Driving fast on the cost curve.
Flash prices need to drop about 50% a year to keep volumes growing. Putting more flash on a wafer helps do that. The new process produces 1.6 TB of NAND flash on a 300 mm (12 inch) wafer.
The key? The 34 nanometer chip feature size - even smaller than Intel's latest CPUs - enables the smallest 32 G/bit flash chip ever.
How small? As Intel/Micron note in their joint press release:
The 34nm 32Gb chip was designed with solid-state drives in mind. The product will enable more cost-effective SSDs, instantly doubling the current storage volume of these devices and driving capacities to beyond 256 GBs in today's standard, smaller 1.8-inch form factor.
Here's a picture of a another Micron NAND flash chip in the same 48 lead TSOP (Thin Small-Outline Package). It's smaller than your fingernail.
[photo courtesy of Micron]
Will this make flash drives affordable?
Nope - but it is a step in the right direction.
Current 32 Gbit MLC NAND costs about $2.60-$2.75 per gigabyte. That means a 256 GB flash drive would cost almost $700 just for the chips. Add in packaging, support chips, corporate overhead and that is well over $1,000 for the drive alone.
By the time the new chip ships in volume late this year the price will be lower. But consider that a 160 GB 2.5" drive costs $60 online. That is cost-effective storage.
The Storage Bits take
Regular readers know that I have my doubts about how popular notebook flash drives will be in the coming years. They cost a lot for what you get.
But it is good to see the technology making progress. We all benefit from that.
Yet as small as 34 nm is, disk drive magnetic bit sizes are even smaller. And well on their way to even smaller feature sizes.
Comments welcome, of course. I've been testing a 16 GB Corsair Voyager thumb drive. More on that soon.