Chinese company YMTC (Yangtze Memory Technology Co.) is one of the most competitive Chinese electronics manufacturers.And in this it has been helped by a somewhat unexpected ally - Apple.The U.S.giant has helped the Chinese company to hire Western specialists, who have provided her reduced scrap rate and increased productivity, reports the New York Times citing its own sources.Image source: ymtc.comProduced YMTC 3D NAND memory chips have a unique architecture Xtacking - it involves making a memory chip from two crystals, which are stacked one on top of the other.The memory module itself is formed on one, and the other is used for peripheral logic.With through silicon connections (TSV), the 3D NAND chip offers the best of both worlds at once: a dense memory array and a fast interface.That is, the chips come out with high density and high speed.YMTC's competitors produce memory arrays and logic on the same chip, making it difficult to increase interface speed, and consumer SSDs can't unlock the full potential of PCIe 5.0 x4.On the other hand, the technology proposed by YMTC is significantly more complex than the solutions used by Kioxia and Western Digital, Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron.The Chinese company could not reach a high enough level of quality products (there were a lot of defects), and was stalling with the expansion of production.It is reported that Apple has helped YMTC with hiring specialists to fix the problems.Apple uses 3D NAND memory in the vast majority of its products - this means that it benefits from the diversification of supply so that manufacturers offer it more favorable prices.However, with the sanctions imposed by Washington on the Chinese semiconductor industry, Apple has abandoned its intention to use YMTC products even for devices to be sold in China.Due to the sanctions, the leading manufacturers of silicon wafers have now also stopped cooperating with the company.
Apple's intention to use Chinese YMTC flash memory has angered American authorities
Back in late March Bloomberg reported that Apple is considering the use of Chinese YMTC solid-state memory in its mobile devices, and with the release of the new generation smartphones this topic has found a second life in an unexpected context.According to the U.S.parliamentarians, in case of implementation of such cooperation Apple could face sanctions from the U.S.authorities.Image source: AppleThe two U.S.senators from the Republican Party, Marco Rubio and Michael McCaul, who oversee the issues related to intelligence and international relations in the U.S.Parliament, according to the Financial Times, criticized the likely decision of Apple to use 14 memory chips of Chinese YMTC brand in the manufacture of the iPhone.If such steps are taken by the manufacturer, Marco Rubio promised to subject Apple to inspections unprecedented by the standards of the U.S.federal government.In his opinion, they can not allow the presence of products controlled by the PRC authorities in millions of devices used by the Americans in national telecommunications networks.Apple responded to such requests only by denying the fact of using YMTC memory in any products, but acknowledged that it had tried to explore the possibility of its use in the assembly of individual iPhone models, designed for implementation in the domestic market of China.Outside of the country such devices should not appear in any case.In addition, all data stored in the memory of Apple mobile devices are fully protected by encryption.In April this year it became known that the U.S.authorities became interested in YMTC in the context of the supply of its memory chips to the sanctioned Huawei Technologies.According to the senators, the inevitable exchange of experience between Apple and YMTC in the case of cooperation will allow the latter to strengthen China's position in the technological sphere.In July this year, U.S.parliamentarians have already proposed an initiative to add YMTC to the \"black list\" of Chinese companies with which it is forbidden for all manufacturers that use technology of American origin.The U.S.authorities are concerned about the alleged active subsidization of YMTC by the Chinese authorities, which as a result allows the company to sell the memory at a price below cost and violate the rules of fair competition in the global market.YMTC company is a leader in solid-state memory manufacturing in China not only in volume of products, but also in technological area.At least, it has recently mastered the production of 192-layer 3D NAND chips, albeit so far in the status of engineering samples, but on a global scale, this allows us to talk about the approach of this Chinese manufacturer, founded in 2016, to the industry leaders in the level of technical competence.
Chinese manufacturers of RAM lag 5 years behind Korean competitors
In contrast to the production of solid-state memory such as 3D NAND, in which the Chinese company YMTC lags behind the world leaders by literally one generation, the production of memory chips such as DRAM is given to Chinese companies with great difficulty.According to estimates by South Korean experts, China's CXMT lags behind its Korean rivals in this area for a couple of generations and five years.Image source: SMICFor example, as explained by Business Korea, the leading DRAM manufacturing company in China, CXMT has declared readiness to start production with the technology standards of 16 to 17 nm this year, while the Korean SK hynix and Samsung Electronics in comparable terms are going to switch to 12-nm and 13-nm technology combined with EUV-lithography.Each generation of lithographic technology in memory chip production is separated from the previous one by about two or two and a half years, so Chinese DRAM manufacturers lag behind their Korean colleagues by about five years, according to experts.The same CXMT, according to their data, suffers from a low yield of good products.Even having mastered the production of memory using 19-nm and 18-nm technologies in 2019, it now receives only three-quarters of good chips from the silicon wafer.In the next generation, CXMT's yield rate of good products does not exceed 40%.As a result, the company's share of the global market does not exceed one percent.According to Korean analysts, the Chinese memory chip industry will not be able to match foreign competitors as dramatically as it did in the display industry.The lag in solid-state memory technology from Chinese companies is noticeably smaller, but still reaches a couple of years.Korean companies are going to mass produce 3D NAND chips with more than 200 layers by the end of this year or early next year, while China's YMTC is unlikely to do so before 2024.The company can be kept from further convergence of YMTC with Korean competitors by the introduction of specific sanctions from the U.S., but so far this factor does not limit the development of this segment of the Chinese industry.In the segment of contract production of more complex microchips China is behind South Korea by about five years.Samsung Electronics is already able to produce 5-nm and 4-nm products for its customers, while China's SMIC has not progressed beyond 14 nm - largely due to U.S.sanctions, by the way.Further development of advanced lithography without switching to ultra-hard ultraviolet light (EUV) seems difficult, but this is where U.S.sanctions against SMIC come into play.
China's YMTC began sending out samples of 192-layer 3D NAND flash memory chips
Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC), the largest Chinese manufacturer of 3D NAND flash memory chips, announced that it has already begun sending out samples of the new 192-layer 3D NAND flash memory chips to customers.A full-scale release of the chips could occur by the end of the year, according to DigiTimes.Image source: YMTC is producing 128-layer 3D NAND flash memory chips in volume production, providing strong competition for manufacturers in Korea, Japan and the United States.Experts praise Chinese chips for their high density and throughput, which the company has managed to achieve during its transition to the new architecture Xtacking 2.0.Xtacking architecture is a proprietary YMTC development.It is the basis for the production of 64-layer NAND chips.Last year, the Chinese manufacturer switched to Xtacking 2.0 technology, which has provided a number of advantages for the family of 128-layer products.DigiTimes reports that YMTC overcame all the difficulties associated with the mass production of 128-layer memory type 3D NAND and set up its production.The company has increased its monthly silicon wafer processing capacity to 100,000.Insiders say that the NAND memory from the company YMTC interested even in Apple, which will consider using them in their products.Chinese manufacturer has set a goal by the end of 2023 to win 7-8% of the world market of NAND memory production.In terms of volume, this means processing 200 thousand silicon wafers per month.
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