage solutions for our customers.”
 
“Our goal is to enable instant, affordable access to the world’s information,” said Tom Rampone, vice president and general manager, Intel Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. “Industry-leading NAND gives Intel the ability to provide the highest quality and most cost-effective solutions to our customers, generation after generation. The Intel-Micron joint venture is a model for the manufacturing industry as we continue to lead the industry in process technology and make quick transitions of our entire fab network to smaller and smaller lithographies.”
 
The 20nm, 8GB device is sampling now and expected to enter mass production in the second half of 2011. At that time, Intel and Micron also expect to unveil samples of a 16GB device, creating up to 128GBs of capacity in a single solid-state storage solution that is smaller than a U.S. postage stamp. 
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