Samsung said to be working on >200-layer NAND

Samsung is reportedly preparing to launch 236-layer 3D NAND product this year and open a NAND R&D center in Korea.

Update; Samsung question answers added to end of article. 19 August 2022.

Currently Samsung’s highest 3D NAND layer count is 176 with its seventh-generation V-NAND, which uses charge-trap technology and string-stacking – two 88-layer sections added together to reach the 176 level. Competing NAND foundry operators have already passed the 200-layer level. Micron has a 232-layer technology, SK hynix is at the 238-layer point, Western Digital and Kioxia’s joint venture is at 212, but not yet shipping product, and China’s YMTC has just announced 232-layer product.

Adding more layers increases a NAND die’s density and therefore enables higher-capacity SSDs or smaller devices. By moving to 236 layers, Samsung will add 34 percent more capacity to its die – another 60 layers, assuming the same cell bit count, TLC (3 bits/cell).

Samsung is not quoted directly in this Korean report nor in a second one. This means that the 236-layer technology development has not been confirmed by Samsung. It did present at FMS 2022 and a slide said eighth-generation V-NAND would appear this year with a 1Tbit die formatted as TLC and operating at 2.4Gbit/sec.

Compared to the 176-layer seventh-gen V-NAND, V8 cells have been shrunk laterally and vertically, and the base peripheral logic layer has been reduced in size as well. A slide note said: “V8 1Tb will be  released with physical scaling technology, improving storage capacity without adding volume.”

Dylan Patel, critical of Samsung
Dylan Patel

SemiAnalysis chief analyst Dylan Patel believes Samsung has a top-down management style cultural problem which is inhibiting its technology progress. He writes scathingly in another article: “Despite leading at 128-layer, Samsung has not shipped a new NAND process technology in years. Their 176-layer and >200-layer NAND process technologies have not been found in any SSDs by reverse engineering firms or teardowns. This is despite their claims of shipping 176-layer consumer SSDs in 2021.”

We have asked Samsung if this is correct and to confirm if it is developing a 236-layer V-NAND product. A Samsung spokesperson told us: :”Yes, we are shipping 176-layer V-NAND based SSDs as well as UFS 3.1 mobile storage to customers. We also began mass production of the 176-layer UFS 4.0 solution this month.”

The company was less forthcoming about 236-layer NAND: “Our 200+ V-NAND is well on-track and will be released as planned.  We cannot confirm the layer count or a specific timeline at this time.”