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Everspin deal with Global Foundries may push MRAM chips to production faster

Everspin deal with Global Foundries may push MRAM chips to production faster

The deal is a step towards greater mass production of the new memory technology

Everspin has signed up chip maker Global Foundries as a manufacturing partner for its next-generation MRAM (Magnetoresistive RAM) memory chips, in a development that should help the promising technology move toward mass production.

MRAM is an emerging memory technology that offers the speed of fast memory technologies like SRAM and can hold its contents for long periods like flash memory. This best-of-both-worlds ability has some in the memory chip industry excited about future use of the technology, but mass production is only just beginning.

"New memory technology has the problem of getting entry into the market and getting credibility," said Phill LoPresti, president and CEO of Everspin. "With our research and development, we're getting access to finer [production technology] and that will help us accelerate deployment [of MRAM]."

Under the deal, the value of which was not announced, Global Foundries will invest in production technology to initially make ST-MRAM (Spin-Torque-MRAM) chips on 300-millimeter wafers on a 40-nanometer production line.

The nanometer measurement refers to the smallest feature that can be produced by the equipment and is an indication of the sophistication of the manufacturing line. While starting at 40 nm, the MRAM manufacturing deal already has a plan to switch to a 28-nm line, which will result in smaller and more power-efficient chips.

The chip maker has also taken a financial stake in Everspin.

Everspin chips can already be found inside several commercial products including battery backup devices, that require fast memory that can hold data in the event of a power failure, and as cache memory inside storage devices. The company says it has shipped over 40 million chips to date.

Everspin was created in 2008 when it was spun out of Freescale, and Global Foundries was born a year later when AMD divested its manufacturing arm. Global Foundries acquired Chartered Semiconductor later the same year and last week announced plans to buy IBM's semiconductor business.

Everspin is not the only company pursuing MRAM development.

Earlier this month, TDK showed off some of its first work in MRAM development. It has been working on MRAM for several years, but has yet to begin commercial production. The prototypes shown in Tokyo were 8-megabit chips, and were demonstrated reading and writing data at about seven times faster than flash memory.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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