Elpida Memory, the only dynamic random access memory (DRAM) maker from Japan, on Thursday announced that it reached an agreement with Germany-based Qimonda AG, which is now in insolvency proceedings, to acquire Qimonda technology licenses and a portion of the design assets related to graphics double data rate (GDDR) memory. Initially Elpida will outsources production to Winbond, but eventually the firm plans to make GDDR5 at its own plant in Japan.
Based on the licenses and assets acquired from Qimonda, Elpida will now join the graphics DRAM business and become a memory solutions company with an expanded range of products and services. Elpida plans to quickly ramp up a full-fledged GDDR business. GDDR technology development will continue at Elpida's recently established Munich design center, where nearly 50 engineers and other former Qimonda employees involved in GDDR development work will take up new posts.
"We will shortly begin commercial production of GDDR5, for which data transfer rate of 8Gb/s may be feasible in the near future. To achieve such high speeds advanced technologies for I/O signal transmission as well as internal high speed circuits are crucial. The important GDDR technologies we have acquired can now contribute not only to Elpida's graphics memory development but also to the improvement of our overall DRAM design technologies," said Takao Adachi, Elpida's chief technology officer.
Shipments of 1Gb GDDR3 and 1Gb GDDR5 products are expected to begin in the first half of calendar year 2010. The production of both products is considered to be outsourced to Winbond Electronics Corp., a Taiwanese company that has experience with Qimonda's process technology. Also, following additional development work by a highly qualified team of engineers working jointly in Germany and Japan, Elpida plans to begin mass production of 2Gb GDDR5 at its Hiroshima plant starting in the second half of calendar 2010.
For Elpida it is rather logical to start making premium GDDR memory since the company already produces high-speed RDRAM as well as XDR DRAM developed by Rambus and has experience in making complex memory that operates at very high frequencies. GDDR memory is used not only on add-in graphics cards, but also inside video game consoles, thus, total available market such memory type is rather high.
Considering the fact that only a two companies – Hynix Semiconductor and Samsung Electronics – are able to produce GDDR in volume, graphics memory business is rather lucrative and prices of such chips does not depend on supply/demand ratio as heavily as the pricing of commodity DRAMs.