Infineon launches its first flash memory chip

Infineon launches its first flash memory chip

Nearly one year after establishing a joint venture targeting the lucrative market for flash memory chips, German chip maker Infineon Technologies AG and Saifun Semiconductors Ltd. of Israel have launched their first product.

The joint venture, Infineon Technologies Flash GmbH & Co. KG, started production of a 512M bit flash chip in Dresden, Germany, Infineon said Wednesday.

The NAND-compatible flash chip is based on Saifun's patented Non-Nitrided Read Only Memory (NROM) nonvolatile memory system, serving as the basis for the group's new TwinFlash technology. TwinFlash allows two locally separated bits to be stored in one transistor. The advantage of this two-bit-per-cell approach is smaller die sizes, which can be up to 40 percent smaller than competing single-bit-per-cell technologies, resulting in lower production costs.

Infineon Technologies Flash has signed orders for its new flash chip with several customers, according to a company spokeswoman. However, she declined to name the companies or provide details about the volume of chips being manufactured during the ramp-up. "We will increase production in line with demand, which we expect to be substantial," she said.

The NAND flash market is expected to be the fastest growing memory market over the next several years, according to Peter Kücher, president and managing director of Infineon Technologies Flash.

Gartner Inc. unit Dataquest projects the worldwide market for NAND flash chips to grow to US$4.4 billion in 2004 from US$3.4 billion in 2003.

Referring to market prices published by Gartner Dataquest, the spokeswoman said the price of a NAND flash memory chip was US$11.15 in 2003 and is expected to fall to US$8.50 in 2004. While declining to quote an exact price for the new flash memory chip from Infineon Flash, she said it will reflect market prices.

The German joint venture will target the new flash chip at the removable storage market for products such as compact flash cards and memory sticks used to exchange information between PCs and notebooks or integrated into digital cameras.

In a next step, Infineon Technologies Flash plans to shrink the size of its current chip to 110 nanometers from current 170 nanometers and increase capacity to 2G bits from 512M bits by 2005, the spokeswoman said.

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