3D NAND chips to increase solid state drive capacity, reduce cost

By on June 28, 2012, 5:30 PM

I’ve been saying for a number of years that a solid state drive is the single best upgrade you can do to improve your computer’s overall performance but the reality is that SSDs haven’t been a viable option for mainstream users for a number of reasons. Early drives suffered from lag issues, high prices and low capacities. Lag is now a thing of the past and prices continue to fall but if you need a large amount of high-speed storage, SSDs still aren’t the answer.

That could all be changing at some point as a company called Applied Materials has unveiled a new etching system called Centura Avatar that can build vertically-stacked, three-dimensional transistors. This isn’t to be confused with 3D manufacturing where 2D chips are stacked but instead refers to actually building 3D NAND structures.

ExtremeTech highlights the price per GB / manufacturing process trend of planar silicon. Dropping from 100nm to 60nm was a huge savings for manufacturers and again going from 60nm to 40nm was beneficial. But after the 20nm milestone, the graph looks pretty bleak and savings aren’t really visualized.

The solution is to rethink the manufacturing process by folding a 2D NAND in half and standing it up on its end. Actually accomplishing this task in the real world, however, is very difficult.

According to the folks at Applied Materials, trying to build 3D NAND structures in real life would be like trying to dig a one-kilometer-deep, three-kilometer-long trench with walls exactly three meters apart, through interleaved rock strata — and that’s before we discuss gate trenches or the staircases.

Realistically, it will probably be another few years before we see the Centura Avatar find its way to mainstream SSD manufacturers but at least builders now have a plan to cut cost/GB and boost die density when the time is right. The company plans to showcase the etching machine at SEMICON West 2012, held July 10-12.

User Comments: 5

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ikesmasher said:

10 cents a gig sounds good.

Guest said:

Sounds good; our kids will live to see it in action .. maybe ;)


Guest said:

The irony is that nothing in the article never talks about reliability, which is the main reason why I avoid them at all cost. To give you an example; the combined age of my 4 hard drives is more than 16 years....try to find an SSD that's that reliable, not to mention that most SSDs that fail, will make you lose ALL data, but on the other hand you can often predict when a hard drive fails and even when it does full unexpectedly, most data is often not lost. Sure, you can decide to only use it as a system drive, but when I read about all the blue screen horror, a blue screen that I haven't seen in 7 years, then I just have another reason to steer away from them, even if I would love to have the speed, but reliability is for me much more important. I haven't even started about the price either.... heck....4 years ago I already bought a 640K drive for like 65 bucks....4 years ago...

Guest said:


never = ever

full = totally

...and other mistakes, sorry it's 5PM over here.

Guest said:

If you're using an SSD and not putting all your critical data on a hard drive, then you're doing it wrong right off the bat. I know SSD's don't last very long, maybe 3-5 years depending on the model and manufacturing process, but they are one of the best investments for a person who just wants everything to open as soon as you click it. I don't know what the speed comparisons between 10k RPM HDD's and SSD's are, but I'd wager that most SSD's are faster than HDD's.

I understand the concern about the reliability of SDD's and it's a perfectly legitimate claim, but keep in mind that SSD's are really only designed for performance, not holding your sensitive data.

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