3 Reasons 2014 will be a Successful Year for NAND Flash Industry
2012 came with some very uplifting and positive market predictions and the introduction of important technological developments for 2013/2014.
NAND flash has become an increasingly important part of today’s technological society with USB flash drives, smartphones, digital cameras, tablet PCs and iPads becoming a more and more integrated part of society on which we rely on exponentially.
Most of these technologies and gadgets we use today further depend on NAND technologies for its memory storage. NAND flash technologies have made revenues of approximately $21B in 2012 alone, according to technology market analyst firm iSupply.
Join us while we take a closer look at some of the main new and upcoming developments that will have impact on the NAND flash memory industry during 2013 and 2014!
All in all, the NAND flash market is expected a growth of 8.7% between 2012 and 2016, primarily due to the adoption and expansion of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.
The current technological revolution continues to improve usability for end-users and adapts very fast to both the needs of the user society as well as those of device manufacturers and solution designers.
As density, performance and cost improvements drive the success of NAND technology, various technological advancements and break-through achievements are expected for the NAND flash industry during 2013/2014. Let's take a closer look at some of the more important advancements:
1. 2013 NAND Market Stabilizes
2013 was and still is forecast to be a successful year for NAND flash suppliers. December of 2012, due to seasonal influences, was not the most successful month for NAND flash device manufacturers such as Transcend Information and Phison Electronics.
According to Digitimes, Transcend’s December revenues slipped by about 30%. This decrease in revenue has been attributed to a slowdown in demand and a drop in prices for NAND flash chips.
Additionally, an imbalance of supply and demand of NAND flash contributed greatly to the drastic fall in prices for chip produces and upstream NAND flash manufacturers such as Toshiba.
In the earlier phases of 2013, however, these effects were on a rebound, confirming the predicted successful 1Q of 2013 with stabilizing NAND chip prices.
The output value for NAND flash memory is expected to increase by 15% throughout this year, mainly driven by the high demand for embedded MMC (eMMC) and solid-state drives (SSD). This rising demand is mainly due to increased output of smartphones, tablet computers and Ultrabooks.
Mark Durcan, Chief Executive Officer of Micron Technology Inc. stated in an interview with Bloomberg that he was “optimistic about the first half of next year” (2013). He also stated that the importance of customized products is increasing greatly, as device makers of tablets, smartphones and Ultrabooks are demanding more and more certain combination of semiconductors and memory chips. This rising demand for customization “create an opportunity for a more profitable business for those that are successful in the memory space”, Duncan further elaborated.
2. NAND Technology Transitioning 16nm Process
Another major leap for 2013 in NAND technology will be the transitioning to a newer 16nm processing.
After a recent introduction of the 19nm NAND memory, manufacturers are working on decreasing the size by yet another 3nm. With NAND usages and demands shifting more and more towards smaller sizes globally, 19/20nm processes are expected to be replaced with the 16nm processes during 2013/2014. This, however, could pose somewhat of a challenge to NAND flash memory manufacturers:
For one, the smaller sizes and higher densities of the news chips are more prone to errors.
Therefore, methods to correct these errors will also need to be improved in order to ensure reliable data saving. Some time will be dedicated to improving the process yields by NAND flash chipmakers, ultimately delaying the mass production which is a positive thing as it allows more time for product development and testing before the launch.
Additionally, it will help to balance the supply and demand relationship that caused the end of 2012 to lead to decreasing revenues.
3. Introduction of 3D NAND Technology
Yet another exciting market-advancement during 2013 was the introduction of 3D NAND transistors, which is somewhat similar to FinFET development for traditional transistors:
The idea is that as demand for smaller NAND technologies rise, it is very beneficial to stack cells on top of each other rather than lay them next to each other. This building on top of each other of cells creates U shaped bit lines. According to Toshiba, one of the companies pushing for 3D NAND processing, it is a much cheaper method than the traditional layout of cells.
Certain challenges will be faced during the building vertically structured NAND technologies:
Applied Materials, a company working on the development of etching systems to build 3D NANDs, says it is “like trying to dig a one-kilometer-deep, three-kilometer-long trench with walls exactly three meters apart, through interleaved rock strata - and that’s before we discuss gate trenches or the staircases” according to ExtremeTech. The company is now using a new system called Avatar to achieve this revolutionary 3D building method.
With Avatar, smooth and straight-fitted walls can be made that can transition between stack layers.
Another company working on creating efficient technology for 3D NAND creation is Macronix. Here, they are implementing a staircase formation method, resulting in 8 layers of cells and 64 cells per string. Researchers state that 3D technology is not only cheaper but will also be able to store up to 1Tb of memory if scaled even further.
3D NAND technology will revolutionize NAND storage by creating more storage for a cheaper price with a higher density of cells.
Additionally, and most importantly, it provides a way to cut the cost per Gigabyte of NAND technology. The market expects to see samples of this within 2014 and has high hopes for this technological development in NAND architecture.
NAND Flash as Symbol of Technological Progress in 2014
With positive predictions for the next few upcoming years, the NAND flash technology market is experiencing a year of growth and technological advancements, likely to create lasting effects in technological progress. With numbers expected to rise over the next few years and an expected growth of nearly 9% by 2016, the NAND industry is at its best, growing into a dominating market segment.
Depending on the advances within the industry to further perfect memory storage solutions, significant positive changes are expected to be seen soon in the world of every-day gadgets and may probably even take on revolutionary new paradigms of technical NAND flash potential.