Samsung Electronics has started to manufacture DDR4 memory using its new '10nm class' production technology. '10nm class', by definition, implies sub-20nm but without fully disclosing the methodology, similar to the first sub-20nm NAND production that used 1x/1y terminology. By using a sub-20 nm fabrication process, this typically helps a company make ICs/DRAM cheaper, faster and more energy efficient, depending on the process complexity. In this case, Samsung continues to use ArF (argon fluoride) immersion lithography tools with quadruple patterning to make its latest memory, which indicates a very high complexity of the new process tech. What is also important is that the new DRAMs feature Samsung’s new memory cell structure.

In the news today, Samsung’s new DDR4 memory chips are produced using 10nm-class manufacturing technology, have 8 Gb capacity, and can operate at 3200 Mbit/s data rate (DDR4-3200). In addition, the new DRAM devices are reported to consume 10 – 20% less power than equivalent DDR4 memory ICs made using a 20 nm fabrication process, based on tests conducted by the memory maker. Finally, Samsung can produce 30% more 8 Gb chips on a single 300 mm wafer thanks to the new manufacturing technology, which will lower their costs once their yields match those of current-gen chips due to having more chips per wafer.

Samsung does not disclose many details about its production process, such as its smallest half-pitch size (which gives actual names to DRAM manufacturing technologies, such as 20 nm or 25 nm). What we do know is that the new tech stacks very narrow cylinder-shaped capacitors on top of transistors, which implies a new DRAM cell structure (4F2?). Manufacturers of memory have historically changed the structures of DRAM cells every five or six years, and each change represents a major technology challenge as the density changes. Samsung says that it has refined the dielectric layer deposition technology and enabled substantial performance improvements, which may mean that the new memory chips can have a higher clock-rate potential than Samsung’s existing DRAMs, or more units will pass the base tests. If this is the case, if we extrapolate, this may open doors to DDR4 memory modules with unprecedented data rates (e.g., higher than DDR4-4400). Nonetheless, use of quadruple patterning significantly increases the complexity of manufacturing, which may somewhat slow down the ramp up of the new memory ICs and cause delays in increased yield refinements.

Samsung claims that later this year it intends to use its 1x nm manufacturing technology to make LPDDR memory with increased capacity, which should help makers of smartphones, tablets and notebooks boost the amount of DRAM inside their devices or reduce pricing.

Use of the sub-20 nm process technology to produce 8 Gb DDR4 chips should make such DRAM ICs cheaper (eventually), which will help PC and server makers to install more memory without increasing prices of their products. At press time, one 8 Gb DDR4 chip costs $4.688, according to DRAMeXchange. By contrast, a 4 Gb DDR4 IC is priced at $1.672. Therefore, using low-capacity chips is still cheaper than using high-capacity DRAM devices. Meanwhile, if you are building servers, you might not have a choice but to utilize 8 Gb chips to create high-end memory modules (i.e., with 128 GB capacities). For that reason, for server manufacturers, Samsung’s new 8 Gb DDR4 chips should be useful.

Source: Samsung

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  • DanNeely - Thursday, April 7, 2016 - link

    It's an engineering limit. The more chips you have hsnging off a bus the more the theoretically square wave of the digital signal gets rounded off. The problem gets progressively worse at higher speeds. A few years ago they weren't sure if it would even be possible to have 2 DIMMs per channel at DDR4. An x16dimm would have the same load on the bus as 2 x8's. Servers get their huge ram capacities by using buffer chips, so each dimm onlu puts a single chip on the bus. The tradeoff from doing so is increased latency.
  • yuhong - Thursday, April 7, 2016 - link

    I am talking about 4GB sticks using four x16 chips.
  • Arnulf - Friday, April 8, 2016 - link

    ??? You're spouting nonsense ... while DanNeely gave you a wonderful explanation of how things actually work in the real world.

    Admittedly he didn't mention input and lane inductance and parasitic capacitance as the reason for that "rounding off" of the signal edges but I guess he simply didn't want to get too technical there.
  • extide - Friday, April 8, 2016 - link

    Dude you guys both don't get it. Most DDR IC's are 8 bits wide, meaning you need 8 of them to make the 64 bits width of a single memory channel. If you could use 16-bit wide chips, you would only need 4 chips instead of 8.
  • extide - Friday, April 8, 2016 - link

    My Reply was to Arnulf, BTW
  • extide - Friday, April 8, 2016 - link

    Obviously he is talking about the bit width of each IC on the DIMM because you CAN use sticks with 16 IC's on them ...

    He is saying that when 8Gbit IC's become standard, the smallest DIMM you can make will be 8GB, unless you run 16-bit wide IC's in which case you could put 4 chips on and make a 4GB stick. With 8GB being the smallest stick available it will mean that many laptops will come with a single 8GB stick, at least until 16GB of memory becomes the new low-end mainstream amount of memory. Thus it will actually hurt performance in a lot of cases where integrated graphics is used because these machines will only be single channel.
  • BrokenCrayons - Friday, April 8, 2016 - link

    The trick of that is simply to hold off purchasing a laptop until 16GB of RAM becomes commonplace. As we're in something of a slump in CPU development, it's lately been more doable since upgrades aren't offering large leaps in performance and software isn't really demanding much compute power in workloads that are typically encountered on a low-end laptop.
  • yuhong - Friday, April 8, 2016 - link

    It is not a problem in the short term though as 4Gbit DDR4 is still the most common.
  • BeethovensCat - Thursday, April 7, 2016 - link

    On RAM prices. Agree that they went up from 2008 and then down again. Anyway, being in my mid 40s I remember what RAM cost in the early 90s. In those days I bought an extra 4mb RAM for my first desktop. I paid $150 for those. Note that it was 4mb, not 4gb! About at the same time, a friend of mine bought the first 1gb HDD. He paid $1000 for it! Enjoy your day!
  • Snake_Doc - Friday, April 8, 2016 - link

    $1000 for a 1GB hdd?! Incredible.

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