Samsung, Hitachi announce new flash memories

Two of the industry's leading suppliers of flash memory chips, Samsung Electronics and Hitachi, are rising to the challenge of fitting more memory into less space, to enhance the capabilities of tiny portable devices such as phones and digital music players.

Samsung has begun to ramp up to mass production of a 512M bit NAND-type flash memory chip while Hitachi has begun production of flash memory chips in a much smaller package.

Samsung plans to reach full scale production of the 512M bit chips in the third quarter, and expects to achieve sales of $US800 million for the devices this year. The company is also planning to sandwich two of the chips together to produce a 1G bit device.

The higher-capacity chip was made possible by a new technology called high-coupling ratio cell that reduced the voltage needed to program the chip and led to a 30 percent increase in performance, according to Samsung. The company also switched from a 0.18 micron to a 0.15 micron production process which meant more memory cells could be crammed onto the surface of each chip.

Samsung, which claims a 40 per cent share of the NAND-type flash memory market, is now planning the production of even higher capacity chips with a switch to 0.12-micron production technology. Samsung is currently expecting to switch to 0.12-micron production in late 2001 or early 2002.

Meanwhile, Hitachi announced two new AND-type flash memory chips in CSP (chip scale package) form on Monday. CSP type chips require less than half the space on the circuit board of TSOP (thin small outline package) devices. In modern electronic devices, where space is at a premium, this can be important to designers.

The new Hitachi chips are available in 128M bit and 256M bit sizes and will be available in sample quantities in July and August respectively.

Flash memory chips are most commonly used in devices such as digital still cameras and digital music players, either as built-in memory or in memory cards that are used with the devices. They are popular because they can retain data even when power is disconnected.

Because space inside such portable electronics devices and memory cards is limited, adding more chips to increase memory size is usually not an option. Designers rely on technology innovations and chip capacity improvements to increase the memory of the devices. Samsung said its new chip will be targeted at the markets for PDAs (personal digital assistants), handheld PCs and cell phones.

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Martyn Williams

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