NAND Flash


2022-01-04

Latest Assessment of Jan. 3 Earthquake in Taiwan Finds No Significant Impact on Local DRAM and Foundry Fabs, Says TrendForce

An earthquake that was around magnitude 6.0 on the Richter scale occurred off the east coast of Taiwan at 5:46PM local time on January 3, 2022. As most local DRAM and foundry fabs are located in the northern and central parts of the island, TrendForce’s latest investigations reveal no notable damages to the equipment from the fabs. Therefore, the production side is expected to continue normal operation, and the actual impact of the earthquake on the output of Taiwan’s DRAM and foundry industries will likely be limited. Taiwan’s memory fabs, including those operated by MTTW, Nanya, and other smaller semiconductor companies, collectively account for about 21% of the global DRAM production capacity. In the foundry industry, Taiwan’s fabs, including those operated by TSMC, UMC, Vanguard, PSMC, etc., together make up as much as 51% of the global production capacity.

Regarding the current state of the DRAM market, it is in midst of the conventional off-season. However, the recent easing of component gaps in the supply chain is generating some stock-up activities in different application segments and thus bolstering the overall demand. The headwinds of the off-season are not as strong as usual. Also, there are now concerns brewing in the wider memory market about the supply side being affected by the COVID-19 lockdown in the Chinese city of Xi’an. Consequently, memory spot prices have been registering daily hikes lately. It is worth noting that increases in DRAM spot prices have been more significant than the increases in NAND Flash spot prices. Regarding DRAM contract prices, TrendForce for now maintains its original forecast of QoQ drops in the 8-13% range for 1Q22. However, the latest earthquake that struck Taiwan could affect DRAM buyers’ behavior at any time. How contract prices will actually end up is something that requires further observation. As for DRAM spot trading, the memory spot market of Mainland China was still in midst of the year-end holiday on January 3. Hence, spot traders were passive for the most part. TrendForce will continue monitoring the spot market to see if the earthquake is going to be a positive driver going forward.

Turning to the current state of the foundry market, the chip demand related to some categories of end products has slowed down a bit recently because of seasonality. However, demand remains quite strong for chips that were previously in short supply, such as PMIC, Wi-Fi SoC, etc. Foundry fabs on the whole are still operating with a fully loaded capacity because demand continues to outstrip supply. The fabs of Taiwan-based foundries, including TSMC, UMC, PSMC, and Vanguard, are concentrated in Hsinchu, Taichung, and Tainan. In those places, an earthquake intensity scale of 3 or under was recorded. As such, no foundry fab in Taiwan has halted operation because of the earthquake, and all fabs are operating normally at the moment.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-12-30

Xi’an Lockdown Update, Samsung to Adjust NAND Flash Production Manpower and Capacity Utilization, Says TrendForce

Currently, the consequences of Xi’an’s lockdown on Samsung is weighted most heavily towards the difficulty of scheduling shifts for personnel, according to TrendForce’s investigations. Due to restrictions on movement and other lockdown measures, Samsung must continue operations with limited manpower. Samsung is currently making active adjustments to reduce impact on output and the local government expects a return to normalcy within one to two weeks. However, if the pandemic is not properly controlled, short-term impact on the production utilization rate of the local factory campus cannot be ruled out, resulting in a slight decline in output. As for raw materials required for production such as water and power, supply seems to remain sufficient, though Samsung is still confirming the specific degree of any impact.

Production has not been interrupted at Samsung’s Xi’an plant, the company’s remedy is reduced operational scale which may affect utilization rate  

Following up on TrendForce’s previous press release, Samsung’s two major NAND Flash fabs in Xi’an are still manufacturing without experiencing significant disruptions at this moment. However, with the local authority enforcing even stricter restrictions on the movements of people, Samsung has been compelled to perform some temporary operational adjustments to the two fabs. With respect to end-products, facilities in the Xi’an region are primarily responsible for the assembly of consumer electronics such as UFS and client SSDs, meaning changes in the Xi’an fabs’ operations will have a direct impact on the procurement activities of smartphone and notebook computer manufacturers. However, as Samsung’s inventory level is still relatively high, the company should be able to keep supplying these products to buyers with no issues in the short run, although the decline in the these products’ prices may moderate somewhat.

Judging by the performance of the NAND Flash spot market on December 29, TrendForce further indicates that most suppliers have now stopped giving price quotes for NAND Flash products after Samsung released an official statement on the Xi’an matter. Regarding the forecast of NAND Flash contract prices for 1Q22, TrendForce will continue to closely monitor responses by Samsung as the pandemic progresses. If the lockdown continues, the decline in NAND Flash contract prices may potentially see a further tapering.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-12-15

NAND Flash ASP Expected to Undergo 10-15% QoQ Decline in 1Q22 as Market Shifts Towards Oversupply, Says TrendForce

Demand for NAND Flash products will undergo a noticeable and cyclical downward correction in 1Q22 as major smartphone brands wind down their procurement activities for the peak season and ODMs prepare for the New Year holidays, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. As such, the NAND Flash market will remain in an oversupply situation, with prices continuing to undergo downward corrections accordingly. However, PC OEMs have been reinstating certain orders for client SSDs since early November in response to improvements in the supply of upstream semiconductor materials. By fulfilling these orders, suppliers are able to keep their inventory level relatively low, meaning they are not under as much pressure as previously expected to reduce inventory by lowering prices. Taking these factors into account, TrendForce expects NAND Flash ASP to undergo a 10-15% QoQ decline in 1Q22, during which NAND Flash prices will experience the most noticeable declines compared to the other quarters in 2022.

Regarding the price trend of NAND Flash products across the whole 2021, TrendForce further indicates that suppliers have actively transitioned their output to higher-layer technologies, resulting in a bit supply growth that noticeably outpaces demand, though the tight supply of components such as controller ICs and PMICs has constrained the production of NAND Flash end-products. Hence, the decline in contract prices of NAND Flash products has not been as severe as previously expected. Moving ahead to 2022, however, the supply of relevant components is expected to gradually improve, so the market for various NAND Flash products will also likely shift towards a noticeable oversupply. As a result, prices of NAND Flash products will steadily decline before the arrival of the peak season in 3Q22.

Client SSD prices will maintain a downward trajectory in 1Q22, by about 5-10% QoQ

While PC OEMs aggressively push out shipments in 4Q21, demand also remains strong for commercial notebooks, in turn propelling the overall volume of notebook production for 4Q21 to 3Q21 levels, surpassing prior expectations. Moving into 1Q22, however, notebook demand from the consumer segment and education segment is expected to moderate, and client SSD buyers’ procurement activities for the quarter will therefore become more conservative. Suppliers, on the other hand, continue to shift the bulk of their client SSD output to 128L and higher layer products as they release the next generation of client SSDs to both capture market share and increase the consumption of these higher-layer products. The average storage capacity of client SSDs will expand to 567GB next year, with WD releasing QLC products alongside existing QLC manufacturers Intel and Micron, in turn intensifying suppliers’ pricing competition. TrendForce therefore expects contract prices of client SSDs to maintain their existing downward trajectory and undergo a 5-10% QoQ decline in 1Q22.

Prices will decrease by about 3-8% QoQ for PCIe enterprise SSDs but hold flat for SATA enterprise SSDs

North American hyperscalers saw their inventory levels rising throughout the fourth quarter as their production capacities for servers were negatively affected by component gaps. In addition, some of these issues are expected to persist in 1Q22, so server shipment for the 4Q21-1Q22 period will experience continued declines, thus putting downward pressure on the growth of enterprise SSD bit demand. As for the supply side, not only has the issue of insufficient PMIC production capacity become gradually alleviated, but hyperscalers have also cut down on their enterprise SSD orders somewhat due to their focus on inventory reduction. Hence, the production capacities for enterprise SSDs with PCIe interface have slowly returned to normal, and room for price negotiations with suppliers is also beginning to surface. Regarding enterprise SSDs with SATA interface, their supply has become relatively tight because manufacturers prioritize the production of high-density PCIe SSDs over SATA SSDs, which feature an older interface and lower density. As such, contract prices of SATA SSDs are unlikely to drop. For 1Q22, TrendForce forecasts an overall 3-8% QoQ decline in enterprise SSD prices, with contract prices of SATA enterprise SSDs mostly holding flat and prices of PCIe products declining by 3-8% QoQ.

eMMC prices will decrease by 5-10% QoQ

TVs, Chromebooks, and other categories of consumer products that carry eMMC solutions have been experiencing sluggish demand in the second half of this year as related subsidies and tenders in the US wind down. The seasonal fluctuations of the demand for consumer products will return to the pre-pandemic pattern next year. Chromebook production is forecasted to show a small rebound in 1Q22 and climb to the year’s peak in 2Q22 in accordance with the traditional seasonal pattern. Even so, the annual total Chromebook production for 2022 will still register a significant decline from the previous year. Turning to TV production, a QoQ decline is projected for 1Q22. Taking account of these demand-related projections, TrendForce expects the demand for eMMC solutions to be fairly weak in 1Q22. The overall production capacity for low-density 2D NAND Flash products has remained relatively constant. Some suppliers continue to scale back 2D NAND Flash production capacity, but they have slowed down the pace of reduction. Regarding the price trend of eMMC solutions, it is now adjusting downward to a stable level after the surge in 2Q21. TrendForce forecasts that contract prices of eMMC solutions will drop again by 5-10% QoQ for 1Q22.

UFS prices will decrease by 8-13% QoQ due to rising supply and falling demand

Component gaps in the upstream sections of the supply chain are still a serious issue affecting smartphone brands’ device production. Despite the contribution from the traditional peak shipment season in the second half of the year, the YoY growth rate of the total smartphone production in 2021 is expected to once again fall short of earlier projections. Looking ahead to 1Q22, Apple is expected to scale back its smartphone-related demand due to seasonality. This, in turn, will negatively affect NAND Flash suppliers’ bit shipments and further weaken mobile storage demand as a whole. The latest examination of product shipments from NAND Flash suppliers indicates that 1XX-L technologies are now mainstream, and 1YY-L technologies will gradually be adopted during 1H22. Micron has skipped 128L in its stacking technology migration and thereby advanced from 96L directly to 176L. To lower production cost and raise bit output, suppliers continue to increase the layer number of their 3D NAND technologies. This means that supply growth will further outstrip demand growth in 1Q22 as the off-season sets in. Hence, TrendForce forecasts that prices of UFS solutions will also register steeper QoQ declines of 8-13% for 1Q22.

NAND Flash wafer prices will decrease by 10-15% QoQ as oversupply becomes more severe

Sales of retail storage products such as UFDs and memory cards have been weak through this entire year. The promotional activities initiated by e-commerce companies for the special events and festivals near the end of the year have generated only a marginal amount of demand. Looking ahead to the early part of 2022, the demand for retail storage products is not expected to gain noticeable momentum before the arrival of Lunar New Year holiday. Additionally, the cryptocurrency market has been energetic, so the demand for graphics cards from cryptocurrency miners has been outpacing supply for the most part. This development has been impacting shipments of DIY PCs and thereby suppressing the demand for retail client SSDs during 2021. In sum, the aforementioned factors have significantly impeded the consumption of NAND Flash wafers. In view of the demand situation in the different application segments, NAND Flash suppliers will likely ramp up wafer shipments to prevent excess inventory. Moving into 1Q22, even if there is sustained demand for storage components in the PC and server segments, smartphone-related demand will shrink further and exacerbate the oversupply situation of the NAND Flash wafer market. TrendForce forecasts that contract prices of 3D NAND Flash wafers will fall by 10-15% QoQ. Among the various NAND Flash products, 3D NAND Flash wafers will suffer the sharpest price drop. It is worth noting that the growing gap between supply and demand is already exerting considerable pressure on some suppliers, so there is a possibility that suppliers could begin dumping products earlier than expected at the end of this year. Such development could help moderate the magnitude of the price downtrend in 1Q22.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-11-24

NAND Flash Revenue Rises by 15% QoQ for 3Q21 Thanks to Demand from Smartphone and Data Center Markets, Says TrendForce

The growth of the NAND Flash market in 3Q21 was primarily driven by strong demand from the data center and smartphone industries, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. More specifically, NAND Flash suppliers’ hyperscaler and enterprise clients kept up their procurement activities that began in 2Q21 in order to deploy products based on new processor platforms. Major smartphone brands, on the other hand, likewise expanded their NAND Flash procurement activities during the quarter as they prepared to release their new flagship models. As such, clients in both server and smartphone industries made significant contributions to the revenue growth of the NAND Flash industry for 3Q21. At the same time, however, suppliers also warned that orders from PC OEMs began showing signs of decline. On the whole, the industry’s quarterly total NAND Flash bit shipment increased by nearly 11% QoQ for 3Q21, and the overall NAND Flash ASP rose by nearly 4% QoQ for the same quarter. Thanks to rising prices and expanding shipments, the quarterly total NAND Flash revenue increased by 15% QoQ to a new record high of US$18.8 billion in 3Q21.

Moving into 4Q21, the impact of the ongoing component gaps has widened to numerous application segments of the NAND Flash market as the capacity crunch in the foundry market remains unresolved. Currently, NAND Flash components are in abundance relative to other kinds of key components. For OEMs and ODMs, the differences between the NAND Flash inventory level and the inventory levels of other components have been growing over the past several months. Therefore, they have to scale back orders and reduce stock for NAND Flash. As inventory adjustments are happening, NAND Flash contract prices will start to drop and thus bring about an end to the several quarters of strong revenue growth enjoyed by suppliers.

Samsung

Owing to procurement demand from hyperscalers and smartphone brands, the NAND Flash market generally remained in shortage in 3Q21, thereby driving up Samsung’s ASP by 10% QoQ. Even so, Samsung’s NAND Flash bit shipment increased by only about 5% QoQ due to weakening demand from PC OEMs and low inventory levels of certain other components carried by Samsung’s clients. Samsung’s NAND Flash revenue for 3Q21 reached US$6.51 billion, a 16.5% QoQ increase.

Kioxia

Although orders from PC OEMs began to wane, Kioxia still benefitted from orders from its major smartphone and data center clients in 3Q21, during which Kioxia’s NAND Flash bit shipment underwent a major QoQ increase exceeding 15%. As the NAND Flash market remained in a shortage situation, Kioxia’s ASP increased by about 4% QoQ, resulting in a revenue of US$3.64 billion, which represents a 20.8% QoQ increase and the highest single-quarter revenue in Kioxia’s history.

SK hynix

Among all NAND Flash suppliers in 3Q21, SK hynix registered the highest growth in bit shipment at more than 20% QoQ. This performance can be attributed to several reasons: the cyclical upturn in procurement activities from smartphone brands, persistently strong demand from the data center segment, and inventory-clearing by SK hynix in anticipation of weak demand in the upcoming off-season. Thanks to an ASP increase of about 5% QoQ, SK hynix’s NAND Flash revenue for 3Q21 reached US$2.54 billion, a 25.6% QoQ increase.

Western Digital

Although Western Digital’s PC OEM clients reduced their SSD orders due to supply chain disruptions, and demand from the retail end also remained weak, Western Digital was able to increase its NAND Flash bit shipment by 8% QoQ in 3Q21 due to enterprise SSD demand from the data center segment and NAND Flash demand from smartphone brands for the release of new smartphone models. Nevertheless, Western Digital’s ASP fell by 3% QoQ because the company increasingly focused on major clients and high-density products. Western Digital’s NAND Flash revenue for 3Q21 reached US$2.49 billion, a 2.9% QoQ increase.

Micron

Demand from the data center segment remained strong, and clients continued to adopt Micron’s 176L products. However, Micron’s shipment share in the smartphone market lagged behind that of other NAND Flash suppliers. Furthermore, its PC OEM clients were starting to be affected by the uneven supply of semiconductor chips. In light of these factors, Micron’s NAND Flash bit shipment increased by a modest 4% QoQ. On the other hand, the NAND Flash market remained in a severe shortage in 3Q21, thereby driving up Micron’s ASP by about 5% QoQ. Hence, Micron’s NAND Flash revenue for 3Q21 reached US$1.97 billion, an 8.8% QoQ increase.

Intel

Although persistently strong demand from the data center segment led to a massive price hike for enterprise SSDs and a nearly 6% increase in Intel’s ASP in 3Q21, the company was unable to fully meet its client demand since it could not procure sufficient upstream components. This lack of upstream components resulted in a severe decline of about 5% QoQ in Intel’s NAND Flash bit shipments and offset the upward momentum generated by an increase in Intel’s ASP. Intel’s NAND Flash revenue for 3Q21 reached a mere US$1.11 billion, a slight 0.6% QoQ increase.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-11-04

Annual DRAM Revenue for 2022 Expected to Reach US$91.5 Billion, with Prices Likely to Rally in 2H22, Says TrendForce

Despite the forecasted 18.6% YoY growth in total DRAM bit supply next year, the global DRAM market is still expected to shift from a shortage situation to an oversupply, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. This shift can primarily be attributed to the fact that, not only are most buyers now carrying a relatively high level of DRAM inventory, but DRAM bit demand is also expected to increase by only 17.1% YoY in 2022. On the price front, the oversupply situation will result in a drop in DRAM ASP in 2022 but not a major decline in annual DRAM revenue, thanks to the oligopolistic nature of the DRAM industry. Annual DRAM revenue for 2022 is expected to reach US$91.54 billion, which represents a slight YoY increase of 0.3%.

Based on an analysis of DRAM sufficiency ratio (which refers to the surplus of supply in comparison with demand) for each quarter in 2022, TrendForce forecasts a 15% YoY decrease in DRAM ASP for 2022, with prices undergoing the more noticeable declines during the first half of the year. Heading into 2H22, however, owing to the rise in DDR5 penetration rate, as well as the arrival of peak seasonal demand, the decline in DRAM ASP will likely narrow. TrendForce does not rule out the possibility that DRAM ASP may even hold flat or undergo an increase in 2H22.

Annual NAND Flash revenue is expected to experience yet another increase next year by 7.4% YoY while numerous suppliers compete in higher-layer NAND Flash market segment

Turning to the NAND Flash market, TrendForce forecasts a 31.8% increase in total bit supply for 2022 and a 30.8% increase in total bit demand. Hence, NAND Flash ASP will likely experience a downtrend next year as a result of the oversupply situation. In addition, due to the perfect competition in the NAND Flash market, the decline in NAND Flash ASP next year will be more noticeable than the decline in DRAM ASP. However, NAND Flash suppliers continues to make progress in the stacking of NAND Flash layers, so the growth in NAND Flash bit supply next year will therefore remain above 30%. TrendForce thus expects NAND Flash revenue to have more room for growth and reach US$74.19 billion in 2022, a 7.4% YoY increase.

TrendForce’s forecast based on an analysis of NAND Flash sufficiency ratios for each quarter in 2022 similarly points to an 18.0% YoY decline in NAND Flash ASP next year. Much like DRAM, NAND Flash prices will undergo the more noticeable declines during 1H22. Arrival of peak seasonal demand in 2H22 will potentially result in a narrowing of price drops and a potential for quarterly prices to hold flat.

On the whole, the revenue performance of the DRAM industry and that of the NAND Flash industry over the years show that the annual total DRAM revenue is growing at more stable pace. Again, this has to do with the oligopolistic structure of the DRAM market. Since the DRAM market has a different competitive landscape, the fluctuations in the overall DRAM ASP have been relatively modest over the long run. However, the development of the DRAM manufacturing technology is approaching a physical bottleneck as process nodes shrink below the 20nm level. This means that the bit growth derived from the deployment of a more advanced process is becoming more and more limited over the years. On the other hand, not only are NAND Flash suppliers relatively more unstable in their capacity expansion plans compared to the DRAM industry, but further improvements in NAND Flash layer-stacking technology also remains feasible. Hence, the fluctuations in the overall NAND Flash ASP have been relatively more volatile over the long run. On account of these factors, the DRAM industry generally has smaller YoY revenue growth rates compared with the NAND Flash industry, although the DRAM industry continues to surpass the NAND Flash industry in terms of profitability.

Profitability of suppliers may be constrained if total revenue fails to keep pace with continuously rising CAPEX

Regarding the CAPEX (capital expenditures) of DRAM suppliers, there has been a gradual increase in these suppliers’ CAPEX to sales ratio in recent years, for two reasons. First, the development of the DRAM manufacturing technology is approaching a physical bottleneck. Die improvements have become more and more limited after process nodes have shrunk below the 20nm level. Micron’s 1alpha nm process can offer an almost 30% increase in bits per wafer, but the 1Xnm-to-1Ynm migrations and the subsequent 1Ynm-to-1Znm migrations that the major suppliers have undertaken in the recent period have yielded increases of no more than 15% in bits per wafer. Looking at future technological developments, Samsung and SK hynix have already integrated EUV lithography into their most advanced process technologies. However, orders for EUV lithography tools have a much longer lead time, and the costs of these tools are also high. Hence, the three dominant suppliers have allocated a large chunk of capital expenditure in advance to place orders for EUV lithography tools ahead of time.

Secondly, the oligopolistic structure of the DRAM market has also helped establish a regime where there is a very low chance of a supplier’s ASP dipping under its fully-loaded cost despite the recurrence of the cyclical price downturn. Moreover, DRAM suppliers have accumulated a substantial amount of profit from their products. In view of the difficulties in die shrinking, suppliers ranging from the three dominant suppliers to others with less market share (such as Nanya Tech and Winbond) have developed tangible plans for capacity expansions. These plans have, in turn, become the other main driver behind the ongoing increase in the CAPEX to sales ratio.

The CAPEX to sales ratio of NAND Flash suppliers have likewise risen substantially following the transition to 3D NAND technology in 2017. Notably, the average CAPEX to sales ratio fell within the 25-30% range prior to 2017, but it has since climbed to nearly 40% as of now. This growth can primarily be attributed to the fact that, as the number of 3D NAND layers increases, there is a corresponding increase in the lead times of NAND Flash products and in the degree of precision as well as difficulty involved in the etching process. While the mainstream layer count of NAND Flash products approaches 1YY layers, suppliers are currently planning to move forward with the development of products with 2XX layers, which place an ever-increasing demand on etch depth. The CAPEX of NAND Flash suppliers will continue to grow alongside increases in layer count and revenue.

TrendForce indicates that NAND Flash layer-stacking technology will continue to progress, meaning suppliers will continue to pursue the stacking of additional layers as a way to lower their manufacturing cost per GB. As such, the NAND Flash industry’s CAPEX will have additional potential for growth going forward, with a CAPEX to sales ratio of close to 40% or above. It should be noted, however, that if total NAND Flash revenue fails to keep pace with the growth in CAPEX in the next few years, NAND Flash suppliers’ CAPEX to sales ratio may potentially undergo an excessive increase, thereby constraining the profitability of suppliers.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

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