Investment in DRAM facilities by Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, which had been frozen throughout this year, is expected to resume. Conservative investment is expected for NAND flash and foundry (semiconductor consignment production) next year, but the scale of facility investment for DRAM, where demand for high value-added products related to artificial intelligence (AI) such as high-bandwidth memory (HBM) is increasing, will be adjusted upward. there is.
According to data from the semiconductor industry and market research company Omdia on the 21st, Samsung Electronics (005930), SK Hynix (000660)is expected to virtually normalize the DRAM production reduction trend that has continued throughout this year starting next year. It is expected that the existing policy of reducing investment by more than 10% compared to this year will be changed and facility investment will be increased by 2%.
◇ As DRAM progresses to 10 nanometers or less, the introduction of 3D structure is essential.
Omdia predicted that major DRAM manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix, and Micron will use most of their facility investment funds to accelerate the process transition from the early 10-nano range to below 10-nano. In particular, it is analyzed that investment capabilities will be focused on advancing the DRAM process installed in HBM products, for which demand is growing explosively with the emergence of generative AI.
In general, HBM selects products that can minimize leakage current and maximize performance, unlike general DRAMs produced for general purposes. In the case of HBM, the disadvantage is that as the generation increases, heat generation becomes more severe and power consumption increases. To solve this problem, the number of process steps is increasing. Here, the TSV (through silicon electrode) process, which is the core of the HBM process, has the challenge of having a certain level of economy of scale to solve the problem of high unit costs.
Structural changes are also becoming necessary in the DRAM production process. As the distance between devices is shortening due to miniaturization of semiconductor processes, both Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are currently introducing new methods to minimize leakage current due to miniaturization. A Samsung Electronics official said, “As DRAM has advanced below 10 nanometers, the introduction of a 3D structure has become essential due to the physical limitations of cell miniaturization.” “It becomes necessary,” he explained.
◇ Busy in preparation for the ‘boom cycle’… Market reorganization centered on suppliers
In the fourth quarter of this year, there is a series of analyzes that the semiconductor industry’s rebound has begun in earnest as DRAM inventory has decreased and prices have risen. The explanation is that both DRAM and NAND flash, which were sold at low prices due to excess inventory, are returning to their original positions, and the price negotiation power of memory semiconductor companies has recovered to some extent, returning to a supplier-centered market.
According to market research firm Trend Force, DRAM fixed transaction prices in October rose by more than 10% compared to the previous month for 10 items, including DDR4 for PCs and DDR5 products, the cutting-edge DRAM standard. NAND flash fixed transaction prices are also on the rise. The fixed transaction price of 128Gb multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash used for memory cards and USB this month was $3.88, up 1.59% from the previous month, breaking a 27-month downward trend.
Memory semiconductor companies are busy working to enter a new semiconductor boom cycle. Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix plan to focus on expanding high-performance and high-capacity memory production lines to respond to the growth of the AI and high-performance computing markets. Samsung Electronics has recently decided to increase HBM production capacity, which is attracting attention in the era of generative AI such as Chat GPT, to 2.5 times the current level by next year.
SK Hynix, which is enjoying early success in the HBM market, also plans to focus on facility investment focusing on premium products. Kim Woo-hyun, in charge of SK Hynix, said, “Compared to this year, we plan to lead the premium market by continuing to prepare to fully respond to the continuously growing market demand.”