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Toshiba reveals new 3D flash chip that can store 1TB

Toshiba has begun shipping samples of its third-generation 3D NAND flash chip technology, which stacks 64 layers of flash cells and has 65% greater capacity than the previous generation technology, which used 48 layers.

"This increases memory capacity per silicon wafer and leads to a reduction of cost-per-bit," Toshiba said in a statement.

Based on a vertical stacking or 3D technology that Toshiba calls BiCS (Bit Cost Scaling), the company's NAND flash memory stores three bits of data per transistor, meaning it's a multi-level cell (MLC) flash chip. It can store 512Gbits (64GB) per chip.

Part of its BiCS flash product line, the new chips also store 3 bits of data per cell with the ability to store 512 gigabits (Gb) or 64GB per chip. Toshiba's second-generation BiCS flash chip held 256Gb (32GB) of capacity.

The new technology will enable a 1TB chip that will be used to create enterprise and consumer SSDs, the company said. Mass production of the new 512Gb chip devices is scheduled for the second half of 2017.

The next milestone in the BiCS flash development roadmap will be the industry's highest capacity chip, a 1TB product with a 16-die stacked architecture in a single package -- in other words, 16 of the 64GB chips. Tosbhia said it plans to begin shipping samples of its 1TB chip in April.

"By stacking the die, we are able to achieve higher density per package.  From an industry perspective, a 16-die stack has long been the maximum for reasons of optimizing yield," Scott Nelson, senior vice president of the company's memory business unit, said in an email reply to Computerworld. "Our announcement of 512Gb BiCS FLASH is significant because, in a 16-die stack, we enable the industry’s largest capacity in a single chip."

In addition to the new 512Gb chip, Toshiba's BiCS flash lineup also includes a 64-layer 256Gb (32 gigabyte) offering, which is already in mass production.

Based on a vertical stacking or 3D technology that Toshiba and partner WD developed, the latest BiCS (Bit Cost Scaling) technology stores three bits of data per cell and stacks those cells 64-layers high.

Toshiba recently announced that construction has begun on a new state-of-the-art semiconductor fabrication facility, Fab 6, and a new memory-focused R&D center, at Yokkaichi Operations in Mie Prefecture, Japan. Fab 6 will be dedicated to the production of the company's BiCS flash memory products.

The company, which invented NAND flash in the early 1980s, announced last month it was exploring spinning off its memory business, which includes its 3D BiCS technology line. Nikkei's Asian Review reported that Toshiba had been considering spinning off its semiconductor operations and selling a partial stake to Western Digital (WD), "as it tries to cope with a massive impairment loss in its US nuclear power unit."

Toshiba today announced it remains undecided about the sale of its memory business.