[News] Overview of Expansion Plans by HBM Giants

2024-02-27 Semiconductors editor

Currently, the top three leaders—Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron—in the HBM sector are undergoing unprecedented expansion. Below is an overview of the progress made by each of these giants in the realm of HBM:

  • Samsung: HBM Production to Increase 2.5 Times in 2024, Another 2 Times in 2025

Samsung Electronics has begun expanding its HBM3 supply since the fourth quarter of 2023. Prior to this, internal messages within Samsung during the fourth quarter of 2023 indicated that samples of the next-generation HBM3e with an 8-layer stack had been provided to customers, with plans for mass production to commence in the first half of this year.

Han Jin-man, Executive Vice President in charge of Samsung’s semiconductor business in the United States, stated at CES 2024 this year that Samsung’s HBM chip production volume will increase 2.5 times compared to last year and is projected to double again next year.

Samsung officials also revealed that the company plans to increase the maximum production of HBM to 150,000 to 170,000 units per month before the fourth quarter of this year in a bid to compete for the HBM market in 2024.

Previously, Samsung Electronics spent KRW 10.5 billion to acquire the plant and equipment of Samsung Display located in Tianan City, South Korea, to expand HBM capacity. They also plan to invest KRW 700 billion to 1 trillion in building new packaging lines.

  • SK Hynix: To Commence Mass Production of World’s First Fifth-Generation High-Bandwidth Memory HBM3e in March

According to the latest report from Korean media Moneytoday on February 20th, SK Hynix will commence mass production of the world’s first fifth-generation high-bandwidth memory, HBM3e, in March this year. The company plans to supply the first batch of products to NVIDIA within the next month.

However, SK hynix noted that it “cannot confirm any details related to its partner.”

In its financial report, SK Hynix indicated plans to increase capital expenditure in 2024, with a focus on high-end storage products such as HBM. The HBM production capacity is expected to more than double compared to last year.

Previously, SK Hynix forecasted that by 2030, its HBM shipments would reach 100 million units annually. As a result, the company has decided to allocate approximately KRW 10 trillion (approximately USD 7.6 billion) in CAPEX for 2024. This represents a significant increase compared to the projected CAPEX of KRW 6 to 7 trillion in 2023, with an increase ranging from 43% to 67%.

The focus of the expansion is on constructing and expanding factories. In June of last year, Korean media reported that SK Hynix was preparing to invest in backend process equipment to expand its HBM3 packaging capabilities at its Icheon plant. By the end of this year, it is expected that the scale of backend process equipment at this plant will nearly double.

Furthermore, SK Hynix is also set to construct a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Indiana, USA. According to the Financial Times, this South Korean chip manufacturer will produce HBM stacks at this facility, which will be used for NVIDIA GPUs produced by TSMC.

  • Micron: Continuing the Pursuit, Betting on HBM4

Micron holds a relatively low share in the global HBM market. In order to narrow this gap, Micron has placed a significant bet on its next-generation product, HBM3e.

Sanjay Mehrotra, CEO of Micron, stated, ” Micron is in the final stages of qualifying our industry-leading HBM3e to be used in NVIDIA’s next-generation Grace Hopper GH200 and H200 platforms.”

Micron plans to begin mass shipments of HBM3e memory in early 2024. Mehrotra emphasized that their new product has garnered significant interest across the industry, implying that NVIDIA may not be the sole customer ultimately utilizing Micron’s HBM3e.

In this competition where there is no first-mover advantage, Micron seems to be betting on the yet-to-be-determined standard of the next-generation HBM4. Official announcements reveal that Micron has disclosed its next-generation HBM memory, tentatively named HBM Next. It is expected that HBM Next will offer capacities of 36GB and 64GB, available in various configurations.

Unlike Samsung and SK Hynix, Micron does not intend to integrate HBM and logic chips into a single chip. In the development of the next-generation HBM, the Korean and American memory manufacturers have distinct strategies.

Micron may address AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA that faster memory access speeds can be achieved through combination chips like HBM-GPU. However, relying solely on a single chip means greater risk.

As per TrendForce, HBM4 is planned to be launched in 2026. It is expected that specifications and performance, including those for NVIDIA and other CSP (Cloud Service Providers) in future product applications, will be further optimized.

With specifications evolving towards higher speeds, it will be the first time that the base die of HBM, also known as the Logic die, will adopt a 12nm process wafer. This part will be provided by foundries, necessitating collaboration between foundries and memory manufacturers for single HBM product integration.

Furthermore, as customer demands for computational efficiency increase, HBM4 is expected to evolve beyond the existing 12hi (12-layer) stack to 16hi (16-layer) configurations. The anticipation of higher layer counts is also expected to drive demand for new stacking methods such as hybrid bonding. HBM4 12hi products are slated for release in 2026, while 16hi products are expected to debut in 2027.

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(Photo credit: Samsung)

Please note that this article cites information from WeChat account DRAMeXchangeFinancial Times and Moneytoday.