SAN FRANCISCO — Tight DRAM supply conditions that have persisted all year long — resulting in a significant boom for suppliers — may come to an end in 2018, as Samsung Electronics ratchets up capacity to extend its lead over competitors and freeze new entrants from China out of the market, according to one market research firm.
DRAMexchange, a Taiwan-based firm that tracks memory chip pricing, is projecting that DRAM bit supply will grow by 22.5 percent in 2018, up from about 19.5 percent in 2017. The firm had predicted as recently as September that DRAM bit supply would grow by 19.6 percent next year.
Samsung, which owns about 45 percent market share in DRAM, is considering a plan to allocate some capacity that had been set aside for NAND flash to DRAM at its new facility in Pyeontaek, South Korea, and also adding more DRAM capacity to its Line 17 fab in Hwaseong, South Korea, according to DRAMexchange.
These moves would increase Samsung total DRAM capacity by about 80,000 to 100,000 wafers per month, increasing the company's total supply capacity from about 390,000 wafers per month at the end of this year to nearly 500,000 wafers per month by the end of 2018, DRAMexchange said.
If Samsung increases its capacity this dramatically it would cause competitors SK Hynix and Micron Technology to also boost capacity to maintain marketshare, DRAMexchange said. SK Hynix and Micron have DRAM market share of about 27 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
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A booming memory chip market is propelling the overall semiconductor to its biggest year in several years, with growth projected to be about 20 percent, the highest rate of growth for the industry since the recession recovery year of 2010. According to IC Insights, DRAM sales are projected to increase by 74 percent this year.
In addition to pressing its edge against SK Hynix and Micron, a Samsung capacity expansion could keep fledgling Chinese DRAM and NAND manufacturers from grabbing a significant slice of the markets, DRAMexchange said.
Samsung, which this week announced its highest ever quarterly semiconductor sales, said Tuesday (Oct. 31) it would concentrate on cost competitivenesss in DRAM, expanding 1nxm process migration. Samsung added that it would focus on ramping up 10nm-class DRAM products while expanding sales of differentiated products such as High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) and high bandwidth LPDDR4X.
—Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.