Macronix preps 3D-NAND market entry, says CEO

November 16, 2016 // By Peter Clarke
Miin Wu, CEO of Macronix International Co. Ltd. (Hsinchu, Tawain), expects his company to be the market leader in NOR flash memory this year taking over leadership from the likes of Cypress and Winbond, and then plans to move up in the NAND market.

As part of that attack Macronix is working on a 3D-NAND product introduction in 2018 which the company will make at one of its three wafer fabs in Taiwan.

Macronix is the opposite of the conventional wisdom on market leaders in memory, usually typified by big spending at the leading-edge to achieve economies of scale. The classic examples here are Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron. Macronix is led by its charismatic founder and CEO Miin Wu who believes in plentiful R&D, organic growth and efficient automated manufacturing.

"We don't have the luxury to build big fabs and flood the market. We have to grow step by step the reliable way," Wu told EE Times Europe at Electronica.

"Macronix grew to be number one in ROM. We've grown to be nearly number one in NOR flash. The next move is NAND," Wu said. Macronix already has some NAND products but it only makes up about 10 percent of company revenues. Producing reliable NAND flash suitable for automotive applications has been a key part of recent strategy. "Over six years we've sold 100 million units of flash memory into automotive," Wu said.

By early in 2017 Macronix will be manufacturing NAND flash on a 19nm manufacturing process to produce 32Gbit memories for eMMC applications. But moving to 3D-NAND will allow the company to relax the geometry back and go up in the z dimension. "Our 3D-NAND is based on charge-trap flash, something we have been working on since 1998. We have long experience.

Wu declined to say what memory capacity Macronix would target or how many layers it would deploy. The leading-edge currently stands at 64-layer NAND courtesy of Samsung and Toshiba.

Meanwhile Macronix continues to engage in research into phase-change memory (PCM) and resistive memory (ReRAM). Macronix engineers have been working on PCM with IBM in New York state for a decade and published numerous papers at IEDM. Wu said there