The company has twelve customers, including several top in the ten, who have multiple fabs running NRAM wafers including one on 28nm.
NRAM’s speed is the same as DRAM but with permanent non-volatility, low power and high endurance. It is compatible with any existing fab.
NRAM can be planar or 3D. Fujitsu plans to do a planar embedded version on 55nm for 2018. Planar versions are restricted to densities in the low Mbit range.
Other customers have multi-level 3D NRAM for discrete standalone multi-GByte DDR in product design right now.
“We’ve found a way to do 3D. We don’t need either a transistor or a diode in every cell,” says Nantero co-founder and CEO Greg Schmergel.
I ask him if any of the big memory makers are looking at it.
“Yes absolutely,” replies Schmergel, “we also have partnerships with several of the world’s largest buyers of memory who have become both investors and customers.”
How many layers?
“They are restricted only by the yield and capabilities of the fab,” says Schmergel, ” the nanotubes are happy to be stacked up as high as you can imagine.”
The initial target is DRAM.
“We can beat DRAM on cost while meeting it on speed and also delivering non-volatility,” says Schmergel, “we can get densities superior to DRAM on a 28nm process – that’s the goal we’re working on with several partners. It will take a couple of years of engineering to get the process to volume production in 2018.”
Competitiveness with NAND is a longer term focus. “To meet NAND costs we need several more years,” says Schmergel.
That’s not because there’s anything in the cell which makes it more expensive than NAND.
“It’s a very simple cell,” says Schmergel, “but there’s a lot still to do to get the shipping volumes up to a high level and optimise the process to bring down the cost.”
Scalability is limitless. 5nm processing and TB densities are envisaged. It can be MLC.
Nantero is also looking at an SSD product using NRAM. “NRAM could be used as a cache layer for an SSD with later on an all-NRAM SSD – because of the cost issue,” says Schmergel.
Compared to the Intel/Micron 3D XPoint, NRAM delivers DRAM speed with unlimited endurance, lower power consumption, and zero standby power.
Nantero has spoken to the Chinese and would be prepared to license the technology to them.