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DRAM vendors face toughest 5x nm process migration battle, states DRAMeXchange

4 March 2009 Semiconductors

Taipei, March 4th, 2009--- The DRAM industry has faced two years of downturn - the global financial crisis which started from 2H08, and the freezing demand. According to DRAMeXchange, Q408 DRAM chip price dropped more than 54% and DRAM vendors had to deal with severe cash outflow pressure. The immediate adoption of a newly developed process technology by DRAM vendors is no longer being witnessed. Even though the new technology can be immediately induced to mass production, DRAM vendors are now observing the global DRAM market supply and demand situation and evaluate their own CAPEX. They are also considering the cost of equipment investment and future amortization issues.

The development of 5x nm process represents a more rational investment by DRAM vendors. According to the roadmaps of DRAM technology providing vendors, the 50 nm mass production schedule might be delayed one to two quarters but the development progress of the 5x nm process by the varying DRAM vendors are proceeding well. Comparing to the 6x nm process, the gross die of DDR3 1Gb chip is 40% or even 50% more than the DDR2. The cost per chip could decrease 20% to 30% (including packaging and testing) but the investment amount needed for equipments is higher than the 70 nm or 60 nm process. This is the main reason that dragged the schedule of 5x nm process migration. The 50 nm process requires immersion tools is because the line width of 50 nm process is narrower than the 60 nm, the current yellow light equipment can not meet the needs of the 50 nm process. But the immersion tool is pricing at one to two billion USD, the current 100K 12 inch capacity requires five to seven equipments. The cost of the equipments is quite big a burden of the DRAM vendors who are currently short of cash. How to use the current equipments to shrink the die size and appropriately invest in 50 nm process equipments instead of full throttle switching to immersion tools are tests and a matter of life or death to the DRAM vendors.

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