German chip maker Infineon Technologies and Saifun Semiconductors of Israel have started production of a 512Mbit flash chip.
The Nand-compatible flash chip is based on Saifun's patented Non-Nitrided Read Only Memory (NROM) nonvolatile memory system, serving as the basis for the group's TwinFlash technology.
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TwinFlash allows two locally separated bits to be stored in one transistor. The advantage of this two-bit-per-cell approach is smaller die sizes, which can be up to 40% smaller than competing single-bit-per-cell technologies, resulting in lower production costs.
Infineon Technologies Flash has signed orders for its new flash chip with several customers, a spokeswoman said. However, she declined to name the companies or provide details about the volume of chips being manufactured. "We will increase production in line with demand, which we expect to be substantial," she said.
The Nand flash market is expected to be the fastest growing memory market over several years, according to Peter Kücher, president and managing director of Infineon Technologies Flash.
Gartner has projected the worldwide market for Nand flash chips to grow to $4.4bn this year from $3.4bn in 2003.
Referring to market prices published by Gartner Dataquest, the spokeswoman said the price of a Nand flash memory chip was $11.15 in 2003 and is expected to fall to $8.50 in 2004.
The German joint venture will target the removable storage market for products such as compact flash cards and memory sticks used to exchange information between PCs and notebooks or integrated into digital cameras.
Infineon Technologies Flash will also reduce the size of its existing chip to 110 nanometers from 170 nanometers and increase capacity to 2Gbits from 512Mbits by 2005.
John Blau writes for IDG News Service