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.
Until now, Toshiba and SanDisk were the process technology leaders in the market. Trhough their joint manufacturing venture, the companies are ramping up a 24-nm NAND line. Hynix Semiconductor and Samsung Electronics are also separately ramping up 2x-nm-class devices.
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.
Generally, flash memory has a limited number of program-erase (P/E) cycles. Older NAND products are said to withstand around 100,000 P/E cycles.
To drive down costs, many OEMs have migrated to 50-nm-class devices, based on multi-level-cell (MLC) technology. These types of devices, equipped with 4-bit error correction, have 10,000 endurance cycles.
Now, OEMs are looking at 30-nm-class NAND and below, based on MLC. These types of devices, equipped with 8-bit error correction, have only 5,000 endurance cycles.
Intel and Micron said that the 20-nm device will enable 5,000 endurance cycles, which could still be suitable for USB drives, SSDs and most other applications. Actually the 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.