Intel, Micron Open $3 Billion NAND Flash Facility In Singapore

Intel and Micron on Thursday unveiled plans to build a NAND Flash facility in Singapoire under their joint IM Flash project.

The $3 billion facility will produce 22-nm NAND Flash memory processes at first, according to both companies, before implementing 20-nm NAND Flash memory process technology later this year.

IM Flash last week introduced its upcoming 22-nm memory process and began sampling devices based on the process to end users. The die shrink represents a 30 percent reduction in board space and is intended to develop processor products for small form factor tablets, smartphones, SSDs, and other mobile consumer devices.

A spokesperson for Micron said in an e-mailed statement to CRN that IM Flash plans to ramp the facility to 60,000 wafers by the end of this year, pending on market conditions. He said Intel and Micron co-own the facility, which employs about 1,200 people.

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The spokesperson said the facility is exclusively dedicated to producing NAND flash memory, as a result of rapidly-growing consumer demand. ’As you know, portable computing, communications and personal media products are driving the demand for NAND devices at an explosive rate as consumer expectations for greater functionality expand,’ the spokesperson said.

The demand for mobile device technology is driving much of Intel’s product strategy in recent months. Last week, research firm IHS iSuppli issued a 2010 semiconductor industry report that showed Samsung is eroding Intel’s lead in the overall processor market-- an ascent that marks the first such challenge to Intel’s dominant market share in over a decade. Samsung’s main source of growth in the semiconductor business, according to the report, is its sales of memory integrated circuits (ICs), which have expanded a result of the proliferation of consumer-oriented mobile devices.

As for the facility’s value proposition to Micron, the memory semiconductor vendor’s IM Flash partnership with Intel has allowed Micron to take third place in the NAND flash market ahead of Hynx Semiconductor, according to a report from Digitimes that cited industry sources. Interestingly enough, those sources also told the Taiwanese journal that Micron’s co-owned 20-nm project may pose a threat to the other two players that remain ahead of the company among NAND flash suppliers worldwide -- namely Toshiba and Samsung, the company currently threatening Micron partner Intel.

Next: ARM In The Mix

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel is also looking to gain market share in mobile, the one semiconductor segment where it is currently lagging far behind ARM, which has 90 percent market share in mobile device processors according to Gartner.

ARM’s advantage in mobile is largely due to its prize licensee, Apple, whose iPad and iPhone run on ARM processor designs. Last week ARM unveiled details of its upcoming Cortex A-15 architecture, which it says will come to market in smartphones and other mobile devices in 2012, and offer double the performance of ARM’s current Cortex A-9 design.

In addition ARM is partnering with Nvidia to develop server processors and other products aimed at traditional markets where Intel currently dominates -- putting Intel on the defensive.

IM Flash has developed and and manufactured NAND since 2007 at production facilities located in Lehi, Utah and Manassas, Va. According to Intel and Micron, the facility in Singapore is expected to reach full production levels later this year, as it transitions from 25-nanometer down to a 22-nm process.