January 17, 1997 in Social Responsibility News

SAMSUNG Merges 1M DRAM with Logic Device

Seoul, Korea, January 17, 1997: Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (SEC) has come out with its first mass production prototype of a Merged DRAM with Logic (MDL) device, using next-generation "system on a chip" (SOC) design technology. The MDL80 is a fusion of 1~2-megabit dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) device that has been designed with 0.5-micron processing technology. It can operate on either 3.3 or 5.0 volts, is compatible with conventional ASICs and can be used in various value-added products. Mass production is scheduled for startup in March.

The emerging market for embedded DRAM logic chips totaled US$100 million in 1996, is expected to double this year and will reach US$600 million in 1998. As application of the devices become commonplace, annual demand will soar, totaling at least US$3 billion by the turn of the century.

When memory and non-memory elements are integrated on a single chip, the time required to transmit data between two chips is eliminated. Therefore, overall processing speed is increased, improving system function. There is also no need for input/output terminals, so energy consumption is reduced.

Other benefits include a reduced board size and improved system reliability enabling lower production costs. The DRAM market has been moving from 1M and 4M chips to 16M and 64M chips, so the new MDL chip will help alleviate finished product manufacturers' difficulties in procuring the now scarce lower capacity DRAMs.

Applications for MDL devices will include data storage media (hard disk drives, CD-ROMs) and portable multimedia products (PDAs, digital cameras) that have low capacity requirements and use 1M and 4M DRAMs. They are also expected to be used in 3-D graphics chip sets for PCs, set top boxes and DVDs as well as for making one-chip CPU-DRAMs for network computers.

To stay in step with current systems trends, Samsung Electronics decided in 1995 to focus on developing MDL devices first as the initial phase of SOC product development. MDL devices retain the functions and degree of integration of DRAMs, yet they are customer-oriented and easy to design.

In general, grafting DRAMs to ASIC processes increased the physical size of the DRAM 1.5 times, causing price competitiveness to drop. Conversely, when grafting ASICs to DRAM processing, the ASIC lost around one full generation of functions. The winner in this market will be the manufacturer who can make the most price competitive processor without compromising the advantages of either the DRAM or the ASIC.

In the DRAM field, Samsung Electronics enjoys a competitive edge and has some of the most advanced technology. Taking advantage of these strengths, Samsung has embarked on a continuing research program to develop MDL devices that best suit user needs. This effort has resulted in the mass production of the MDL80. In the second half of 1996, Samsung also plans to complete development of the MDL85, which can have either a 1M DRAM or 4M DRAM built in, and MDL90, which is a 16M DRAM built onto an ASIC device with 0.35-micron processing. These more advanced versions are scheduled to be in mass production by the end of this year.

Samsung Electronics is also developing single-chip versions of the 32-bit RISC chip by Advanced RISC Machines Ltd., which features high-performance RISC MPU technology; the Oak 16-bit DSP by DSP Group, Inc.; and an Analog Digital Converter (ADC) / Digital Analog Converter (DAC).
To date, the one-chip DRAM is not available in a variety of versions. It takes 2-3 months to develop new designs to accommodate specific customer needs. This is longer than the time needed to develop new logic elements for conventional ASIC devices, making it difficult to meet customers' schedules for getting their products to market. The relatively long development time has been, therefore, an obstacle to expanding the market for DRAM-ASIC devices.

However, Samsung has standardized a wide range of DRAM specifications, so configurations requested by any customer can be made virtually on the spot. The reduced chip design time shortens the time required for customers to develop their products so that they can get them to market ahead of the competition.

Samsung Electronics also boasts outstanding testing know-how for ensuring that reliability levels remain as high for all products. The DRAM elements are tested first and then, after adjustments are made, the entire device is tested. As a result, Samsungs embedded DRAM-ASIC products are just as reliable as regular DRAMs, which must meet very strict criteria.

Samsung considers the MDL devices as one of its most important strategic product areas and will focus ongoing research on them. Samsung aims to be one of the worlds leading producers of embedded memory devices by strengthening customer support and by being first to develop and supply next-generation versions. The company plans to have devices with 0.25-micron processing by 1998 and 0.18-micron processing by the turn of the century.

Samsung Electronics Company Ltd., a US$21 billion company of the US$87 billion (95) Samsung Group, is a world leader in electronics, with operations in more than 60 countries. The company challenges itself to make consumer electronics, semiconductors and industrial electronics that are effective, useful, simple and powerful. Samsung Electronics employs over 70,000 people worldwide.


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