As well as supplying Panasonic, UMC would also be able to supply the technology to its other customers, and the deal will help establish ReRAM in the market place, Panasonic said in a statement.
The term resistive RAM (ReRAM) covers a broad set of technologies for a variable resistance memory. In Panasonic's case it is based on a metal-oxide thin film as the variable resistance material, reportedly tantalum oxide in one stage of its development. The technology, although in some cases not fully understood, can have a simple structure and advantages of scalability over flash memory which struggles to go below 40nm.
Panasonic said this 40nm process would be the next-generation platform for the production of ReRAM. The plan is produce samples in 2018 and be in volume production in 2019. This would allow the technology to replace flash memory as embedded memories in such applications as IC cards, wearable terminals, and IoT devices.
However, the timetable for introduction is somewhat slow given that a number of competitors would appear to be on the verge of launching non-volatile memory options at 40nm and even 28nm in 2017 (see Crossbar ReRAM in production at SMIC).
Panasonic was the first company into mass production with ReRAM two terminal technology. It has been shipping a microcontroller with ReRAM on-chip since 2012 said to be based on 180nm process technology. The Panasonic MN101L microcontroller includes 64kbytes of ReRAM on-chip. Panasonic also claims it evaluated a 40nm memory array and demonstrated high reliability ahead of other companies.
In 2016 Panasonic started in partnership with Fujitsu Semiconductor Ltd. to make a discrete 4Mbit ReRAM (see Discrete ReRAM goes into mass production). The process geomertry was not revealed but given the memory capacity that is also likely to be based on a mature process such as 180nm. Fujitsu did not state what variable resistance material it is using for its discrete ReRAM or whether it has plans to include ReRAM in logic products in the future.
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