Samsung manufacturing leap to make cheaper, faster memory chips

Samsung's new flash memory production technique will significantly increase the amount of data people can store in future iPods, iPhones, and other devices

Samsung Electronics has developed a chip-manufacturing technique able to significantly increase the amount of music, pictures, videos, and other data people can store in future iPods, iPhones, and other devices.

The world's largest memory chipmaker showed off a 64Gb multilevel cell (MLC) NAND flash memory chip made with an entirely new 30-nanometer production technology. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, and the measure refers to the average size of the smallest features on the chip. The manufacturing breakthrough, which Samsung calls self-aligned double patterning technology (SaDPT), will enable the company to greatly increase the storage capacity of new NAND flash memory chips once the technology is in commercial production.

For example, 16 of the 64Gb chips can be combined in a memory card for 128GB of storage space, enough for 80 DVD movies or 32,000 MP3 music files, the company said in a statement.

Even more important for users, Samsung was able to make the technology leap without requiring certain expensive new chipmaking equipment. While moves to smaller production technologies often require investment in expensive new photolithography equipment, the company was able to use current photolithography gear to etch circuits on the silicon wafers. That should ensure low production costs and reasonable prices for end-users.

SaDPT technology uses two pattern transfers to create the circuit design of each chip. The first transfer spaces the circuits widely apart, then the second transfer uses that space between the circuits to add another circuit, with the result that the circuitry is more densely packed together.

Samsung has applied for 30 patents related to the new 64Gb flash chip, and said it also created a 32Gb chip with the same production technology. The company expects to begin mass production of 64Gb flash chips with its 30nm manufacturing technology in 2009.