Yesterday we announced our 42nm DRAM technology with a 2Gb DDR3 device. If you just skimmed the headlines, you could have missed an important point—our DRAM is built with copper for critical metallization layers (not aluminum, like some others are). Now, that might be something you’re tempted to shrug off, “Isn’t DRAM just built to standardized specs? Does the metallization type really matter?” It absolutely does as we move below 50nm process technology and DRAM product specifications become more demanding and complex.
We invested in Cu process technology for our leading DRAM fabs nearly a decade ago because we saw that it offered consistently high product quality and excellent long-term reliability. In addition to the quality and reliability benefits, the use of Cu processing is also effective at reducing the overall process cost. Running critical metal levels with Cu is beneficial both in terms of lower initial capital cost, as well as a providing a significantly more cost-effective manufacturing process once it’s up and running. We believe our proprietary copper process translates into several distinct advantages:
The use of Al metallization for critical levels on DRAM for process nodes below 50nm can be done, but it comes at the price of significant quality and performance sub-optimization. We believe that pushing Al so close to its limit compromises the overall quality of the die. Using copper allows us to achieve an efficient and reliable process for consistently creating high-quality die.
Even more important from a customer perspective, though, is product reliability. We’re confident that our Cu process methodology will deliver consistently high reliability over time. We believe that many of the side effects of pushing Al into the 4Xnm space may begin to show themselves a year or two down the road in the form of higher-than-average failure rates.
Ultimately, we expect our 42nm copper process—coupled with proprietary cell capacitor technology—will be the foundation for excellent reliability and high performance in our products. We believe that this will put us in an ideal position to continue designing high-performance DRAM for demanding applications like servers. If we were using Al at this point, it might limit our ability to sell into those markets at all.
A Clear Path Forward
We can leverage our copper process technology to reach even smaller DRAM nodes. We’ve already got 3Xnm DRAM working in our R&D fab in Boise, Idaho and look forward to smoothly stepping through to future generations.
As you can tell, we’re confident in the strength of our technology and designs. We’re eager to get this next-generation DRAM out into the market; sampling is scheduled to start in the second quarter of 2010 with production ramp planned for the second half of the year.