Intel and Micron open $3 billion NAND flash fab

Intel has officially cut the ribbon on a $3 billion NAND flash plant in Singapore along with partner Micron.

The two had been forced to push back the schedule for opening the fab in 2010 due to the global financial crisis, but have now begun to ramp up the 25 nanometre process facility a month ahead of the re-planned timing.

The plant will now begin small scale production of NAND memory on 300 millimetre wafers, with a few thousand produced per week produced at first, before the plant is up to full functionality at the end of this year with around 25,000 pushed out per week.

The pair will also be looking ahead to the implementation of a 20nm process towards the end of this year.

IM Flash Technologies already has two US based plants and, though Intel only accounts for 18 percent of the chips manufactured at the plant, it is indicative of how important NAND flash memory is with the increase in demand for mobile products.

According to Thomas Rampone, Intel’s non-volatile memory vice-president, there is “increasing value” in the market which is expected to see a 38.6 percent inrease this year according to IHS iSuppli figures.

With tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices such as digital cameras or netbooks increasing in popularity the memory which is able to store information even when switched off is a valuable commodity.

As Rampone says, flash is “mission-critical” for such devices, and with the NAND flash market for tablets expected to grow five-fold this year the firm will want to be well placed to provide the memory to device manufacturers.

For Micron, which it had been speculated might ramp up the facility without Intel, the joint venture means that the firm is well placed to make a run at other leading firms in the market such as Toshiba, which recently opened a 24nm facility, and Samsung which has been closing the gap on Intel in the semi market.