SanDisk and Toshiba shrink NAND flash to 19nm

SanDisk and Toshiba shrink NAND flash to 19nm

Flash memory specialist SanDisk and its manufacturing partner Toshiba have jointly announced the production of NAND flash chips based on a 19nm production process – a step ahead of the rest of the market.

While joint venture Intel-Micron Flash Technologies has only just announced the sampling of its first 20nm NAND flash chips, SanDisk and Toshiba have gone one better – literally – with the world’s first commercially viable 19nm production process for the solid-state storage components.

As with IMFT’s 20nm shrink, SanDisk and Toshiba are claiming that the process size shrink doesn’t bring with it a decrease in performance, reliability, or capacity – something which has caused a problem with some manufacturers’ move to 25nm.

“We are excited to introduce the world’s smallest and lowest-cost NAND flash chips based on industry-leading 19nm process technology in our ongoing collaboration with our manufacturing partner Toshiba,” crowed SanDisk’s Yoram Cedar at the launch – while claiming that the shrink in size will lead to ever-smaller form factors for smartphones and tablets.

The NAND flash market has enjoyed a massive boost from the growing popularity of tablets and high-end smartphones, which are often supplied with between 8GB and 64GB of solid-state storage. Decreasing prices are leading to an increased interest in the technology from desktop and server markets, too – while Apple’s MacBook Air line is only available with flash-based solid state storage, with no option for a traditional mechanical hard drive.

Interest in the technology is so great that Samsung has exited the mechanical drive market completely, selling its hard-drive arm to storage specialist Seagate for $1.375 billion in cash and stock in order to better concentrate on solid-state storage.

As process sizes shrink, higher capacities will become available at lowered cost – helping drive mass-market adoption of the technology outside the ultra-mobile niche. Sadly, while SanDisk has confirmed that a 64Gb chip based on the new 19nm production process will be ready for production in the second half of this year, it has yet to offer a suggestion of how much of a premium the chips will fetch while Toshiba works on refining the production process and increasing yields.

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