THE FUTURE OF MEMORY

The Market Opportunity


It is estimated that by 2025, the world will have generated more than 180 zettabytes (180 trillion gigabytes) of data*, driven by dramatic increases in both consumer and business data. Whether it’s the data generated inside enterprises, created in the cloud, or collected at the edge through IoT and sensing devices, semiconductor memory technologies can be found at the heart of the devices collecting, processing and storing this data. Semiconductor memory – Volatile and Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) technologies – play critical roles in data processing and information storage in nearly every electronic product, and demand continues to grow as our world becomes increasingly connected.

For the last 40 years, Flash memory technology has addressed the need for NVM in electronic devices, dominating the industry. The overall market size for Flash memory is currently estimated at over 60 billion USD**, and it is rapidly growing.

However, with expanding storage requirements, ever-increasing data traveling across global networks, and the emergence of new applications including Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the industry needs much faster, lower power, more reliable and more cost-effective NVM. Flash cannot continue to scale to meet all these needs.

The Need for Memory Innovation

Flash memory, the incumbent NVM technology, has several cost, scalability and complexity limitations when it comes to being embedded in next-generation Systems-on-Chips (SoCs) for applications like AI, which are being manufactured in the smallest process geometries. In addition, the fact that Flash read/write operations are generally done through accessing large blocks (versus bits) creates challenges for the embedded system architecture. It also negatively affects performance and power consumption and adds complexity to the Flash controller logic.

The nature of Flash is also a challenge for analog chips, often leading designers to make compromises that can lead to decreased performance and higher cost. In addition, Flash has limited tolerance to high temperatures, radiation, and electromagnetic fields, making it a mismatch for many automotive, medical and industrial applications. Finally, Flash’s relatively high-power consumption can shorten a product’s battery life – a clear problem in areas such as battery operated and energy harvesting IoT devices.

All of these issues mean a new type of NVM is needed. Resistive Random-Access Memory (ReRAM or RRAM) technology overcomes the limitations of Flash by enabling much faster and lower-power memories that are much easier to manufacture.

Weebit’s ReRAM is manufactured using CMOS compatible process materials – avoiding any contamination concerns or the usage of earth scarce materials. It requires only two additional masks in the manufacturing process (approximately 5% additional wafer cost) – versus more than 10 needed for some other NVM solutions, including Flash. It also requires very few additional steps and can be manufactured using standard tools and equipment with various deposition techniques. Because it is easy to integrate, cost-effective and flexible, manufacturers can quickly reach high yields with minimal investment. In addition, Weebit’s ReRAM can be embedded into a wide range of designs – scalable down to the smallest geometries – or used where Flash cells are not easy or cost-effective to embed. Finally, ReRAM is bit-addressable, reducing the complexity of the memory controller and providing system architects with maximum flexibility.

Weebit’s ReRAM is the perfect fit for next-generation SoCs, representing the most cost-effective and highest performance emerging embedded NVM technology.

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Embedded and Discrete NVM Opportunities

Weebit’s ReRAM technology is ideal for both embedded memory and discrete (stand-alone) memory chips. In the short term, Weebit is focused on the embedded applications market, delivering solutions to semiconductor customers and fabs who embed our IP into their SoCs.

In the longer term, Weebit’s goal is to expand beyond embedded applications into the broad market for discrete devices. Discrete NVM encompasses NOR Flash, which is broadly used for on-device code storage in consumer, automotive, and industrial applications, as well as NAND Flash, which is used widely for device and cloud storage, with growing opportunities in Storage-Class Memory (SCM). 

Together with our development partner CEA-Leti, we are developing an advanced solution for the discrete memory chip market which will initially replace NOR Flash memory devices and later expand to address the broader discrete memory market as it develops.

 

* Source: IDC Research 2021

** Source: MarketsandMarkets Research Private Ltd., October 2020