NAND the beat goes on: Samsung to fling out 96-layer 3D NAND chip

QLC will take SSD capacity to another level

Samsung_96_layer_V_NAND_chip
Samsung's 96-layer V-NAND chip

Samsung has added another regiment to its fast disk destruction army, announcing 90+ layer 3D-NAND chip manufacturing, with 1Tbit and QLC (4-level cell) chips coming.

The Korean chip manufacturer said its production process has better atomic layer deposition and manufacturing productivity is 30 per cent better than that of the 64-layer chip. It has been able to reduce the height of each cell layer by 20 per cent and prevent cross-talk between cells.

Samsung has not revealed the actual number of layers in the new chip, only saying there are more than 90 – it’s probably at or near 96 layers.

The V-NAND chip is a 256Gbit single stack device whereas Western Digital and Toshiba's sampling 96-layer chips are made from two 48-layer components stacked one above the other (string-stacking). Micron is also developing 96-layer chip technology.

According to Wells Fargo analyst Aaron Rakers, WD/Toshiba expects a 96-layer chip production ramp this quarter, with Micron saying its 96-layer chips will be shipping by the end of the year. Toshiba's prototype 256Gbit, TLC, 96-layer chip was announced in June 2017.

Samsung's chip uses 3D charge trap flash (CTF) cells, built in a pyramid or stair step-edged structure, with vertical channel holes (vias) a few hundred nanometres wide drilled through the layers. The Korean company said it contains more than 85 billion TLC (3 bits/cell) flash cells.

Performance

The operating voltage is 1.2 volts, less than the 1.8 volts used in Samsung's 64-layer V-NAND chip, meaning its energy efficiency is about the same. Its write speed is about 30 per cent faster, at 500μs. The firm claims the read signal response time is 50μs.

The chip also has a Toggle DDR 4.0 interface and can transfer data 40 per cent faster than the 64-layer product, at 1.4Gbit/s.

Samsung Electronics exec veep for Flash Product and Technology, Kye Hyun Kyung, said in a canned quote: “In addition to the leading-edge advances we are announcing today, we are preparing to introduce 1-terabit (Tb) and QLC (quad-level cell) offerings to our V-NAND lineup.”

Micron started shipping a QLC 5210 ION SSD in May, using 64-layer 3D Technology. Western Digital and Toshiba announced QLC chip prototypes in July and June respectively last year.

Destination markets for the chip include supercomputing, enterprise servers and premium smartphones. El Reg expects 10,000rpm disk drive and fast access nearline disk storage array sales to be scaled back by SSD using 96-layer and QLC 3D NAND chips. ®

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