China really wants to get its hands on Idaho's 3D NAND tech

If you can't buy out firms that do it, license their IP

China is looking to license 3D NAND technology from Micron.

Beijing wants to free itself of dependence on US, Korean and Japanese memory technologies by building its own, indigenous capability.

A report in Chinese-language publication Commercial Times, referenced by DigiTimes, says Tsinghua Unigroup is allying with Wuhan Xinxin Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (XMC) to produce NAND flash chips, including 3D NAND. Tsinghua and XMC are trying to license 3D NAND technology from Micron.

Given Micron’s run of poor quarterly results this could provide a welcome revenue boost. Micron could also receive a proportion of the Tsinghua-XMC 3D NAND fab’s output, which might also be beneficial.

The report says XMC has a 12-inch wafer fab that can ship 20,000 wafers/month and has a new 200,000 wafers/month fab under construction, with production scheduled to start in 2018.

According to Electronics Weekly, Tsinghua Unigroup tried to make a memory technology arrangement with SK Hynix and also with Toshiba, neither of which have come to fruition.

It was thought to have made a bid to buy Micron for $23bn last year, which was rejected by the US government.

Tsingua Unigroup subsidiary Unisplendour retreated from a plan to invest $3.8bn in Western Digital (WDC) in February, again in response to US government pressure. The cash would have helped WDC buy SanDisk, which as a 3D NAND interest through its fab foundry partnership with Toshiba.

WDC and Toshiba now have a joint 3D NAND fab partnership.

Tsinghua Unigroup is 51 per cent owned by Tsinghua Holdings with the rest held by Beijing Jiankun Investment Group, an entity controlled by the chairman and CEO of Tsinghua Unigroup, Zhao Weiguo. Tsinghua Holdings is a Chinese state-owned company, via Tsinghua University.

Street Insider reported in February last year that Spansion had licensed 3D NAND intellectual property (IP) to XMC. Spansion and Cypress Semiconductor merged the following month. It suggested XMC would start constructing a 3D NAND fab this year with early 2017 production – surely, El Reg suggests, wildly optimistic.

The future of NAND is in 3D. Tsinghua, meaning the Chinese state, seems extraordinarily keen on getting its hands on 3D NAND IP. ®

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