Western Digital Unveils World’s First 64-Layer 512Gb 3D ‘Skyscraper’ NAND Chip

There’s no question that solid-state drives (SSDs) are the present and future of high-speed computer storage. As a result, many major players are jockeying for position when it comes to advancing performance and capacity across the board, while at the same time driving prices down. Western Digital this week announced its latest leap in the sector with pilot production of 512 Gigabit, three-bits-per-cell, 64-layer 3D NAND (BiCS 3D) — that sure is a mouthful!

This pilot run is being ushered in with its technology partner, Toshiba, at the pair’s massive Yokkaichi, Japan fabrication facility. By using vertical stacking (hence the 3D nomenclature) for those 64 layers, Western Digital is able to achieve a much larger storage density for its NAND in a smaller footprint. Stacking also reduces production costs and is more reliable than planar NAND solutions.

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Samsung kicked off the 3D NAND flash revolution with its 3-bits-per-cell, 32-layer “V-NAND” technology in 2014. Toshiba followed up in 2015 with its 48-layer BiCS 3D NAND. Advances in 3D NAND are what has allowed companies like Samsung to bring a 15.3TB SAS SSD using 256Gb V-NAND to market (albeit at outrageous prices). Seagate has even shown off prototype SSDs with a staggering capacity of 60TB thanks to the use of Micron 3D TLC NAND.

"The launch of the industry's first 512Gb 64-layer 3D NAND chip is another important stride forward in the advancement of our 3D NAND technology, doubling the density from when we introduced the world's first 64-layer architecture in July 2016," said Dr. Siva Sivaram, Western Digital Executive VP of Memory Technology. "This is a great addition to our rapidly broadening 3D NAND technology portfolio. It positions us well to continue addressing the increasing demand for storage due to rapid data growth across a wide range of customer retail, mobile and data center applications."

According to Western Digital, it will begin mass production of its new 512Gb NAND during the second half of 2017.

It was reported late last month that Western Digital is very interested in purchasing a 20 percent stake in Toshiba’s NAND flash business. The purchase would allow more favorable economies of scale for Western Digital’s own SSD family, which includes the WD Blue and WD Black SSD families.