Micron Readies Stacks Of IBM 3D Memory Chips

Production has begun on Micron’s implementation of IBM’s speedy, greener, 3D chip architecture

Micron Technology has started production of the first memory devices built using IBM’s 3D chip architecture.

IBM has announced that Micron has started production of its Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC) which uses IBM’s advanced through-silicon vias (TSV), a new chip-making process that creates a 3D micro structure of multiple, stacked layers connected by TSV pipelines – whereas current memory chips are constructed as a single layer.

Benefits stack up

The 3D architecture effectively stacks several conventional memory chips onto a single mount – increasing density, decreasing volume, and allowing speeds upwards of 15 times faster than normal DDR3 packages.

Diagram showing vertical TSVs

Advanced TSVs are used as vertical conduits to electrically connect a stack of individual chips. The shortened, on-chip links combined with Micron’s latest DRAM design increases the speed and efficiency of the HMC chip layers when compared to conventional printed circuit board (PCB) connections between separate chips.

According to Micron’s prototype testing results, an HMC chip clocked up a bandwidth of 128 gigabytes per second (GB/s) compared with 12.8 GB/s for a conventional chipset. HMC also consumes 70 percent less energy to transfer data and the footprint of the chip stack is only 10 percent of current PCB-based memory.

Subu Iyer, an IBM fellow, said, “This is a milestone in the industry move to 3D semiconductor manufacturing. The manufacturing process we are rolling out will have applications beyond memory, enabling other industry segments as well. In the next few years, 3D chip technology will make its way into consumer products, and we can expect to see drastic improvements in battery life and functionality of devices.”

Initially, the 3D process will be used for large-scale networking and high-performance computing (HPC). It will also spread to industrial automation implementations before ultimately entering the consumer world.

HMC parts will be manufactured at IBM’s advanced semiconductor fabrication plant (fab) in East Fishkill, New York State, using the company’s 32nm, high-K metal gate process technology. IBM is due to detail this manufacturing process at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting in Washington DC on 5 December.

Robert Feurle, vice president of DRAM Marketing for Micron, predicted, “HMC is a game changer, finally giving architects a flexible memory solution that scales bandwidth while addressing power efficiency. Through collaboration with IBM, Micron will provide the industry’s most capable memory offering.”