Numonyx uses flash-tech to catch up with Samsung

Numonyx uses flash-tech to catch up with Samsung

Milan, Italy: The STMicroelectronics NV and Intel Corp. venture, Numonyx BV, has unveiled a new flash memory technology as it seeks to narrow the gap with the world’s largest maker of such chips, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

Numonyx will offer NAND-memory chips based on its new 41-nanometre technology for use in devices such as mobile phones, set-top boxes and navigation systems, the company said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

Fewer nanometres, or the width of lines etched into the chip’s circuits, mean manufacturers can make more chips from each silicon wafer while improving performance. “Our effort is focused on minimizing the technological gap towards the industry leader," Fabio Gualandris, general manager of Numonyx’s data business group, said. “On the other hand, our NAND operation won’t be even close to the market share" of Samsung in the short term, he said.

Numonyx was created in March, when STMicroelectronics and Intel combined their unprofitable flash memory units to create the third biggest maker of non-volatile memory, which stores information even when not powered up. Numonyx may seek to gain share after Samsung said this month that it will struggle to report a profit at its memory chip business this quarter.

“Today’s announcement is a sign of confidence in the future," Gualandris said. “We’re committed to continue developing and innovating in spite of the hard times."

Gartner Inc. forecast on Tuesday global semiconductor sales will drop 16% next year because of the deteriorating economy. The US researcher joins the Semiconductor Industry Association and WSTS Inc. in lowering its outlook amid slumping demand for electronic equipment.

The global NAND segment will be worth around $13 billion (Rs62,140 crore) this year, a 10% decline from 2007 because of a drop in memory prices, Gualandris said. “2009 will be a year to be managed with extreme caution and prudence," he said. “Analysts aren’t seeing any sign of a recovery in prices in the first half of next year." NAND memory is one of the largest segments of the chip industry “driven primarily by the high levels of digital content found in everything from set-top boxes to mobile phones, to store pictures, videos, songs and operate popular multimedia applications", the firm said.

Prices of the benchmark NAND flash memory chip have fallen 70% this year after plummeting 63% in 2007, as per Taipei-based DRAMexchange Technology Inc., operator of Asia’s biggest spot market for chips. Japan’s Toshiba Corp. said it’ll cut NAND flash memory production 30% from January because of falling demand.

Numonyx is considering making memories for solid-state drives, as the market for the alternative to hard drives expands, Gualandris said. Solid-state drives, which store data on flash memory chip, are lighter, more resistant to shock and can read data faster than traditional hard drives.