Thursday, 29 June 2017 11:12

WD announces 96-layer 3D NAND, initial production output in 2018

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NAND isn’t the nickname of your grandmother, but the technology in the storage chips inside your smartphones, tablets and computers, with Western Digital announcing an industry first.

It was just on two weeks ago that Samsung announced its 4th-generation, 64-layer V-NAND technology was now in “full production”, and its own moves toward the terabit V-NAND era, with 90-layer technology.

Samsung said its move to full production delivers productivity and reliability gains, greater energy efficiency, and more storage for ever hungrier users demanding greater storage capacities at the same or better prices.

Now comes its competitor, Western Digital (WD), announcing it has “successfully developed its next-generation 3D NAND technology, BiCS4, with 96 layers of vertical storage capability.”

The announcement doesn’t mean full production as yet, however, with WD stating “sampling to OEM customers is expected to commence in the second half of calendar year 2017 and initial production output is expected in calendar year 2018".

WD notes its BiCS4 technology was developed jointly with manufacturing partner Toshiba Corporation, and “will be initially deployed in a 256-gigabit chip and will subsequently ship in a range of capacities, including a terabit on a single chip.”

Clearly, it is fantastic to see this solid competition between Samsung, WD, Toshiba and everyone else in this game, because traditional slow hard drives need to be eliminated from consumer products, and devices such as the new iPad Pro models with up to 512GB of storage (and larger in the future!) need to start becoming standard capacities for consumers and business users sooner rather than later.

Dr. Siva Sivaram, executive vice-president of Memory Technology at Western Digital, naturally had something to say about his company’s development, stating: “Our successful development of the industry’s first 96-layer 3D NAND technology demonstrates Western Digital’s continued leadership in NAND flash and solid execution to our technology roadmap.

“BiCS4 will be available in 3-bits-per-cell and 4-bits-per-cell architectures, and it contains technology and manufacturing innovations to provide the highest 3D NAND storage capacity, performance and reliability at an attractive cost for our customers.

“Western Digital’s 3D NAND portfolio is designed to address the full range of end markets spanning consumer, mobile, computing and data centre.”

WD also proudly boasted of its “strong ongoing operations at its joint venture manufacturing facilities in Japan".

In particular, the company “reiterated its expectation that in calendar year 2017, the output mix of its 64-layer 3D NAND technology, BiCS3, will comprise more than 75% of its overall 3D NAND bit supply".

WD says it “now believes that, along with its partner Toshiba Corporation, the combined 64-layer 3D NAND bit output of the joint ventures in calendar year 2017 will be higher than any other industry supplier in calendar year 2017.”

So, game on from WD to Samsung, but hey! Great news for us all. Keep it up, fellas — I want my 1TB iPhone — and I want my 10TB and larger iPhones after that!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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