What’s Ahead For DRAM, NAND?

Semico’s CEO provides an outlook for the memory biz.


For the last year, the semiconductor industry has been in the midst of a boom cycle.

But if you look close enough, there are mixed signals in the market, especially in memory. Still, it’s a banner year for semiconductors. In total, the semiconductor market is expected to grow by 18.1% in 2021, according to Semico Research. That compares to 6.6% growth in 2020, according to Semico.

Today, demand is strong for many chip types, such as CMOS image sensors, display driver ICs, microcontrollers (MCUs), microprocessors and others. There are shortages for many of these chip types, which is impacting the automotive, PC and smartphone markets.

On the memory front, DRAM is in tight supply. On the other hand, there is excess capacity for NAND. To get a handle on the status of the memory market, Semiconductor Engineering talked to Jim Feldhan, president of Semico.

SE: What is your forecast for the DRAM market in 2021?

Feldhan: DRAM revenues for 2021 will grow to $91.7 billion, a 43.0% expansion over 2020. 8- and 16-Gb DRAM represent 79% of the total dollars. DRAM demand is driven by increasing DRAM content in most products, specifically 5G smartphones, servers for AI in data centers and enterprise equipment. Tablets and notebooks are also seeing increasing DRAM content, although the recent upgrade cycle which peaked during the pandemic is waning.

SE: What was the first half of 2021 like for DRAM? What do you see for DRAM in the second half of 2021?

Feldhan: DRAM dollars in 1H 2021 totaled $43 billion, growing 36.4% over 1H 2020. 2H 2021 will see DRAM dollars grow 49.4% over 2H 2020. As new capacity is added to the supply side in the 2H 2021, unit volumes will increase. 2021 units are forecasted to grow 16.9% compared to 2020. Prices are rising amidst tight supply. Average ASP in Q4 2020 was $2.94 rising to $3.55 in Q1 2021 and $4.26 in Q2 2021. 2H 2021 ASPs will begin to flatten as more capacity is added. 2021 ASP will reach $4.11 for the year. That compares to the $3.29 ASP in 2020. Semico expects the DRAM market to return to equilibrium in 2022.

SE: What is your forecast for the NAND market in 2021?

Feldhan: The NAND market is not mimicking the DRAM market in 2021. There is ample capacity to satisfy demand. Q1 2021 saw ASPs fall 4.12% to $3.69 resulting in $11.74 billion total revenue for the quarter, near 0% dollar growth over Q4 2020. Q2 2021 was up 15.6% over Q1 to $13.6 billion. As the industry migrates to higher densities in the 2H 2021, the total year revenues will reach $53.1 billion. NAND content per end application is slowly increasing albeit at a much lower rate than DRAM. NAND drivers are: 5G smartphones; servers, especially mission critical applications; and high-performance computing including AI applications.

SE: What was the first half of 2021 like for NAND? What do you see for NAND for the second half of 2021?

Feldhan: 1H 2021 NAND dollars totaled $25.3 billion registering a slight increase of 1.7% as compared to 1H 2020. 2H 2021 is expected to see ASPs remain relatively flat. Dollars for 2H 2021 will be up 13.2% compared to 2H 2020. As the industry migrates to higher densities in the 2H 2021, the year-end will reach $53.1 billion for a 7.4% growth.

SE: Any other observations for DRAM or 3D NAND?

Feldhan: As the DRAM market is struggling with tight supply, vendors are pushing the process technologies to raise productivity in the form of yields and die per wafer. DRAM suppliers are in volume production on 1a or the first generation of the 10nm DRAM node. Micron announced volume production for 1a in January 2021 as well as Samsung. Meanwhile, Micron is in production of its fifth-generation 3D NAND with 176-layers, while Samsung is on its seventh-generation also with 176-layers. Samsung’s sixth-generation is still in production and it utilizes a 128-layer technology.

SE: What about China?

Feldhan: China has a goal of capturing 15% of the 128 3D NAND market by 2024. They are focusing on 128- and 196-layer technologies, hoping their 196-layer will leapfrog the market and put them on par or even ahead of the competition. This will be a challenge and we will keep our eyes focused on new developments.


Matt says:

Samsung hasn’t announced volume production of 1a DRAM.

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