The computing world is in a time of flux. We're moving into the post-PC era as tablets and smartphones supplant laptops. Though a place remains for spinning-disk media and DRAM, NAND flash memory is assuming an increasingly important role, not just in storage, but also in embedded systems.
For proof, look no further than the numbers. A new TechInsights report says NAND flash revenue should reach $30 billion this year, surpassing DRAM revenue for the first time. Interestingly, the report predicts a drop in average selling price but cites that as a growth driver -- lower prices increase market penetration, opening the way for new applications that trigger enough growth to offset the revenue differential.
(Source: Micron Technologies)
So how are manufacturers lowering prices? In part by controlling the cost of materials and manufacturing, which is where process nodes come into play. Increasing storage density would seem to benefit end users by delivering more memory capacity in the same-sized package, but the real benefit is that it reduces manufacturing costs. As a result, fierce competition is under way among manufacturers to drive process nodes as low as possible.
Indeed, the shrinkage rate in NAND flash memory now exceeds Moore's Law. The problem is that the laws of physics dictate that films can only get so small before nasty problems like cell-to-cell interference and bit flips crop up. As manufacturers move into the final generations of memory shrinkage, we thought it was a good time to do a roundup of current process nodes.