SSDs for PCs Could Reach Over 10TB with Micron's 3D NAND chips

By Floyd GoodrichMarch 16, 2016

Micron’s latest flash chips powered by 3D NAND technology could increase the speed and capacities of the industry’s solid-state drives (SSD).

Micron—the producer of flash that many use in their SSDs—has amped up the manufacturing and shipment volumes of its 3D NAND flash chips. The new flash chips could allow ultra-compact SSDs to hold a capacity of 3.5TB, while storage for standard 2.5 inch SSDs could exceed 10TB.

Currently, consumer SSDs on the market have a maximum capacity of up to 4TB of storage. With Micron’s 3D NAND chips, the storage in these SSDs could be boosted up to three times. While companies like Intel hasn’t offered any specific timeline for releasing these new SSDs, Micron has plans to roll out its new drives during spring-summer this year.

The industry is gearing towards increased capacity and speed in SSDs—a trend evident from some recent launches and announcements such as Fixstars’ 13TB SSD, SanDisk’s 6TB and 8TB SSDs, and Samsung’s 4TB SSD. To put this into perspective, Intel hasn’t upgraded its old SSD products in a while.

Plus, 3D NAND flash memory, which is increasingly being pegged as the replacement for planar NAND flash memory, is attracting a lot of attention. This is another reason why major players in the flash memory game are throwing their hats into the 3D NAND arena. Because of the placement of storage chips that are stacked on top of each other, 3D NAND flash achieves higher density than planar SSDs in which the chips are arranged next to each other. The speed of SSDs has also improved, thanks to this new structure in which the cells are placed closer together.

Samsung and Toshiba are two companies that aggressively shifted focus to the 3D NAND flash market long ago with an aim to improve storage capacity and cut down production costs. In comparison, Micron’s approach has been conservative in terms of both technology and timing. While Micron depends on floating-gate cells to boost the reliability and capacity of drives, its competitors use charge-trap technology, which is touted by many analysts as lending a longer battery life to the drives.

However, Micron aims to emerge as a strong competition in the market, claiming that the density of its 3D NAND chips is three times that of competitors’ products. This means Micron’s flash chips could allow three times the capacity in the same size SSD, enabling greater storage capacity in lesser space such as slimmer and more compact devices.