Samsung improves DRAM technology to increase output

Samsung made its first DRAM chips using 70-nanometer technology, which will help it double the number of chips it makes on a single silicon wafer by next year.

Samsung Electronics has announced it had produced its first DRAM (dynamic RAM) computer chips using 70-nanometer production technology. The manufacturing technology improvement means the company will be able to double the number of chips it makes on a single silicon wafer, the raw material of a chip, once the process is widely in use in the company's factories.

Samsung, the world's largest memory chip maker, said it produced a 512M-bit DDR2 (Double Data Rate 2) DRAM chip using the 70-nm technology.

A nanometer is a measurement of the size of transistors and other parts that are etched onto chips. The more transistors on a chip, and the closer they are together, the faster the chip can perform tasks. For manufacturers like Samsung and rivals Micron Technology and Infineon Technologies, developing smaller technologies is important for increasing output and reducing costs.

The price of the most widely used DRAM chips have fallen by over a third so far this year to US$2.53 each, according to DRAMeXchange, an online clearinghouse for the chips. DRAM are such heavy volume chips for manufacturers that they trade on spot markets similar to commodities such as oil and wheat.

Samsung estimates the number of chips it will be able to obtain per silicon wafer will be at least 100 percent higher compared to the 90-nm technology in use on most of its DRAM production lines today. Chips are made on silicon wafers about the size of dinner plates. Thousands of chips can be made on each wafer.

"We won't use the 70-nanometer technology for DRAM until the second half of next year," said Sung-hae Park, a Samsung representative. The company already makes NAND Flash memory chips using 70-nm technology, but its DRAM is mainly produced using 90-nm and 80-nm processes.

The company had to make several technological innovations to tweak 70-nm production technology to overcome limitations of stacked DRAM cells and improve the data refresh function, Samsung said in a statement.

The company started using 90-nm technology for DRAM production in mid-2004, followed by 80-nm in the second half of 2005. Samsung said it would begin using 70-nm technology for DRAM in the middle of next year, starting with 512M-bit, 1G-bit and 2G-bit capacities.

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