Legit Memory Reviews
Inside Intel and Micron's 25nm NAND Fab - IMFT
|Product:||IMFT Fab in Lehi Utah|
|Date:||Mon, Feb 01, 2010 - 08:00 AM|
|Written By:||Nathan Kirsch -|
IMFT Lehi Utah Fab Tour
Legit Reviews was recently invited to take a tour of IM Flash Technologies (IMFT) in Lehi, Utah to see how NAND Flash memory is manufactured. We flew into the Salt Lake City airport and after a quick 30 minute jaunt down the highway we found ourselves looking at the IMFT campus with Mount Timpanogos sitting behind the corporation. Not quite where you'd expect a full scale fabrication plant (or "fab"), but you don't see us complaining one bit! The location was simply beautiful and knowing that we'd soon be inside the fab in a bunny suit looking at 25nm NAND Flash memory wafers being produced really does bring out your inner geek.
So, who is IM Flash Technologies? In January 2006, Micron Technology and Intel Corporation came together to form a new company: IM Flash Technologies. IM Flash Technologies primary purpose is to manufacture NAND Flash memory for use in consumer electronics, removable storage, and handheld communication devices. IM Flash combines Micron’s leadership in process and product technology with Intel’s multi-level cell technology and history of innovation in Flash memory to successfully compete in the NAND Flash memory business over the past several years.
Since the fab opened its doors in 2006 it has been producing 300mm NAND wafers and has successfully dropped its manufacturing process from 50nm to 34nm and now down to the just-announced 25nm process. If you've ever used an Intel branded solid-state drive, chances are the memory inside that drive was made right here at this facility. This article is being typed on a desktop that uses a second generation Intel X25-M 160GB SSD that uses 34nm memory, so it is pretty cool to think that this is where your SSD was born. Not all the memory that comes out of this facility goes to Intel though as 51% of the output goes to Micron and the remaining 49% goes to Intel. From there it will be packaged and could be used as memory in an SSD, USB Flash drive or any of a number of electrical devices that uses NAND memory for storage.
So, why did Intel, Micron and IMFT want Legit Reviews to come out to see the facility? To see the 25-nanometer NAND that was announced this morning being made! Above you will see Tom Rampone, vice president and general manager, Intel NAND Solutions Group announcing the 25nm process as the smallest semiconductor process technology in the World.
How small is 25-nanometers? Brian Shirley, Vice President of Memory, Micron Technology touted the process as being 3,000x smaller than the width of a human hair. To put it another way if a human hair was a mile wide, the 25nm process technology would equate to just 21 inches. This shrink is important as the new 25nm process reduces chip count by 50 percent compared to previous process generations, allowing for smaller, yet higher density designs and greater cost efficiencies.
This is great news as that means IMFT will be able to get twice as many NAND Flash chips per wafer. Intel said that performance would be comparable to 34nm speeds today, but that endurance and reliability would be improved. Since devices like SSDs can be built using less 'chips' now, you can expect to see SSD capacities increasing in the months to come. Micron even mentioned that 1TB 2.5" SSDs will be a possibility in 2010 thanks to the move down to 25nm.
Using the 23nm process technology IMFT was able to produce an 8-gigabyte NAND device that was just 167mm2 This means that the die can actually fit through the hole of a CD, yet provide more than 10x the capacity of a normal CD. The 25nm NAND process supports the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFi) 2.2 source synchronous interface, delivering up to 200 MB/s in performance. Development is underway for ONFi 3.0, which supports double data rate speeds at 400MT/s. The 8-gigabyte NAND device will be SLC capable and with 2-bits per cell. IMFT said that thy are very pleased with the state of the technology. Looking back at 34nm they had a couple issues, but compared to the competing companies down to this level they believe the did a better job getting to 34nm. The shrink down to 25nm required some new tools for the printability of the lithography, but for the most part they made it sound pretty painless from an infrastructure stand point.
To get a better idea of how small the chip is you can see Tom Rampone holding one such chip between his pointer finger and his thumb. Hard to believe that just two of these chips add up to 16GB of storage space, which is enough to install a copy of Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system!
We happened to have Blu-ray disc in our notebook and we talked Tom into letting us try putting the 8-gigabyte 25nm NAND through the hole in our disc and sure enough it fit. A single-layer Blu-ray disc can hold an impressive 25GB for comparison sake. We also happened to have a penny that we were able to place the 8-gigabyte NAND next to in order to give you an idea on how small and thin this 8GB device really is.
How do they make memory this small? Let's go inside the fab and find out on the next page!
Next Page - Inside The Lehi Utah Fab
Page 1 - IMFT Lehi Utah Fab Tour
Page 2 - Inside The Lehi Utah Fab
Page 3 - Sub-25nm Process Technology