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Is 3D NAND the future of flash?

Given the anticipated effectiveness and efficiency of 3D NAND technology, IT managers are watching closely as developers work out some of the remaining kinks.

Jeff Rowe | May 21, 2018 12:00 am

If there’s a truism about IT that you could take to the bank, it’s that no matter how data is generated, shared, and processed, it also has to be stored.

And for that reason, says Mark Puttockis, an executive with Entegris, a chemical services firm, everyone has an interest in new storage.  

In this case, Puttockis is talking about the recent rise of 3D NAND-based flash memory, and his commentary provides a good overview of the how the latest development works.

As the name suggests, he begins, “3D NAND consists of tiers of memory capacity stacked on top of each other. This new architecture delivers significantly more storage capacity at a lower cost per gigabyte, making the transition to 3D NAND a no brainer.”

The problem, however, is that currently, “manufacturing 3D NAND at scale is a challenge given all the new processes steps required to stack and connect each tier. Even so, the industry is making great strides and many analysts believe 2018 is the year 3D NAND goes mainstream.”

The reason?  Rising demand for new storage combined with a potential shortage of 2D NAND supply. 

The good news resulting from that combination, Puttockis says, is that the technical challenges are being overcome. “In 2D the challenge was to shrink laterally, whereas in 3D the challenges are driven mainly by the processes of etching and deposition at extreme aspect ratios (ratio of a hole diameter with its depth). As with other new technologies, a focus on process efficiency, materials innovations, and contamination controls will be crucial to achieving High Volume Manufacturing (HVM) that meets performance, yield, and cost requirements.”

Puttockis discusses in some depth the remaining challenges for 3D NAND to achieve “maturity,” which forward-looking IT managers would probably do well to understand.

The bottom line in the meantime is that increased capacity at lower cost suggests the real arrival of 3D NAND is likely just around the corner.