Eli Harari, chief executive officer of SanDisk, a leading supplier of various flash-based products, said that in case prices on flash memory will remain relatively low amid the increasing demand towards NAND, many manufacturers may choose not to build new fabs. However, thanks to multi-bit-per-cell technologies overall capacities of flash chips will continue to grow.
During Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, California, last week Mr. Harari said that the total demand for NAND flash will be 100 000 petabytes (PB) by 2013, up from 7000PB in 2009. In order to meet that demand, manufacturers will have to invest $25 billion - $30 billion from 2010 to 2013 into capacity expansion as well as new manufacturing processes, according to the CEO of SanDisk. However, there is a risk that all flash makers generate only $20 billion during that timeframe, which means that such business model is not attractive at all.
In addition, Mr. Harari made eight rather interesting predictions concerning flash memory market at the summit, reports EETimes web-site. The predictions are the following:
- Market recovery is approaching. According to Mr. Harari, current supply/demand situation seems to be better balanced.
- Average selling prices not expected to decrease as fast as before. Mr. Harari predicts that annual price reductions for NAND will be 40% from 2010 to 2013, whereas annual price reductions for NAND were at approximately 60% from 2005 to 2009.
- Multi-bit-per-cell memory set to get even more popular. In the next six years 3-bit-per-cell and 4-bit-per-cell NAND flash memory will be embraced by the market.
- Managed NAND set to get more important. Various controllers manage operations of NAND in various devices, such as solid-state drives. According to SanDisk’s chief exec, there is a shift from raw discrete NAND components to managed NAND.
- There is no viable alternative to NAND. Mr. Harari claims FRAM, MRAM, phase-change memory, etc. are not viable.
- Transition to 3D is years ahead. In the universal memory competition, there could be one exception: 3D read/write technology. SanDisk and Toshiba are working on a 3D technology that could replace NAND and 'assuming “there are material breakthroughs, that transition to 3D is years ahead of us”.
- 450mm wafers not viable for NAND. The head of SanDisk does not expect flash industry to adopt 450mm fabs and replace 300mm wafers with larger ones due to too high investments.
- Flash makers may implement extreme ultraviolet (EUV) in future. At present NAND is made using 193nm immersion lithography, but going forward manufacturers may start using more advanced production methods.