Numonyx, a company that got its start earlier this year when Intel and STMicroelectronics each spun off part of their memory businesses, is preparing to bring new NOR flash memory chips to market in 2009 built on 65-nanometer manufacturing technology.
At the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston Oct. 28, Numonyx will display its Axcell M29EW NOR Flash Memory chips, which are being built on the company’s new 65-nm technology. Numonyx has already begun sampling the first of these chips, and full production is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2009.
These NOR flash chips are some of the first products that Numonyx is producing after the company formed earlier this year. The company has already started to produce NOR flash memory chips for cell phones.
The Axcell M29EW memory chips are specifically designed for embedded systems, including high-end, multifunction printers; point-of-sale devices; communication equipment; and consumer electronics, said Jeff Bader, marketing director for the company’s Embedded Business Group.
Right now, Numonyx offers NOR memory chips for embedded systems that deliver about 128MB of data storage. When the new Axcell M29EW series comes to market in 2009, Numonyx will increase the capacity of its NOR memory chips to 256MB and eventually offer memory chips that have a 2GB capacity.
“When you look at the embedded market, the range of applications is pretty diverse,” said Bader. “When you look at this application range, the applications require a certain size of memory to put the code in or to store the data in. That range is very broad and it matches the breadth of the embedded market as well. We are talking about 256MB that we are introducing today, and its opens up a density range for code and data storage.”
In addition to the density range, Numonyx engineered a number of features into the chips themselves. These technological advances include security features that allow for password access protection, which protects the intellectual property that is included in a device’s firmware from being cloned or copied.
Numonyx has also included a faster programming mode that enables systems builders to program these memory chips at speeds of 1.5MB per second. This should reduce the time it takes to manufacture systems.
In the market for nonvolatile embedded memory, Numonyx is competing against two established players: Samsung and Spansion. There are also a number of smaller companies in Taiwan and China that make these types of memory chips.
The market is seen as a lucrative investment. Bader estimates that the worldwide market for embedded memory is worth about $5.2 billion in revenue, and more than half of the market-about $3.7 billion in revenue-is buying NOR memory chips.
The other challenge that Numonyx and other memory makers face is price. The market for NAND flash memory-the type of memory being used in solid-state drives-DRAM (dynamic RAM) and NOR memory remains under pressure, and prices for all of these products continue to fall. While NOR prices are not as unstable as DRAM and NAND flash, Bader said price does remain a concern for Numonyx. (The company also makes NAND flash memory products.)
“The NAND side has been more volatile than the NOR, but these two markets don’t operate independently of each other,” said Bader.
Numonyx does plan to switch to a new 45-nm manufacturing process for its memory chips that are used in mobile devices in 2009. A specific date has not been made official yet.