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Tuesday, 31 March 2015 09:57

3D Flash memory to enable 10TB SSD


The new buzzword in flash memory is 3D. It stacks layers of storage cells vertically to create up to three times the capacity of planar (2D) NAND.

Intel, Micron, Samsung and Toshiba are the only four companies that are currently able to produce this technology. If you are interested in flash memory, iTWire has an article that explains the basics.

3D is significant because it will enable a USB stick to have more than 3.5TB of storage. That also means tablets, smartphones and smart devices will soon have much higher capacities and very much the same price (Moore’s Law*).

Intel and Micron are working on a 32 level stack to achieve 256Gb MLC (multilevel 2-bit) and 384Gb TLC (triple level 3-bit) die that fit within a standard package. Part of the 3D technology is the ability cut power to inactive NAND dropping power consumption in standby mode.

Not to be outdone Toshiba has announced it will begin producing a 48 level 3D stacked cell flash memory called BiCS, a MLC 2-bit-per-cell 128b (16GB) device. Sandisk is partnering with Toshiba to use the second generation 3D NAND technology across a broad range of solutions, from removable products to enterprise SSDs.

Then there is Samsung that is using its 3D technology in smartphones as well as producing a portable, business card sized, SSD T1 – initially in 250, 500 and 1TB capacities and weighting only 30g. This USB 3.0 device will transfer data at up to 450MB/s and is 100 times faster than a portable hard disk. AES 256-bit encryption on the fly protects data and it is almost 100% shock resistant.


Who said storage is boring? Advances in flash NAND are making it possible to have smaller, cheaper, lighter, energy efficient smart devices with more capacity than ever before. While the four companies mentioned are entitled to charge premium prices for 3D NAND, traditional planar NAND prices are reaching rock bottom.

* Moore’s law - Four years ago NAND chips (bare, no controller) cost about $1 per Gigabyte (1024 GB to one 1TB). Today these chips cost less than 40 cents. This is reflected in finished SSD costs falling to under 60 cents per GB and USB sticks (using cheaper TLC NAND) as low as 20 cents per GB (Prices DRAMeXchange). Planar NANDs average selling price per unit continues to drop between 7 and 10% a quarter.

What this means is that smartphone providers will soon be pressured to up the entry-level RAM (to 32GB at least but 64GB more likely) and bring down the 128GB prices – making 256GB the premium end. It is very hard to continue to justify a $150 premium from 64GB to 128GB with a materials cost of under $30.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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