Samsung to Raise 42-Nano Flash Memory Chip Portion
By Kim Yoo-chul
Samsung Electronics said Sunday that it will raise its portion of NAND flash memory chips using finer 42-nanometer level processing technology by 10 percent this year.
The world's biggest flash memory chipmaker said it has recently begun shipping 16-gigabit multi-level cell (MLC) flash chips to clients using the level. Samsung's bigger Japanese rival Toshiba and Hynix Semiconductor are still using 43-nanometer and 48-nanometer technology, respectively.
"We are under the process to ramp up production of the chips. Samsung will produce some 5 percent of the flash chips using that level this month and the portion will be raised to 10 percent by the end of the year," a Samsung spokesman said.
Samsung officials say the chipmaker has been producing the flash chips from its line in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province.
The nanometer race is a barometer for a chipmaker's manufacturing skills. Today's semiconductor chip has millions of minuscule electronic circuits, which are etched onto a silicon disk on a nanometer ― one billionth of a meter ― scale using corrosive chemicals.
A smaller nanometer number means that the chip circuit consists of thinner electric lines, thereby housing more circuits and storage in the same space. Such an advantage significantly lowers production costs.
As a result, 42-nanometer chips are about 40 percent more cost-efficient than previous 51-nanometer chips and 60 percent superior to 57-nanometer products, Samsung said.
"We will transfer our chip processing technology to an even finer 39-nanometer level in the first quarter of 2009. By adopting the technology, Samsung could mass-produce 32-gigabit MLC-based chips as mainstay product lines," the spokesman added.
Amid the deepening woes in the global NAND chip industry coupled with prolonged oversupply and worsening economic situations in developed countries, Samsung Electronics is attempting to widen the market gap with its rivals.
"The time is ripe for Samsung to completely beat its long-time rivals. By commercializing the industry's advanced 42-nanometer and 39-nanometer technologies, the chipmaker wants to kick off moves by Toshiba and Hynix," a high-ranking Samsung insider said.
Also, Samsung is very near to striking a $6 billion acquisition deal with California-based SanDisk, according to Samsung insiders. Earlier the head of the company's chip division Kwon Oh-hyun clarified Samsung's legal team has sought to calm down a possible anti-trust issue in the United States if the deal succeeds.
Analysts say U.S. financial regulators would most likely reject the proposed deal because it would create a near monopoly in the global flash memory market. In 2007, Samsung and SanDisk together supplied nearly 50 percent of the world's NAND flash chips ― components used in high-end handheld gadgets such as MP3 players and car navigation systems.