The Next Gen of RAM?

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EUV arrives in RAM, more speed and lower price in PCs?

Extreme ultraviolet lithography, known in the industry as EUV (Extreme Ultra Violet), seems destined to be the future of chip manufacturing in the coming decades, since with this technology manufacturers seem to have hit the nail on the head to be able to continue miniaturizing transistors. In a recent interview, the CEO of Micron Technology confirmed that the company has begun to incorporate EUV technology into its DRAM chip manufacturing plan (for both RAM and SSDs), which could mean a huge leap in performance.

Leading chip manufacturers such as TSMC, Samsung, and Intel are constantly evolving their manufacturing systems with the goal of making chip transistors smaller and smaller, allowing them to increase the density (number of transistors per square inch) and consequently the efficiency of their goods.

EUV lithography appears to be the panacea of the current decade for accomplishing this, but the fundamental issue is that only ASML makes the machines capable of carrying it out, which are incredibly complicated and expensive devices with the downside of increasing manufacturing costs.

EUV-manufactured RAM will arrive in 2024

As previously stated, Sanjay Mehrotra, CEO of Micron Technology, acknowledged in an interview that the business has already implemented EUV technology into its DRAM manufacturing plan, and that they would begin to introduce it from the 1 (gamma) process node for its generation of 10 nm chips.

Therefore, Micron’s first DRAM chips made with EUV for RAM and SSD will initially be manufactured at Micron’s Taichung A3 plant, and are expected to enter mass production phase by 2024. If all goes well, this also indicates that the first EUV-based 10 nm RAM and SSD devices will be available in late 2024 or early 2025, and we’re obviously talking about DDR5 RAM.

Even before this revelation by Micron, other manufacturers such as Samsung or HK Hynix have already been looking into EUV technology to manufacture their memory chips, and in fact have already implemented EUV lithography since the end of last year. The difference between these two manufacturers and Micron is that they have not given a date estimate, so now for the first time we know when it will arrive.

What are the implications of EUV DRAM?

As we noted before, one of the most significant issues with EUV lithography is the expensive production cost. The equipment is made only by the Dutch company ASML, and each of these machines costs several million dollars. Furthermore, the difficulty is not only the cost of the machine itself, but also the thousands of adjustments that must be made to it in order to match its characteristics to the sort of production that must be done with it, which comes at a high cost in terms of labor, time, and resources.

This indicates that there is a strong likelihood that the rise in manufacturing costs will have a direct effect on product prices. In other words, EUV-based RAM and SSD devices will be more expensive.

However, adding a lithography such as EUV in DRAM chips also means that the density of the chips will be raised, resulting in more expensive RAM and SSDs, but also with higher capacities, resulting in a better capacity/price ratio.

There are still at least three years to go before we reach this inflection point in the industry, and a lot can happen until then, so we can’t predict anything for the moment either. We will have to wait and see how the technology evolves, how manufacturers fare with this EUV implementation, and how the price of DRAM memory on the market evolves in this time, since as I’m sure you already know, it is quite volatile in this respect.

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