NAND flash memory demand was 46% up in 2013 thanks to the increasing popularity of smartphones, tablets and SSDs. Revenue of NAND sales were about $24.6 billion which should grow to $27 billion in 2014. The numbers come from a report released by DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce.
According to DRAMeXchange does 1x nm and 20 nm NAND account for 90% of the sold NAND. Smaller NAND however is more difficult to manufacturer which is the reason for NAND manufacturers to accelerate development of 3D-NAND Flash. Samsung was the first to make 3D NAND commercially available in August last year. The company started promotion f 3D NAND flash memory based server SSDs which shows how Samsung wants to speed up the 3D NAND transition.
The company has managed to shorten the time taken to integrate its controller and NAND Flash chips following the development of its “V-NAND” technology in the second half of 2013. This technology allows the company to create high density memory products that take full advantage of 3D NAND flash benefits. The company announced its 24-layer 128 Gb V-NAND chips and has begun delivering samples of SSDs equipped with this NAND to server vendors and data centers during the last months of 2013.
Also Toshiba and Sandisk are working on 3D NAND flash. Where Samsung calls their technology “V-NAND”, these two companies call their 3D NAND technology “BiCS”. Together they’ve been doing several production tests in 2013 but commercial availability of the chips will likely be no sooner than 2015. In an attempt to facilitate the mass production of its 3D NAND Flash products, the Fab 5 “second phase” construction initiated by Toshiba at its Yokkaichi plant will likely be completed during the third quarter of this year. The products’ standard production, meanwhile, is expected to start as early as 4Q14.
SK Hynix, Micron and Intel are expected to migrate to 16nm technology as they begin transitioning towards 3D NAND. The 16 nm NAND will likely become available in the second half of this year while mass production should be started at the end of the year.
While 2014 will likely become the year we’ll see the first 3D NAND products, it will only be a small part of the market. TrendForce estimates it will only be 3% of the market. By 2015 this should have grown to as much as 20%. It’s expected that NAND chip cost to lower rapidly and become cheaper per storage unit as 3D NAND technology matures.