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New chips to be made in 'Optics Valley'

By Xing Yi in Wuhan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-09 09:32
Yangtze Memory's new type of 3D NAND flash memory technology. [Photo/ymtc.com]

A new type of 3D NAND flash memory technology was released by a company based in Wuhan, Hubei province, during the Flash Memory Summit held in California on Wednesday, providing faster performance with lower costs.

Flash memory is widely used in computers and smartphones, and 3D NAND flash is a type in which the memory cells are stacked vertically in multiple layers instead of in a planar form.

The new technology, Xtacking, released by Yangtze Memory Technologies Co Ltd, uses a different architecture for making 3D NAND flash, in which the whole intellectual property is owned in China, according to Diao Shijing, the co-president of the company.

At present, the world's highest input/output speed for 3D NAND is targeting 1.4 gigabits per second, while the majority of the industry is offering 1 Gbps or below.

"With our Xtacking technology, it is possible for the speed to reach up to 3 Gbps," said Yang Shining, chief executive office of the company. "This is going to be a game changer in the industry."

In conventional architecture, the periphery circuits take up 20 to 30 percent of the die area, lowering the density of the memory unit, and as the 3D NAND technology continues to progress to 128 layers to offer the user larger memory, the periphery circuits will likely take up more than 50 percent of the total die area.

According to Yangtze Memory Technologies, the periphery circuits are placed above the array chip in the new architecture to save space, thus increasing the density of the memory unit area.

It also has an independent process of the array and periphery module, which will allow parallel product development and manufacturing, reducing product development by at least three months and reducing the manufacturing cycle by 20 percent.

Founded in 2016, Yangtze Memory chose Wuhan East Lake High-Tech Zone as its headquarters, where a national-level memory chip production base with a total investment of 160 billion yuan ($23.41 billion) is under construction and the company's first factory started pilot operations in April.

"The new technology is expected to go into mass production in 2019," said Diao. "Our target is to become the main global provider of memory chips in the next decade."

Yangtze Memory is just one of the companies that have been attracted to the high-tech zone, also known as the "Optics Valley of China", which is the most advanced manufacture and R&D base for optoelectronic industry in the nation.

China Star Optoelectronics Technology Co, a Shenzhen-based screen supplier to many smartphone makers including Xiaomi and TCL, also started building a 600,000-square-meter factory focusing on the manufacturing of flexible AMOLED screens in the zone since 2014.

Zhao Jun, general manager of its Wuhan company, said the first batch of the flexible screens will be produced in the first half of next year. Once entering mass production, the factory will be able to deliver screens for 10 million six-inch smartphones per month.

"Just as internet companies are lured to Silicon Valley, the cumulative effect is what drew us to the Optics Valley," Zhao said. "With the complete supply chain here, we will be able to grow faster and go further."

Established in 1988, the zone has seen the production of the nation's first optical fiber and the first optical transmission, and is on the list of the nation's 10 key high-tech zones designated by the Ministry of Science and Technology, which also includes Beijing's Zhongguancun and Shanghai's Zhangjiang high-tech parks.

Last year, the provincial government set up a 50-billion-yuan fund for the development of the high-tech zone with the aim of attracting more than one trillion yuan of investment to the area.

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