Two leading flash memory makers, Western Digital and Kioxia, have warned that contamination of the materials used in manufacturing at two factories in Japan – in Yokkaichi and Kitakami – has led to the deterioration of large numbers of NAND chips. According to Western Digital, up to 6.5 exabytes of flash memory are affected. This amount of scrap can lead to a shortage of flash memory for solid state drive production.
The incident is extremely sensitive for the entire electronics manufacturing industry, which is already experiencing an acute shortage of semiconductors. Flash memory is an important part of many electronic devices – it has replaced hard drives as the main storage for information in many models and is used in literally everything from smartphones to supercomputers.
Kioxia said in a statement that the issue affected the production of 3D BiCS flash memory, a product used in a wide range of solid-state drives and other products. The company hopes soquick restoration of normal operation‘, indicating that production has ceased. However, Kioxia did not specify how badly its production facilities were affected.
Western Digital said in a statement that the issue would reduce its production by “at least” 6.5 exabytes. For comparison, according to TrendFocus, the combined capacity of consumer and enterprise SSDs released in 2021 was 207 exabytes.
Unfortunately, neither company has given an exact timeline as to when production will fully resume. But given the length of the production cycle (it takes two to three months to manufacture a 3D flash memory chip), any failures will have an impact several months after production resumes.
The combined share of Western Digital and Kioxia in the flash memory market reaches 32.5%, which is comparable to the share of the market leader Samsung (34%). Previously, TrendForce forecast that NAND memory demand and prices would decline in the first half of this year. Now this forecast is apparently not destined to come true.