SanDisk announced today that it is manufacturing 256Gbit, 3-bit-per-cell (X3) 48-layer 3D NAND flash chips that offer twice the capacity of the next densest memory.
SanDisk is currently printing pilot chips in its Yokkaichi, Japan fab in conjunction with its partner, Toshiba.
Last year, Toshiba and SanDisk announced their collaboration on the new fab wafer plan, saying they would use the facility exclusively for three dimensional "V-NAND" NAND flash wafers.
At the time of the announcement, the companies reported the collaboration would be valued at about $4.84 billion when construction of the plant and its operations were figured in.
In March, Toshiba announced the first 48-layer 3D V-NAND chips.
The 3D NAND chips are expected to yield embedded flash with enough capacity to store 1TB of data, far more than Toshiba's current 64GB flash used in smart phones and tablets. They're expected to begin shipping next year.
Based on a vertical stacking technology that Toshiba calls BiCS (Bit Cost Scaling), the new flash memory stores three bits of data per transistor (triple-level cell or TLC), compared to the previous two-bit (multi-level cell or MLC) memory Toshiba had been producing with BiCS.
SanDisk's 256Gb X3 "BiCS chip" is designed for widespread use in consumer, client, mobile and enterprise products.
"We are pleased to announce our first 3D NAND chip targeted for production," Siva Sivaram, SanDisk's executive vice president for memory technology, said in a statement. "This is the world's first 256Gb X3 chip, developed using our industry-leading 48-layer BiCS technology and demonstrating SanDisk's continued leadership in X3 technology. We will use this chip to deliver compelling storage solutions for our customers."
The new chips can hold up to 32GB of capacity, compared to 16GB in the previous chip.
Last year, Samsung became the first semiconductor manufacturer to begin producing 3D NAND. Its V-NAND chip provides two to 10 times higher reliability and twice the write performance, according to Samsung.
Samsung's V-NAND uses cell structure based on 3D Charge Trap Flash (CTF) technology. By applying the latter technologies, Samsung's 3D V-NAND can provide more than twice the scaling of today's 20nm-class planar NAND flash.
Samsung is using its 3D V-NAND for a wide range of consumer electronics and enterprise applications, including embedded NAND storage and solid-state drives (SSDs). Samsung's 3D NAND flash chips were used to create SSDs with capacities ranging from 128GB to 1TB.