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SK Hynix offers new 72-layer 3D NAND die with 256 Gb capacity

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April 10, 2017

The South Korean flash memory maker SK Hynix has built a 72-layer 3D NAND die with a 256 Gb capacity that will be able to serve several markets.

That number of layers, for all intents and purposes, a much higher-rise flash chip than anybody else has built yet is quite impressive.

However, the 256 Gb capacity is not. Toshiba's 64-layer flash die has a 512 Gb capacity. Like the SK Hynix chip, it is a TLC (3 bits per cell) device.

Initially, it started sample shipping them 6 1/2 weeks ago and things are now moving forward rapidly.

Western Digital is Toshiba's foundry partner and it also started early production runs of a 512 Gb, 64-layer die in mid-February. That's twice as dense SK Hynix's die.

Additionally, Samsung also has a 512 Gb 64-layer flash chip as well. Rivals have a smaller cell size than SK Hynix, which makes their 3D NAND production a bit more challenging, to be honest.

Features that cross the various layers have to be that much more precise in manufacture. SK Hynix cannot catch up in capacity terms and produce a 512 Gb 3D NAND chip unless it doubles its layer count to 144 or halves its cell size on the 72-layer chip. That's a real challenge in and by itself.

To be sure, SK Hynix's existing multi-layer flash dies have 48 layers and have been in mass production since November 2016.

The manufacturing processes have been enhanced quite quickly to realize about a fifty percent (+ or -) layer count improvement on the 48-layer die in less than 6 months.

The company says its latest chip with four billion cells has an improved circuit design and its internal operation speed is twice as fast and its read/write performance is about 19.6 percent higher than the 48-Layer 3D NAND chip.

Hynix asserts that it is looking to sell the chips into the SSD, smartphone and other mobile device markets. Mass production is slated to start in the second half of 2017. We'll update you on this as we learn more.

Source: SK Hynix Co. Ltd.


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