I was at the Flash Memory Summit a couple of weeks ago and a presenter (from Hynix, I think) got up and talked about how 3D NAND was going to be the way forward for all NAND technology. I always thought we were talking about a handful of layers. But on the slide he had what looked to be a skyscraper block with 20-40 layers of NAND.
Currently shipping 3D NAND
It seems all the major NAND fabs are shipping 30+ layer 3D NAND. Samsung last year said they were shipping 32-layer 3D (V-)NAND, Toshiba announced earlier this year that they had 48-layer 3D NAND. Hynix is shipping 36-layer 3D NAND. Micron-Intel is also shipping 32-layer 3D NAND. Am I missing anyone?
Samsung also said that they will be shipping a 32GB, 48-layer V-NAND chip later this year. Apparently, Samsung is also working on 64-layer V-NAND in their labs and are getting good results. In an article on Samsung’s website they mentioned the possibility of 100 layers of NAND in a 3D stack.
Earlier this year on a GreyBeards on Storage Podcast we talked with Jim Handy, Director at Objective Analysis on what was going on in NAND fabrication. Talking with Jim was fascinating but one thing he said was that with 3D NAND, building a hole with the right depth, width and straight enough was a key challenge. At the time I was thinking a couple of layers deep. Boy was I wrong.
How high/deep can 3D NAND go?
On the podcast, Jim said he thought that 3D NAND would run out of gas around 2023. Given current press releases, it seems NAND fabs are adding ~16 layers a year to their 3D-NAND.
So if 32 to 48 layers is todays 3D-NAND and we can keep adding 16 layers/year through 2023 that’s 8 years *16 layers or an additional 128 layers to the 32 to 48 layers currently shipping. With that rate we should get to 160 to 176 layer 3D NAND chips. And if 48 layers is 32GB then we maybe we could see ~+100GB 3D NAND chips.
This of course means that there is no loss in capacity as we increase layers. Also that the industry can continue to add 16 layers/year to 3D-NAND chips.
I suppose there’s one other proviso, that nothing else comes along that is less expensive to fabricate while still providing ever increasing capacity of lightening fast, non-volatile storage (see a recent post on 3D XPoint NVM technology).