Manufacturers can now purchase chips with embedded flash memory from STMicroelectronics NV (ST) that feature extremely small cell sizes, the company announced last week.
ST is producing embedded flash memory in volume quantities on its 0.18-micron process technology with cells that measure just 0.37 square microns.
Devices such as engine management units for automobiles and consumer entertainment devices were among the potential applications for this technology, which was available in arrays of up to 10M bits, ST said.
A flash memory cell is equal to one bit of information.
Smaller flash memory cells mean chip makers could design smaller flash memory chips and, therefore, reduce the cost of materials and price of that chip, ST said.
Discrete flash memory products were already being manufactured on 0.13-micron process technologies, a senior analyst at Semico Research, Rich Wawrzyniak, said.
Discrete flash memory is purchased by itself for devices such as cell phones, while embedded flash memory is designed right into the ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) chip used in other embedded devices, he said.
Many chipmakers were still manufacturing embedded chips on the 0.18-micron process technology due to yield problems experienced by some with the state-of-the-art 0.13-micron process technology, Wawrzyniak said. Because embedded chips sell for much less than PC or server processors, yields were very important.
The yield is the percentage of working chips cut from a silicon wafer.
Smaller flash memory cells could probably be found that were manufactured on a 0.13-micron process technology, but there is still demand for the 0.18-micron chips, Wawrzyniak said.
ST would most likely use the new flash memory cells in its own ASIC and embedded chips, rather than licensing it to competitors, he said.