Nantero’s business model is to license the NRAM technology to established manufacturers, and to provide intensive support to them in getting it up and running and integrated into products. The main challenges now include increasing yield on the technical side and signing new partnerships on the strategic side to add to the licensee base. Multiple discussions with potential licensees are underway, both in the embedded space and the standalone memory space, and depending on the level of resource partners apply to standalone memory, it might not come that much further after embedded memory.
NRAM still has significant potential.
NRAM requires only a small number of new manufacturing steps, all of which use existing tools that are present in any production CMOS fab. So NRAM has few hurdles for integration, either as a standalone memory or as an embedded memory. NRAM’s scalability, theoretically down to below 5nm, is also unmatched in technologies that are currently under development in production CMOS fabs, as NRAM is.
Samsung could be selling a phase-change-based flash-replacement memory within a year. Some phase change memory is 1000 times faster than current flash memory.
Others are working on nanoionic memory. Qimonda, based in Germany; Micron Technologies, based in Boise, ID; and a Bay Area stealth-mode startup. The startup is well on the way to producing its first memory devices, which Kozicki says could be available within 18 months. These first chips, however, won’t rival hard drives in memory density, he says.
If something big does not happen with NRAM in 2008, then I think the ship will have sailed on implementation of other technological alternatives. Any momentum or first mover advantage is already slipping away this year.