Samsung Now Mass Producing 96-Layer 3D NAND

Samsung Now Mass Producing 96-Layer 3D NAND

Over the past three years, we’ve seen a revolution rippling through NAND manufacturing as companies transition towards stacked NAND configurations that pile dozens of layers of storage directly on top of each other, rather than in a conventional 2D configuration. Samsung has announced another major milestone in this process and is now in volume production on its 5th generation V-NAND (V-NAND is Samsung’s specific brand for its 3D NAND products). The new NAND will use Samsung’s Toggle DDR 4.0 interface and transfer data between storage and memory inside the device at up to 1.4Gbps. This presumably refers to the speed of data movement between any DDR cache within the drive and the drive itself.

The new chips are 1.5x more dense than the previous 64-layer V-NAND, but overall power efficiency is said to remain the same, thanks to a reduction in operating voltage (1.2v, down from 1.8v). Data write speed is said to be 500μs (a 30 percent improvement over previous generations) while the response time to read signals has also been reduced to 50μs (Samsung does not provide an exact figure for this improvement but calls the gain significant).

Samsung’s 5th Generation NAND
Samsung’s 5th Generation NAND

The company claims that further advances and refinements to its overall manufacturing process have allowed it to increase manufacturing productivity by 30 percent while reducing the height of each cell layer by 20 percent, and while simultaneously reducing crosstalk between the cells. Considering that thicker cell walls and larger cells are one of the easiest ways to reduce cross talk, managing to shrink cell heights, drop operating voltage, and boost productivity simultaneously is an impressive hat trick of improvement.

“Samsung’s fifth-generation V-NAND products and solutions will deliver the most advanced NAND in the rapidly growing premium memory market,” said Kye Hyun Kyung, executive vice president of Flash Product and Technology at Samsung Electronics. “In addition to the leading-edge advances we are announcing today, we are preparing to introduce 1-terabit (Tb) and quad-level cell (QLC) offerings to our V-NAND lineup that will continue to drive momentum for next-generation NAND memory solutions throughout the global market.”

NAND SSD prices have actually been dropping of late as oversupply pushes costs lower following a sustained period of higher prices. I’ve seen 2TB drives now selling for $200 or less, and while that’s still vastly more than you’d pay for an HDD of equivalent capacity, the gap is falling steadily. HDD’s, of course, still have a lock on affordable capacity — you might be able to buy a 10TB SSD, but it’ll hurt a lot more than a 10TB HDD — but the difference becomes increasingly academic each year as mainstream SSD capacities continue to improve. The shift to 3D NAND is the overriding factor driving these decreases, while shifts to PCI Express and away from SATA have allowed for continued performance improvements. Thanks to work like Samsung’s, those cost improvements should continue into the next generation.