SK hynix is accelerating its lead in the cutting-edge field of what is often called the "dream memory," the three-dimensional (3D) DRAM. The company, already a leader in the artificial intelligence (AI) semiconductor market with its high-bandwidth memory (HBM), is now seeking to continue its innovation in the next-generation DRAM sector.

According to industry sources on June 23, SK hynix presented a research paper on 3D DRAM at the prestigious semiconductor conference “VLSI 2024,” held in Hawaii, U.S., from June 16 to June 20.

In this paper, SK hynix reported that the manufacturing yield of the 3D DRAM, stacked in five layers, recorded 56.1%. This means that about 561 viable devices were produced out of approximately 1,000 3D DRAMs manufactured on a single test wafer. The experimental 3D DRAM showed characteristics similar to the currently used 2D DRAM, which was also highlighted in the data presented. This marks the first time SK hynix has disclosed specific figures and operational characteristics of its 3D DRAM development.

Industry experts view this paper as a significant milestone demonstrating that SK hynix is nearing the acquisition of core technologies for next-generation DRAM. Unlike conventional DRAM that arranges memory cells on a plane, 3D DRAM stacks these cells vertically, akin to an apartment building. This allows for a higher density of memory cells in the same space but presents challenges in technology implementation. Securing the foundational technology could potentially shift the DRAM paradigm.

3D DRAM is also a focus of intense development efforts by rival companies such as Samsung Electronics and U.S.-based Micron Technology. Notably, Samsung Electronics projected at the “MemCon 2024” exhibition in March in the U.S. that it plans to mass-produce this product around 2030, signaling its aspirations for future technology leadership. At the conference, SK hynix indirectly expressed its determination to replicate its technological innovation from the HBM sector in the 3D DRAM market, in response to Samsung's presentation.

However, SK hynix also indicated that while the potential of 3D DRAM is promising, a substantial development process is necessary before commercialization can be achieved. They pointed out that unlike the stable operation of 2D DRAM, 3D DRAM exhibits unstable performance characteristics and would need to stack 32 to 192 layers of memory cells to be viable for general use.