IMFT's 64Gb 25nm NAND flash memory chip
New SSDs could be on your holiday wishlist

Intel Corporation has confirmed that its Intel-Micron Flash Technologies (IMFT) co-venture has begun mass production of their breakthrough 25nm NAND flash memory. Intel has already started shipping the new chips in volume to its customers.
IMFT first showed off its 25nm chip samples to 
DailyTech and a select few in January, and an official announcement was made in February

Intel and Micron are both expected to use NAND flash chips from the 25nm node in a new generation of solid state drives. Intel is also working on a new NAND flash controller that will support ONFI 2.2 and new capacities, with 300GB and 600GB models expected. Support for 6Gbps SATA is also likely, but has not yet been confirmed. Indilinx's next-generation Jet Stream controller is also supposed to support the new chips.

IMFT's 64Gb (8GB) NAND chip measures just 167mm2 and can hold up to 2,000 songs, 7,000 photos or 8 hours of video. Demand for NAND flash memory is expected to grow significantly in the next few years thanks to devices like the iPad and smartphones, which rely on NAND storage. SSDs, USB flash drives, and higher capacity SDXC memory cards for camcorders and cameras will also cause increased demand.

The smaller size allows IMFT to essentially double the capacity of its flash chips at a minimal cost. Intel cut its SSD prices by 60% when it introduced 34nm production in July of last year.

The whole NAND flash industry is set to evolve this year. Hynix is preparing for mass production of 26nm NAND in July, while Toshiba and SanDisk are planning 24nm production of 3-bit-per-cell MLC flash. Mass production will begin at the end of the year at Fab 4, their latest 300mm wafer fabrication facility at Toshiba's Yokkaichi Operations in Mie Prefecture, Japan.

Samsung has been talking a lot about its "20nm-class" NAND, but the reality is that they will trail the rest of the competition at the 27nm node. The worldwide NAND market leader is shipping low volumes of those chips for slower-speed commodity SD cards.

Micron addressed the issue in a statement earlier this year; ''While there may be differences in terms of the process technology itself, they are fundamentally all '20nm-class' NAND flash technologies. Therefore the key differentiator is when volume production commences".

''Another good measure of the effectiveness of the new technology is density and package size. For example, Micron's 25-nm 64-Gb (8GB) MLC NAND fits in an industry standard 12-mm by 20-mm TSOP. Finally it's important to look at whether the new technology can be sold to customers in raw NAND form, or whether it needs to be shipped behind a controller, e.g. in a flash card or a USB drive. Micron's 25nm technology has been qualified in raw NAND form by numerous customers serving a wide variety of applications.''

Samsung's previous generation of NAND chips was slower than expected, leading to complaintsfrom SSD manufacturers. The issue was resolved through extensive firmware modifications to third-party SSD controllers.

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