Toshiba unveils QLC BiCS flash 3D memory with 4-bit-per-cell technology; achieves capacity of 1.5TB in a single package

Toshiba America Electronic Components (TAEC) unveiled Wednesday its BiCS FLASH three-dimensional (3D) flash memory. The BiCS FLASH device features 4-bit-per-cell, quadruple-level cell (QLC) technology and is initial 3D flash memory device to do so. Toshiba’s QLC technology enables larger (768 gigabit) die capacity than the company’s third-generation 512Gb 3-bit-per-cell, triple-level cell (TLC), and pushes the boundaries of flash memory technology.

Toshiba’s QLC BiCS FLASH device features a 64-layer stacked cell structure and achieves large die capacity. QLC flash memory also enables a 1.5-terabyte (TB) device with a 16-die stacked architecture in a single package – featuring the industry’s largest capacity. This is a fifty percent increase in capacity per package when compared to Toshiba’s earlier announcement of a 1TB device with a 16-die stacked architecture in a single package.

The technical challenges posed by QLC technology needed to be overcome, as increasing the number of bits-per-cell by one within the same electron count requires twice the accuracy of TLC technology. Toshiba has combined its advanced circuit design and leading 3D flash memory process technology to overcome this challenge, successfully creating QLC 3D flash memory.

Toshiba produces 64-layer 256-gigabit (32GB) devices, and has continued to demonstrate its leadership position by advancing the development of its technology. Toshiba publically discuss QLC technology and it has long been a part of the company’s roadmap strategy for high-density, smaller chip size flash memory solutions. The new QLC device is targeted to applications including enterprise and consumer SSDs, tablets and memory cards.

The timing of this achievement is especially beneficial to datacenters.

“The introduction of QLC technology sets the stage for solving many of the challenges facing datacenters today,” noted Greg Wong, founder and principal analyst at Forward Insights.  “For datacenters, QLC SSDs can be an excellent design choice for reducing power consumption and lowering footprint. Additionally, as the push for higher capacity HDDs leads to an increase in areal density and drives up the weight per successive generation, it has become common to see a 42U rack only half-filled due to exceeding maximum weight or power supply. Flash memory-based storage solutions weigh less and realize improved power efficiencies, enabling datacenters to achieve maximum rack capacity.”

“From SLC to MLC and MLC to TLC, large technology shifts are often met by industry resistance and the introduction of QLC is no exception,” noted Scott Nelson, senior vice president of TAEC’s memory business unit. “There will always be demand for compelling storage solutions that bring higher densities and produce a favorable cost/performance equation – our QLC technology falls squarely into that sweet spot. History has proven us right in the past when it comes to our visionary flash memory roadmap, and we fully expect QLC BiCS FLASH to continue our industry-leading track record.”

Samples of Toshiba’s QLC device began shipping earlier in June to SSD and SSD controller vendors for evaluation and development purposes.

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