South Korea hynix mass-produces world’s first 128-layer 4D NAND flash

SK hynix has begun mass-producing the world’s first 128-layer NAND chips, improving its technological capability in the flash memory sector.

Stacking up as many thin layers as possible is a top priority for NAND flash memory chip makers, because it increases storage capacity. SK hynix said its 128-layer, 1 terabit (Tb) NAND chip has the industry’s highest stacking density.

Given Samsung Electronics has been producing 90-plus layer NAND chips, SK hynix is one step ahead of its rivals in terms of micro-process technology.

Sales of the 128-layer chip, which will be used for high-performance and low-power mobile devices and enterprise solid state drives (SSDs), will start in the third quarter of this year.

The company expects the new product ― a triple-level cell (TLC) chip ― will boost its market share as these chips account for more than 85 percent of the NAND flash market.

SK hynix has a 9.5 percent market share, making it fifth among global chip makers as of the first quarter, according to industry tracker DRAMeXchange.

The chip maker said the 128-layer chip achieved the highest density because the company applied its own four-dimensional (4D) NAND technology.

“We incorporated peri under cell (PUC) technology into the charge trap flash (CTF) structure, which is commonly used to produce three-dimensional NAND chips,” a company official said. “The 4D NAND technology can be compared to hiding an outdoor parking lot of an apartment underground. By doing so, we can produce a NAND chip that has the industry’s highest density.”

The announcement came eight months after the company announced the mass production of 96-layer 4D NAND flash chips in November 2018.

Using the same 4D platform and optimizing its micro-process technology, SK hynix said it could reduce the total number of manufacturing processes by 5 percent compared to that of producing 96-layer products. The new product also increases bit productivity per wafer by 40 percent compared with the 96-layer chip, the company said.

To strengthen its micro-process technology, the company said it is developing the next-generation 176-layer 4D NAND flash chips.

“SK Hynix has secured the fundamental competitiveness of its NAND business with this 128-Layer 4D NAND,” said Oh Jong-hoon, executive vice president and head of global sales and marketing. “With this product, with the industry’s best stacking and density, we will provide customers with a variety of solutions at the right time.”

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