Micron’s 1-alpha course of node gives spectacular enhancements in DRAM density and efficiency

Ahead-looking: Reminiscence know-how has repeatedly improved over the past decade to satisfy the growing demand for increased bit density, efficiency, and vitality effectivity. Micron is touting new enhancements made with conventional manufacturing strategies on its newest reminiscence node, however the firm will ultimately be pressured to undertake EUV to proceed scaling its DRAM merchandise.

Micron not too long ago began manufacturing DRAM utilizing its new 1α (1-alpha) course of and delivered the primary quantity cargo of the brand new chips to a few of its largest clients. The new memory node helps densities from 8Gb to 16Gb, and is presently used to make DDR4 and LPDDR4 RAM, with plans to increase that throughout the corporate’s complete product portfolio.

The announcement comes within the context of accelerating demand for reminiscence chips and the necessity to enhance manufacturing prices. Most of Micron’s DRAM manufacturing has been utilizing its 1Z nm know-how since 2019, however the 1α course of affords a 40 p.c enchancment in reminiscence density together with a 15 p.c drop in energy consumption.

Round 10 p.c of the efficiency increase was achieved by enhancements in DRAM design equivalent to aggressive shrinking of the bitline and phrase line pitches, in addition to higher supplies and extra superior tooling to deposit, selectively take away, or etch these supplies onto the chips.

The corporate plans to complete integrating the brand new 1α course of node throughout all of its DRAM merchandise by the tip of the 12 months — an bold transition at a time when components of the provision chain are operating tight. Earlier this month throughout an investor name, Micron assured traders that it is monitoring for potential disruptions and that there is no such thing as a trigger for alarm.

After all, Micron’s greatest downside is that shortages of elements are affecting firms like AMD, Nvidia, and Apple, which in flip results in decrease demand for DDR4, LPDDR4X, LPDDR5, GDDR6, and GDDR6X. Nonetheless, Micron says its new 1α course of node will result in a lower in DRAM manufacturing prices which in flip ought to result in higher costs.

In a press release, Micron government VP Sumit Sadana stated the corporate’s new 1α DRAM know-how “will allow the trade’s lowest-power cell DRAM in addition to deliver the advantages of our DRAM portfolio to information middle, shopper, shopper, industrial and automotive clients. […] With our trade management in each DRAM and NAND know-how, Micron is in a wonderful place to leverage the expansion in reminiscence and storage, that are anticipated to be the quickest rising segments within the semiconductor trade over the following decade.”

DRAM is a big chunk of Micron’s enterprise, accounting for 70 p.c of Micron’s income over the past quarter ending on December 3, 2020. We’re speaking about $4.06 billion on a gross margin of 31 p.c, which suggests Micron is doing nicely in the interim.

The corporate does warn that scaling DRAM additional will probably be a monumental process that may’t but be solved by adopting excessive ultraviolet lithography (EUV), however it does have a path for continued enhancements over the following decade.

To that finish, Micron is tough at work on creating its 1β and 1𝛾 nodes utilizing confirmed multi-patterning strategies to realize aggressive DRAM designs when it comes to bit density, energy consumption, efficiency, and value. The corporate is contemplating EUV for its 1𝛿 node, however that’s deliberate for 2024 or 2025, as Micron explains it is not a key enabler for scaling and is very troublesome to use in more and more advanced DRAM designs like DDR5, GDDR6/6X.

Within the meantime, Samsung is already utilizing EUV for quantity manufacturing of DDR4 and LPDDR5 chips, whereas SK Hynix is creating a brand new course of node primarily based on EUV. Time will inform if Micron’s technique is true, as EUV does incur further manufacturing prices that are inclined to offset the enhancements it brings.

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