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Semiconductors

SK Hynix joins Micron in 4th-gen 10nm DRAM production

Unlike its US rival, SK Hynix has adopted EUV technology to manufacture the latest-generation DRAM chips

By Jul 12, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

SK Hynix’s fourth-generation 10nm DRAM chips made using EUV lithography equipment.
SK Hynix’s fourth-generation 10nm DRAM chips made using EUV lithography equipment.

SK Hynix Inc. has kicked off mass production of its 8 Gigabit (Gb) LPDDR4 mobile DRAM chips based on the 1a nanometer (1anm) node, according to the company on July 12.

The 1a refers to the fourth generation of the 10-nanometer (nm) DRAM products, according to the semiconductor industry’s latest classification, following the first three generations of 1x, 1y and 1z.

The key advantage of the 1a technology is that it grants a 25% increase in the number of chips produced using the same-sized wafer, compared with the third generation based on the 1znm node.

SK Hynix’s new generation of 10 nm DRAM chips uses extreme ultraviolet (EUV) equipment in production, for the first time in the company’s history. In contrast, its US rival Micron Technology Inc. only uses the argon fluoride (ArF) process to produce its 1anm DRAM chips, without the EUV equipment.

Industry sources say that SK Hynix started mass production of the fourth-generation 10 nm chips with a yield rate of 95%, while Micron began mass production when the yield rate was only around 70-80%.

While the EUV technology requires far greater initial investment than the ArF process used by Micron, it is more cost-efficient in the long run as it reduces the manufacturing stages.

SK Hynix said in February that it will invest a total of 4.75 trillion won ($4.14 billion) by 2025 in expanding the use of EUV technology in its semiconductor manufacturing process.

“Samsung adopted the EUV technology in its chip manufacturing process as early as 2019. SK Hynix has proved its technological capabilities in the area by making chips based on EUV technology. Micron, on the other hand, may face a tough time in the market as it doesn't plan to adopt EUV until 2023,” said Professor Park Jae-geun of Hanyang University.

SK Hynix will also apply its 1anm technology to its DDR5 products, the world’s first next-generation DRAM launched in October 2020, from early next year.

“We plan to supply our new EUV technology-based DRAM chips to a number of smartphone makers starting from the second half of this year,” said an SK Hynix official.

SK Hynix added that its 1anm DRAM product can stably transfer 4,266 megabits per second (Mbps), the fastest rate in a standard LPDDR4 mobile DRAM specification. LPDDR4, or Lower Power Double Date Rate 4, is an industry-wide specification that takes up about 75% share of the DRAM market. The company added that its 1anm DRAM product has lowered power consumption by 20%.

“With improved productivity and cost competitiveness, 1anm DRAM will help secure high profitability and solidify our status as a leading tech company capable of using EUV lithography technology for mass production,” said SK Hynix Vice President Cho Young-mann.

Write to Su-bin Lee at lsb@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

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