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Is the cost of products using 3-D NAND expected to be similar to 2-D?

Is the cost of products using 3-D NAND expected to be similar to 2-D? Or will there be increased costs?

Costs to produce 3-D NAND are currently considerably higher than the costs of producing 2-D NAND. This is because...

3-D NAND is quite a bit more complicated to manufacture than 2-D NAND. Producing 3-D NAND requires stacking multiple chips on their side, aligning them, drilling holes between them to interconnect them, and putting in an insulator (dielectric) for the gate and between the vertical pillar substrate.

There's a major leap in capacity with 3-D NAND, which has serious potential to lower the costs per bit by a lot. But the technology to produce it is non-trivial because of, among other things, complexity, including angle complexity. The new tooling requires a multi-billion dollar investment. Initial yields are not what they will be or should be, but will get there because 3-D NAND is in the early stages of production.

The promise of higher density and lower cost per bit is a key driving force behind 3-D NAND, even though frankly it's a nascent technology. 2-D NAND capacity growth is slowing. As die size shrink errors increase, more extensive error-correcting code is required to prevent data loss. The laws of diminishing marginal returns are exerting themselves, which has helped move the impetus behind the emergence of 3-D NAND.

Market prices on 3-D NAND solid-state drives (SSDs) are currently much more per GB than equivalent 2-D NAND SSDs. Street prices are a bit more competitive. Some of that premium is due to higher production costs. Some of it is because 3-D NAND is the new kid on the block and has a "wow" factor that allows for a premium. And some of that higher price is because it performs better and lasts longer. Market prices should drop fairly quickly in the near future.

The 3-D NAND higher startup costs are also coming down. Some of them are already offset through the utilization of larger, less error-prone and lower-cost die sizes. The larger die sizes allow 3-D NAND to be produced in similar capacities to 2-D NAND at relatively similar today. Samsung is currently producing 3-D NAND chips in 128 GB capacities of 32 layers that are comparable to 2-D NAND chip capacities. Expect prices to drop fairly rapidly over the next couple of years as more NAND production moves from 2-D to 3-D, yields increase, knowledge grows, layers increase, capacities increase, and investments are amortized.

Next Steps

Discussing cost, capacity of 3-D NAND

The importance of 3-D NAND flash

The future of NAND flash

This was last published in October 2014

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