3D NAND and the Flash Drives of the Future

By Rick HylkaOctober 10, 2016

Modern day life is infused with evolving data, which is why it is increasingly triggering the need for high capacity storage, and subsequently, new technological innovations. 3D NAND is one such advancement. Designed to define the future of storage, it is expected to meet the growing memory demands with bigger, faster, and cheaper flash drives.

With planar NAND almost nearing its practical scaling limits, it was becoming more and more difficult to serve the enhanced memory requirements of mobile computing and data centers. Now with 3D NAND flash technology delivering an innovative process architecture, we are ready to experience 3X the capacity of planar NAND technologies while leveraging improved performance and reliability.

System designers developing products like laptops, notebooks, mobile devices, and servers, can make use of 3D NAND’s unprecedented technology to accommodate the rising data movement in the consumer and enterprise storage department.

Flash memory makers are offering a full range of NAND memory products, including companies like Micron, providing specialized NAND solutions integrated with a unique set of features that significantly boost performance capabilities across a range of process nodes.

These widespread diversifications in the NAND technology essentially mean, today's designers cannot just select any NAND Flash device for their applications, instead, they will have to derive a basic perception of each NAND, understanding how its features can suitably benefit the necessities of a particular device.

Features and Factors Driving the 3D NAND Technology

3D NAND, as the name suggests, is a flash storage technology that involves cutting multiple layers into the silicon, stacking the memory cells to enhance storage density. By stacking cells in 32 layers, 3D NAND can pave the way for much higher storage density in each die, allowing cells to space out more on each plane while reducing the inter-cell interference issues.

In addition, stacked cells in 3D NAND can still retain its MLC and TLC cell characteristics, which leads to massive increase in the storage volume. In light of these memory cells, it should be noted, MLC and TLC can be stacked up to 32 levels for 256 gigabytes MLC dies, and 384 gigabytes TLC dies.

3D NAND Flash memory technology for SD cards, solid state hard drives, and smartphones deploys a series of floating gate transistors, assigned to a charge value of "on" and "off" (1 and 0). Subsequently, these memory blocks are arranged side-by-side in a two-dimensional layout. With further advancement in technology, it is obvious that designers will succeed in fitting more memory blocks onto a single die, resulting in the production of higher capacity flash drives. 

The Future Possibilities of 3D NAND and Flash Drives

3D NAND technology is in its early stages, with a whole lot of possibilities still to unfold in the near future. Micron Technologies, a pioneer in flash memory innovations, has been working on advanced 3D NAND storage that will reduce the size of SSDs to 2.5-inch with over 10TB of storage. These early technological advances can hopefully lead to the production of cheaper, reliable, and higher-capacity device storage ready to meet the increasing memory challenges.