Intel, Micron introduce 25nm NAND flash production

2010 will go down as the year flash storage goes mainstream. Intel-Micron Flash Technologies -- a Lehi, Utah-based joint venture from the two companies that's been sharing technology and flash production since 2005 -- has unveiled its 25 nanometer flash production process. And the impact on consumer products will be immediately noticeable as the flash makes its way to products.

IMFT says flash manufacturing is on a 12- to 15-month refresh cycle. The 25nm process represents fourth-generation technology. Back in 2006, the process technology was at 72nm, 2008 was at 50nm, and last year, with the introduction of Intel's X25-M, it dropped to 34nm.

The improved manufacturing efficiencies will translate into clearly tangible benefits for consumers once production ramps up to full volume in the second quarter (today's announcement indicates IMFT has completed sampling to customers). Neither Intel nor Micron has formally announced product, but both companies indicated we can expect to see the new flash in products "later this year." Previously, it's been reported that Intel will refresh its solid-state drive (SSD) line in the fourth quarter.

With 24nm flash, IMFT will be able to produce 2-bits-per-cell MLC NAND flash, with 8GB of storage on a single 167mm flash die. That's twice the capacity the previous 34nm process could produce, and it eliminates the need for IMFT's previously announced 3-bit-per-cell MLC flash, which increased capacity by increasing the bits-per-cell, but keeping the same 32nm process. For perspective, 167mm is small enough to fit through a CD's hole, and yet it packs more than ten times the data capacity.

Future Impact

The long-term implications of this announcement are exciting, in a tangible way that many semiconductor manufacturing evolutions usually are not. By doubling the capacity on the 25nm process, it means we get to see double the flash storage in the same physical space as today.

It also means higher manufacturing yields to produce the same capacities as are available today, since the 25nm flash won't require as many flash die to achieve a given capacity as the 34nm process required.

This means consumers can expect to see a direct impact over the next year on how flash memory capacity across all types of products that use flash storage, from USB drives and memory cards to media players and tablets.

SSDs are a major beneficiary, as well: After all, one of the biggest criticisms of SSDs today is their inability to keep pace with hard drive capacity. However, the idea of a high-capacity 600GB SSD in a 2.5-inch form factor will be viable, thanks to the 25nm process. While analysts expect SSD prices to remain at a premium as compared with magnetic hard disk drives, again the 25nm process should help bring manufacturing costs down over time.

All of this sounds theoretical until put in real-world terms. For example, under the 34nm process, 64 of these NAND flash devices would have been needed before to achieve a 256GB SSD; with 25nm, manufacturers can achieve the same capacity with just 32 flash devices. A 64GB tablet needs just eight, a 32GB smartphone needs just four, and a 16GB flash card, just two. These manufacturing efficiencies in end products will be what helps bring manufacturing costs down, as well as improve product designs.

IMFT emphasizes that the actual impact on prices will be determined by market forces, though. And Intel's Troy Winslow, director of marketing, notes, "When we went from 50nm to 34nm, we came out and reduced our price 60 percent by comparison. Will we do that again when we go to market later this year? I'm not going to say that. But our desire is to reach volume SSD, and we think we're uniquely positioned for that because of the value of our product."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Melissa J. Perenson

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?