Toshiba’s new tech to make flash memory cheaply

Toshiba will adopt technology that is seen significantly lowering production costs of NAND flash memory, one of the restructuring company’s core businesses.

The Tokyo-based conglomerate had been researching nanoimprint lithography (NIL) technology together with Dai Nippon Printing and Canon. Toshiba plans to allocate part of the 860 billion yen ($7.9 billion) it will spend over three years on the semiconductor business toward setting up flash memory production lines that utilize NIL.

Production will begin in fiscal 2017 at a location in Yokkaichi, a city in Mie Prefecture. Toshiba will then shift to mass production at a new building set to go into operation there in fiscal 2018.

Typically, expensive equipment such as special light sources and high-precision lenses are used to form circuits on silicon wafers. NIL presses a template on the silicon wafer like a stamp, and costs related to that production stage will likely plummet by roughly two-thirds. For the entire flash memory fabrication process, Toshiba apparently sees costs falling by approximately 10%.

Demand has been growing for NAND flash memory, which is used to store video and other data on smartphones. The market for data center memory equipment is also expected to continue expanding. Toshiba ranks second in global market share for NAND flash memory, behind South Korea’s Samsung Electronics.

Reeling from an accounting scandal, Toshiba has been busy restructuring itself and concentrating resources on its semiconductor and nuclear reactor equipment operations. The company has decided to offload its white goods operation and medical device subsidiary. While also slimming down its semiconductor business, Toshiba is lavishing funds and technical upgrades on the NAND flash memory segment.

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