DRAM vendors in 5x nm process migration battle

CIOL Bureau
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TAIPEI, TAIWAN: The DRAM industry has faced two years of downturn: the global financial crisis which started from 2H08, and the freezing demand.


According to DRAMeXchange, Q408 DRAM chip price dropped more than 54 percent and DRAM vendors had to deal with severe cash outflow pressure. The immediate adoption of a newly developed process technology by DRAM vendors is no longer being witnessed.

Even though the new technology can be immediately induced to mass production, DRAM vendors are now observing the global DRAM market supply and demand situation, and evaluating their own CAPEX. They are also considering the cost of equipment investment and future amortization issues.

Source: DRAMeXchange


The development of 5x nm process represents a more rational investment by DRAM vendors. According to the roadmaps of DRAM technology providing vendors, the 50nm mass production schedule might be delayed one to two quarters, but the development progress of the 5x nm process by the varying DRAM vendors are proceeding well.

Compared to the 6x nm process, the gross die of DDR3 1Gb chip is 40 percent or even 50 percent more than the DDR2. The cost per chip could decrease 20-30 percent (including packaging and testing) but the investment amount needed for equipments is higher than the 70 nmor 60nm process. This is the main reason that dragged the schedule of 5x nm process migration.

The 50nm process requires immersion tools is because the line width of 50nm process is narrower than the 60nm, the current yellow light equipment can not meet the needs of the 50nm process. However, the immersion tool is pricing at $1-2 billion, and the current 100K 12 inch capacity requires five to seven equipment.

The cost of the equipment is quite big a burden of the DRAM vendors who are currently short of cash. How can they use the current equipment to shrink the die size and appropriately invest in 50nm process equipment instead of full throttle switching to immersion tools are tests and a matter of life or death to the DRAM vendors.