Panasonic, UMC join to make advanced power-saving memory

Panasonic is partnering with Taiwanese chip foundry United Microelectronics Corp. to develop and mass-produce a power-miserly version of a next-generation type of nonvolatile memory known as resistive random access memory, or ReRAM.

The partners plan to use a 40-nanometer fabrication process to manufacture ReRAM chips that can run on as little as one-seventh the power of today’s NAND flash memory.

Power consumption is a limiting factor for battery-powered gadgets, so Panasonic believes its power-saving nonvolatile memory could play a leading role in the internet of things. It anticipates demand for its ReRAM in wearable gadgets such as smart watches, and for sensors and other elements in security systems, production equipment, and various small devices networked together.

The design of the ReRAM will be Panasonic’s job. The two companies will work together to develop the microfabrication technologies, and UMC will then handle production.

The plan is to ship samples in 2018 and begin mass production in 2019, offering the ReRAM embedded in microcontrollers. Panasonic will also promote the use of ReRAM to store personal information in smart cards for passports and various public services.

The goal is to quickly achieve yearly sales of 5 billion yen ($44 million) by carving out niches in the markets now served by flash memory.

By licensing the technology so more companies manufacture the chips, Panasonic aims to develop its ReRAM into a standard for nonvolatile memory used in internet of things devices.

The Japanese company launched the industry’s first small-lot production of ReRAM back in 2013 using a 180-nanometer fabrication process, but those chips could not compete very well against flash memory in terms of either power consumption or memory capacity.

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