Intel and Micron Technology have announced the delivery of 3-bit-per-cell (3bpc) NAND flash memory on 25-nanometer lithography technology. The new flash memory chips represent the industry's highest capacity, smallest NAND device to date, the companies said.

The companies have sent initial product samples to select customers. Intel and Micron expect to be in full production by the end of the year.

The 3-bit per cell NAND flash chips are targeted for flash cards, USB drives and MP3 players. The companies' solid state drives (SSD) continue to use two-bit-per-cell and one-bit-per-cell NAND flash.

Last August, Intel and Micron's joint venture company, IM Flash Technologies (IMFT), announced its first 3-bit-per-cell, NAND flash memory technology using its 34nm lithography process. The advancement represented an 11% reduction in NAND flash size. However, because of reliability issues, IMFT chose to discontinue production of a 3-bit NAND flash product.

In January, IMFT then introduced the industry's first 25nm NAND flash technology . That chip held two bits of data, making a multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash as compared to a s ingle-level cell (SLC) NAND, which holds one bit per cell.

The new NAND flash is a combination of the latter two technologies.

IMFT's said its new 64Gbit 3-bits per cell memory chip offers even greater densities and will further reduce the base price of NAND flash.

IMFT's 25nm 8GB die, which measures 0.35-in. by 0.74-in., is made up of many, smaller 64Gbit NAND chips. The NAND technology makes it possible to build products using half as many chips as the previous 34nm lithography technology, allowing for smaller, higher-density designs. For example, a 256GB SSD can be built with 32 of the 8GB NAND flash dies instead of 64 dies; a 32GB smartphone needs just four dies; and a 16GB flash card requires only two. The change also cuts the overall cost to produce mobile products.

The device is more than 20% smaller than the same capacity of Intel and Micron's 25nm MLC in production today.

"With January's introduction of the industry's smallest die size at 25nm, quickly followed by the move to 3-bit-per-cell on 25nm, we continue to gain momentum and offer customers a compelling set of leadership products," Tom Rampone, general manager of Intel's NAND Solutions Group, said in a statement. "Intel plans to use the design and manufacturing leadership of IMFT to deliver higher-density, cost-competitive products to our customers based on the new 8GB 25nm NAND device."

"We are already working to qualify the 8GB TLC NAND flash device within end-product designs, including higher-capacity products from Lexar Media and Micron," Brian Shirley, vice president of Micron's NAND Solutions Group, said in a statement.

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