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.