On September 20, China IC Industry Development Seminar 2016 & The 19th China IC Manufacturing Annual Conference was held in Xiamen. Dr. Simon Yang, general manager of Yangtze Memory Technologies CO, Ltd. (YMTC), attended and addressed the conference, sharing his insight into the memory industry and introducing YMTC’s progress in the field. At the present time the memory industry is facing unprecedented opportunities and challenges, and his company, YMTC is striving to take this historic chance to enter large-scale memory field based on its 3D NAND.
Opportunity and challenge: “There is no easy job in mainstream IC field now”
Dr. Simon Yang began his speech by stressing that YMTC would focus on large-scale memory, that is, DRAM and NAND Flash making up 95% of the total output value of the industry. It will be not an easy thing. Dr. Simon Yang cited a few major IC products in the market, e.g. MPU (Micro-Processing Unit), DRAM, NAND Flash and MCU. “According to the data with statistics from IC Insights, these products have been monopolized by some international giants, which creates imbalance in the field and is unhealthy. So there is no easy job in the mainstream IC field and the challenges will be unprecedented,” he said.
According to Dr. Simon Yang, the memory industry is seeking balance, which in turn brings us opportunities. China now has 55% of global IC market, and the financial and policy support also allow enterprises to proceed through the accumulation stage. Dr. Simon Yang believes that given good project and mechanism, talents are much more likely to gather in China.
Opportunity doesn’t always lead to success. Success is attributed to three essential factors: “Finding the right people; Making the right investment and Doing the right thing”. “Finding the right people” means finding those with an open mind, courage, down-to-earth attitude and a good track record. “Making the right investment” means forward-looking investment in advanced technology R&D. “We would be easily left behind if the IC industry kept growing at the present pace; we would lose competitiveness thoroughly if we lagged behind for 5 years.” “Doing the right thing” requires the creation of an international mechanism characterized by independent R&D and global cooperation as well as involvement in global competition.
Get involved in 3D NAND: “Tangled competition is good for new players”
Of the two kinds of semiconductor memories (DRAM and NAND Flash) with the biggest market share, YMTC chose the latter, the emerging 3D NAND. Dr. Simon Yang explained, “Both DRAM and NAND Flash are applied to many products simultaneously. However, from the perspective of business operation, whether to start with DRAM or 3D NAND is both a technical issue and an economic one. If we go for DRAM, two extra problems pop up: first, rivals have massive depreciated products; second, demands for DRAM grow relatively slow. Therefore, I think M&A is a better choice for DRAM field.”
By contrast, as Dr. Simon Yang noticed that, flash memory cell technology is evolving from traditional floating gate to closed-loop-gate charge trap, and charge trap is one of the technological strengths of YMTC. “3D NAND is a major breakthrough for YMTC, and what we need to do now is to make 3D charge trap memory. The structure features high performance and low cost, which presents a great advantage.” Dr. Simon Yang also provided data to prove that 3D NAND would replace 2D NAND in a short time and start to make profits during the depreciation period.
“Another important reason is that apart from some global leading firms, most participants are stuck in competition, which is good for new players. R&D is never an easy job, but it also represents an opportunity.”
Never satisfied with the status quo: “There is still room for faster growth”
Dr. Simon Yang described YMTC’s latest initiatives in 3D NAND: YMTC launched the 3D NAND program in August 2014, and it was co-developed with partners. The channel current, memory cell performance and reliability have improved continuously since the first test chip passed the electrical verification in May 2015. Moreover, YMTC has achieved more breakthroughs in technological R&D of higher stack.
In conclusion, Dr. Simon Yang stated that “YMTC chose 3D NAND because of enterprise requirement, technological advantage and partners, and this fits in with the national strategy.” His final thought, “We are now on the right track and achieving tremendous progress, but we are not satisfied with that, as there is still room for faster growth.”