We are living in an era where technology has become a part of life and various computing applications are the basic requirement to store data. NAND flash storage solution is the prime choice for non-volatile memory that can be used in smartphones, tablets, solid-state drives (SSD), memory drives, and USB drives. Due to rising demand, the technology evolution has moved to 3D storage solutions with some extra benefits, and there are comparisons between 3D NAND vs 2D NAND. It has become so popular that within a few years, it has evolved from the original 32 layers to 48, 64, and now available in 96 layers. Very soon 128 layers are going to release in the market.

3D NAND is the most advanced technology enabling faster speed at low cost and high density. It is built by stacking memory or silicon sells in vertical layers. Therefore, it is also known as V NAND. But what is 2D NAND? In the 2D NAND model, the memory cells were stacked horizontally but the vertical approach has made it more efficient with faster reads/writes, low power density, and durability. Another advantage is, the vertical cells fit within small width and length dimensions which increases the capacity and performance of horizontal layers in 2D NAND.

3D NAND Basic Structure
3D NAND Basic Structure                                                                                                 Source: The Memory Guy Blog (Jim Handy)

3D NAND has expected the shift into another form of storage device like hard disk drives (HDD). It multiplies the level of efficacy according to the available memory cells for a given area. Enabling greater storage capacities using small footprint areas 3D NAND is stacking shorter connections for each memory cell that supports accelerates faster performance. The fabrication strategy is relatively new and available in a range of memory capacities potential for far larger memory devices. This clears a lot of things in 2D vs 3D NAND comparison.

Challenges of Replacing 2D NAND to 3D NAND

Replacing 2D NAND with 3D NAND is quite challenging for the deployment of advanced Error Connection Code (ECC). It is required to read and correct data from the flash memory. For example, the device comprises multiple controllers that support 3D NAND along with the advanced ECC scheme of Low-Density Parity Check (LDPC).

3d nand vs 2d nand

The flash memory technology dependents can utilize the advanced error management methodologies also depend on the usage condition. On the other hand, the components of robust error connection solutions are challenging enough to manufacture. The Long-Likelihood Ratio (LLR) tables are required to characterize the flash memory technology and translate the data characterization into specific application solutions.

3D NAND leverages on existing infrastructure with cost-efficient significance including:

  1. Limited Write Endurance
  2. Low Passing Rate – Producing 3D NAND chips are complex and not every wafer ends up as a usable die
  3. Limited Supply

Challenges In Applications of 2D NAND & 3D NAND

Memory device pyramid

To cope up with the market demand, a wide range of memory devices available in the market. According to this memory, the device pyramid states the application requirement of a faster-embedded solution at the top and the bottom looks for less expanse and low-speed criteria. NAND resides in the middle below DRAM and stands alone to fill the requirement of faster speed at a low cost. The NAND architecture comprises read in a string of cells is highly beneficial to store a large amount of data.

Characterization of 3D NAND is a manual process that requires large teams with deep flash expertise. The high-performance and high-reliability requirements of data center and enterprise applications compound the problem to deploy 3D Triple-Level Cell (TLC) NAND into these applications.

Challenges in IMA Market

The shorter life cycle and unpredictable nature of NAND flash die is a serious concern for the Industrial, Medical, and Automotive (IMA) industry markets. These applications follow a complex storage requirement that should meet the need of embedded requirements. 2D NAND flash technology has reached its limits and no longer able to support the technology demands of high-end users. For the IMA customers, 2D NAND is still a viable solution and 3D NAND is emerging as the next step and a seamless replacement. It has been developed to meet the demands of industrial users to cope up with high capacity, high density, and low-cost facilities.

Due to higher test times, bigger investments are the key to fabricate 3D NAND flash wafers. The transition to 3D NAND flash technology can be crucial for the IMA market and the supply chain can be disrupted after the shift. Moreover, if there is any problem found after shift, it would be even more problematic to switch back to 2D NAND flash die. Therefore, the IMA market needs to consider the supply chain along with the technical aspects of 3D NAND before the transition.

Stabilize the Market Challenge with Flexxon

The key focus of Flexxon is to stabilize the IMA market by providing continuous support to the 2D NAND flash-based products. It maintains feasibility to keep up the foreseeable future whereas other manufacturers have already been obsolete or soon will be obsolete. Flexxon is aware of IMA sector challenges that include:

  • Short product Life Cycle
  • High price fluctuation
  • Lack of support for fixed BOM solutions
Flexxon memory device

For long-term support, Flexxon offers products from the same series without changes. The Fixed BOM solution guarantees 3 to 5 years availability for products based on SLC flash die and 2 to 3 years for MLC flash die. The plan is to extend product availability for another 3 to 5 years on SLC and 2 to 3 years on MLC with the same controller but changed NAND flash die. Flexxon also offers long-term Fixed BOM solutions to customers who cannot accept NAND die shrinks or any changes to the product. So, there will be no need to update host controllers and related drives whenever NAND goes through a die shrink or require a storage device with increased capacity.

Though 3D NAND is less expensive than 2D NAND but transforming 2D to 3D NAND can be much more expensive from an industrial perspective. So, if you have no intention for an industrial renovation or not thinking of starting a new venture, then 2D NAND is the solution that you will need. 3D NAND is getting popular and flash storage manufacturers are putting the focus on it. Flexxon understands the commercial need and will support it accordingly. Flexxon may be the only manufacturer left willing to support 2D NAND-based products long-term.

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