Micron turns its back on 3D-XPoint, puts fab up for sale
3D-XPoint is the name coined by Intel and Micron for an implementation of phase-change memory developed by the two companies over the last decade.
Intel invested a great deal to try an establish the phase-change memory but reportedly it had been doing so at a loss.
The two companies were closely aligned in the past and formed a joint venture at the wafer fab in Lehi, known as Intel Micron Flash Technologies (IMFT) in 2006. However, they have been drawing apart recently. They parted company on the development of 3D-NAND flash memory early in 2018 and announced they would stop collaborating on 3D-Xpoint in the same year.
Micron has been supplying Intel with 3D-XPoint memory as a foundry supplier but Intel announced it was ceasing production of solid-state drives for desktop computers based on the technology in January 2021. Intel still plans to sell Optane SSDs into data centers so the closure of Lehi, could come as a blow.
Intel does have the capability to manufacture 3D-XPoint at a wafer fab in New Mexico, but it is not clear how much of the phase-change memory it makes there. In addition, Intel has entered into a long-term process to sell its memory IC and SSD businesses to SK Hynix.
Micron said there is insufficient market demand to justify the investment needed to try and commercialize 3D-XPoint
Micron has said it plans to focus on the development and sale of NAND flash and DRAM and products that make use of the Compute Express Link (CXL) interface that enables flexible connection between compute, memory and storage.
It is surprising that at a time of chip manufacturing shortage and national subsidies Micron is choosing to sell off its Lehi facility. The company said it is already engaged in discussions and aims to reach a sale agreement before the end of 2021.
Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra told a conference call of analysts that its NAND production is focussed at fabs in Taiwan and Japan while its NAND production is based out of Singapore. Micron’s fab in Manassas, Virgina makes speciality memories. He said it makes sense in terms of return-on-investment to concentrate on fewer locations and that for this reason Lehi, Utah “doesn’t quite fit.”
Mehotra said the wafer fab could be repurposed for the manufacturing of logic, analog or foundry operations.
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