As part of the company's second quarter financial earnings call, Micron has revealed that it is about to start volume production of its 4th Generation 3D NAND memory devices. Based around the company's new replacement gate (RG) architecture, the memory manufacturer is gearing up to begin production in the current fiscal quarter (Q3'FY20), with commercial shipments set to begin in the fourth quarter. Overall, this will mark the start of a major technology transition for the manufacturer.
As previously detailed by Micron, the company’s 4th Gen 3D NAND features up to 128 active layers and uses replacement gate (RG) technology, which replaces the traditional floating gate technology that has been used by Intel and Micron for years. The switch is a substantial design change, and an important one going forward, as it's at the core of Micron's long-term technology plans. It also happens to be the company’s first flash memory technology in quite some time that has been designed solely by Micron, and not in conjunction with former partner Intel. Micron hopes that switching to gate replacement will enable it to reduce die sizes, lower costs, improve performance, and enable easier transition to next-generation nodes presumably with more active layers.
Micron does not have plans to transit all of its products to its 4th Generation RG-based 3D NAND technology, and it has already warned its investors not to expect a meaningful company-wide cost-per-bit reduction this year as result of this technology transition. Nonetheless, it is tremendously important to kick off volume production as early as possible because learning how to produce replacement gate 3D NAND with decent yields is important for Micron’s subsequent generation 3D NAND that is projected to be deployed broadly in FY2021 (starts in late September, 2020).
Micron said that it plans to start shipments of its 128-layer replacement gate-based 3D NAND products in the fourth quarter of its FY2020, which means this summer. Meanwhile, Micron yet has to disclose which products it plans to build using this technology.
Sanjay Mehrotra, CEO and president of Micron, said the following:
In NAND, we made significant progress on our replacement gate, or RG, transition and expect to begin volume production in our current quarter, with revenue shipments to follow in our FQ4. We expect replacement gate production to be a meaningful portion of our total NAND supply by the end of this calendar year.