MRAM promises life beyond eFlash: the embedded MRAM market is taking off and is expected to reach $1.2B by 2024.
Key features of the report
- Overview of the spectrum of (STT-)MRAM technologies, along with their manufacturing processes and related technical/economic challenges
- Description of three stand-alone and three embedded (STT-)MRAM applications
- industrial, transportation, defense and other applications requiring low-density memory chips
- enterprise storage, including accelerators and SSD caching
- persistent memory such as NVDIMM
- code/data storage memory, as an eFlash replacement
- working memory, or “slow” SRAM, for ASSPs/ASICs such as AI edge accelerators
- last-level cache memory, as eDRAM/SRAM replacements, in CPUs and mobile processors
- 2018-2024 market forecast for stand-alone and embedded applications in $US, Gb and equivalents of 12’’ wafer starts
- Overview of the latest R&D developments and next-generation magnetic memories such as SOTMRAM and VC-MRAM
- Overview of potential applications in the long term, including L1-L2 caching based on SOT-MRAM, execute-in-place (XIP) memory such as high-density NOR replacements at 2Gb and above, and storage class memory via STT-MRAM crosspoint architectures
- Mapping of the embedded and stand-alone MRAM supply chain with key partnerships
- Analysis of the ecosystem’s maturity, challenges and strengths and description of the players’ activities at different levels of the supply chain
- Presentation of the latest MRAM developments within the growing Chinese memory business
Objectives of the report
- Present an overview of the semiconductor memory industry with market insights and trends for different stand-alone and embedded technologies.
- Analyze embedded and stand-alone MRAM applications including: total addressable markets, roadmaps, market drivers, challenges and players’ objectives.
- Describe established and newly emerging magnetic memory technologies including: working principles, manufacturing methods, advantages and limitations, average selling price and time-to-market.
- Outline the latest activities for each key market player, as well as the current product development status.
- Provide roadmaps with technological nodes, chip density and price evolution.
- Analyze the MRAM ecosystems and its competitive landscape:
- Mapping of the entire supply chain
- Recent acquisitions, partnerships and funding
- Latest company news
Table of content
Noteworthy MRAM news 2017-2019 19
Context – Overview of the memory business 65
- Stand-alone memory – NAND, DRAM, NOR, (NV)SRAM
- Embedded memory – eFlash, eDRAM, SRAM
- Emerging non-volatile memories – MRAM, PCM, RRAM, etc.
Overview of MRAM applications and market trends 107
Market forecast and financial analysis 114
Stand-alone MRAM applications and market trends 124
- Industrial, transportation and other (NVSRAM)
- Enterprise storage – SSD caching and storage accelerators
- Persistent memory (NVDIMM)
Embedded MRAM applications and market trends 148
- Embedded storage (eFlash) – Code/data storage in MCUs and other ASICS/ASSP chips
- Embedded memory (slow SRAM) – Low-power memory for ASICS/ASSP chips
- Embedded cache memory (SRAM, eDRAM) – Fast memory for high-level caching in CPU and mobile processors
Long-term potential applications 180
MRAM supply chain and player dynamics 184
- Supply chain analysis
- MRAM players and activities
- Mergers and acquisitions, partnerships and funding
China MRAM development 223
Technology description and trends 231
- MRAM technologies
- MRAM manufacturing
- Next-generation magnetic memories (SOT- and VC-MRAM)
Summary and conclusions 264
Yole Développement’s presentation 271
EMBEDDED MRAM IS PICKING UP STEAM THANKS TO THE STRONG INVOLVEMENT OF TOP FOUNDRY/IDM PLAYERS AND EQUIPMENT SUPPLIERS
Nowadays, there is broad consensus in the computer memory industry that the 28nm/22nm silicon lithography nodes will be the last technology nodes for embedded Flash (eFlash). This is not because of fundamental scalability limitations, but because of economic barriers. Therefore a new embedded nonvolatile memory (NVM) for code/data storage is needed. At the same time, scaling of volatile static random access memory (SRAM) is slowing down due to cell footprint degradation occurring at advanced nodes. A denser working embedded memory would therefore be highly desirable.
Among various emerging NVM technologies, spin transfer torque magnetoresistive RAM (STT-MRAM) is gaining significant momentum. It is poised to become the next embedded memory solution for a variety of integrated circuit (IC) products manufactured at the 28nm node and below. That includes low-power wearables and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, microcontroller units (MCUs), automotive, imaging and display ICs, edge artificial intelligence (AI) accelerators, and other application specific ICs (ASICs) and application specific standard parts (ASSPs).
In 2018, the embedded STT-MRAM market was still limited, with no volume shipments. 2019 is expected to be the year this market takes off. Samsung has recently started mass production of embedded STT-MRAM, and we expect other major foundry/integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) to enter the race soon. At the same time, multiple equipment suppliers like Applied Materials, Tokyo Electron Limited (TEL), Canon, and Lam Research, and logic companies like Qualcomm, ARM and Synopsis are increasing their research spending on MRAM. This is further propelling the development of the embedded STT-MRAM business. Thanks to the support of a large number of leading companies, Yole Développement analysts believe the embedded memory market has the potential to reach $1.2B by 2024, growing with a compound annual growth rate over this period (CAGR2018-2024) of 295%.
On the other hand, the stand-alone memory market is expected to grow less vigorously, with a CAGR2018-2024 of 54%, and will remain below $600M in 2024. So far, the growth has been driven by low-density (STT-)MRAM devices at 16Mb and below manufactured by a few key players, such as Everspin and Avalanche/Sony. In coming years, the stand-alone market will be mainly driven by enterprise storage applications. These include solid state drive (SSD) caching and storage/network accelerators, which are served by high-density STT-MRAM chips at 256Mb and above. The latter are typically sold to IDMs and system makers in the enterprise storage business. These companies require 12-18 months to develop new systems, so the ramp-up of STT-MRAM sales has taken a relatively long time. Notably, 1Gb 28nm devices from Everspin have recently moved into the pilot-production phase at GlobalFoundries. Their forthcoming availability in the market could trigger further growth of enterprise storage applications.
EQUIPMENT SUPPLIERS ARE TACKLING THE CHALLENGES OF HIGH-VOLUME MANUFACTURING OF STT-MRAM
STT-MRAM combines the best attributes of conventional memory types in a single technology. It features the speed of SRAM and the nonvolatility of eFlash with unlimited endurance. It can be added to process flows for logic chips without significant cost increase, offering a remarkable density gain over SRAM, together with low power consumption. However, a number of difficult technical challenges need to be tackled to fully exploit the potential of STT-MRAM and enable its high-volume production. Fortunately, equipment suppliers are working hard to solve such issues and are offering new solutions enabling continuous progress.
The magnetic tunneling junction (MTJ) – the fundamental element of the MRAM memory cell – consists of a delicate multi-layer stack comprising 20-to-30 different layers, whose thickness must be controlled with sub-nanometer precision. For reliable MTJ production, deposition systems capable of on-board monitoring of key material properties are needed, such as the Endura® Clover™ MRAM physical vapor deposition (PVD) tool recently announced by Applied Materials. Furthermore, the etch steps for patterning MRAM cells are among the most challenging in the manufacturing process. The CoFe and CoFeB layers used in the MTJ cannot be etched with conventional reactive ion etch (RIE) tools because such materials are not prone to form volatile compounds with plasma gases. RIE could also damage the stack. Hence, the industry has to implement suitable ion-beam etching techniques and optimize them to avoid the re-deposition of byproducts. For instance, Lam Research and TEL have developed chemically-enhanced ion beam etching tools.
Last but not least, metrology and testing are also critical steps and cannot be overlooked. They have to be performed multiple times during the device fabrication process to assess the material/device response to electrical and magnetic stimuli. Also in this framework, there are companies developing ad hoc solutions for fast measurements on wafers, as well as packaged devices.
EVERSPIN IS THE CLEAR LEADER IN THE STAND-ALONE MARKET. THE COMPETITION IS GETTING FIERCER IN THE EMBEDDED MRAM BUSINESS
Everspin is the clear leader of the stand-alone (STT-) MRAM market. It is the only supplier of toggle MRAM at 16Mb and below for applications requiring high reliability, such as industrial, transportation, defence and medical markets, which have for long been served by non-volatile SRAM (NVSRAM). It is also the only player supplying high-density STTMRAM for the enterprise storage market. Avalanche has started shipping stand-alone STT-MRAM parts from 1-32Mb, manufactured at Sony using 40nm lithographic processes. It is targeting the NVSRAM market, partially challenging Everspin’s Toggle MRAM.
In the embedded business, foundry/IDM activities are advancing at a fast pace. Samsung is now in mass production on 28nm Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator (FDSOI). Intel, after working silently on MRAM for several years, recently confirmed that its embedded MRAM, which uses a 22nm FinFET architecture, is ready for production. At the same time, TSMC is sampling on 22nm planar bulk silicon. Also, Gyrfalcon’s MRAM-based AI chips, manufactured at TSMC, should enter volume production by mid-2020. GlobalFoundries will enter the market with embedded MRAM for replacing eFlash on 22nm FDSOI, and is working on an SRAMlike version for the subsequent 12nm FDSOI node. Seemingly, Intel is targeting eFlash replacement. Samsung and TSMC seem to be focusing primarily on embedded MRAM for replacing SRAM in applications where performance is not a priority. They are expected to enter the market with a “slow SRAM” implementation.
The overall MRAM ecosystem appears well developed and multiple companies, like NXP and Sony, are ready to adopt embedded MRAM in their IC products. We expect that 2019 will be the year of the MRAM market take off.
The new “MRAM Technology and Business” report by Yole Développement provides an overview of embedded and stand-alone memory technologies. It details the market evolution for each application, the competitive landscape, the players’ dynamics, the challenges and the strategies in moving towards mass adoption of (STT-)MRAM.
A*STAR, Advantest, Aeroflex, Antaios, Applied Materials, Avalanche, Canon, Capres-KLA, CEA Leti, CNE, Crocus, CXMT, Cypress, Despatch, Dow, Evaderis, Evatec, Everspin, JHICC, GlobalFoundries, H-Grace, HFC Semiconductor, Hikstor, Hitachi, Honeywell, HP, Hprobe, Huawei, IBM, Imec, Infineon, Intermolecular, Inston, Intel, ITRI, Lam Research, Macronix, Maxim, Materion, Mediatek, Merk, Microchip, Micron, MicroSense Mythic, Nantero, Nanya, National Tsing Hua University, Nokia, Numen, NVE Corporation, NXP, OHT, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Quantum, Reliance, Renesas, Samsung, SanDisk, Seagate, SK Hynix, Shanghai Ciyu, SilTerra, Singulus, Smart Modular Technologies, SmartTip, SMIC, Sony, Spin Memory, Spintec, STMicroelectronics, Stanford University, Synopsis, Syntiant, TDK, TEL, TEL Magnetic Solutions, Teledyne e2v, Tezzaron, Tohoku University, Toshiba, Towerjazz, Tsinghua Unigroup , TSMC, UMC, Veeco, Western Digital, Winbond, XFab, XMC, YMTC, and more…
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