[News] Chinese NAND Flash Firms Narrow Technology Gap with Korean Competitors to Two Years with Substantial Government Support

2023-11-23 Semiconductors editor

In recent years, the dynamics of the memory market have undergone significant changes, with South Korean memory giants Samsung and SK Hynix facing intense competition from Chinese firms. They are experiencing heightened competitive pressures, and the technological gap is steadily narrowing.

As per reports from South Korean media outlet Business Korea, insiders in the market have disclosed that with China increasing its support for the memory industry, after several years of development, the technological gap in NAND Flash with leading global enterprises has now narrowed to approximately two years. However, in the case of DRAM, the original technological gap of about five years is still maintained.

The report indicates that the primary reason for the shortened gap is that the threshold for NAND Flash technology is relatively lower, allowing for a faster catch-up speed, and this acceleration is continuously progressing, thereby further reducing the technological disparity.

China’s largest memory semiconductor company, YMTC (Yangtze Memory Technologies Co.), officially unveiled its fourth-generation 3D TLC NAND Flash memory, named X3-9070, based on the Xtacking 3.0 architecture, at the 2022 Flash Memory Summit (FMS).

YMTC has also taken the lead over Samsung and SK Hynix by achieving production of NAND Flash memory with a higher number of layers.

It is understood that in the year 2022 alone, investments from the Chinese government and state-owned investment funds amounted to approximately CNY 50 billion. The continuous and substantial funding is aimed at supporting development efforts, encompassing both technological catch-up and faster market penetration.

The report emphasizes that as semiconductor circuit miniaturization approaches its limits, China may seize another opportunity to narrow the technological gap, particularly in advanced packaging techniques.

China, being the world’s second-largest packaging technology market, boasts a more comprehensive ecosystem. Companies like JCET, Tongfu Microelectronics Co., and HT-Tech have all secured positions in the top ten semiconductor packaging enterprises globally, while no Korean companies made the list.

TrendForce pointed out that there is indeed a technological difference of about two years between South Korean memory giants and Chinese firms. YMTC has the research and development capabilities but is primarily hindered by the lack of key equipment for mass production. The subsequent developments depend on whether China can acquire crucial semiconductor equipment. If successful, YMTC may have the opportunity to transition to higher levels, such as 300 layers, and proceed to mass production.

(Photo credit: Samsung)