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Publication Date: 02/1/2008
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New Production Technologies for Complex Flash Media
Flash memory form factors including standard secure digital (SD), mini SD, micro SD, MMCplus, MMCmobile, and MMCmicro.

Among the more notable recent trends in high density memory devices has been the explosive consumption of Flash media. Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs), MP3 players, and feature-rich cell phone handsets are examples of consumer electronics products that are now utilizing very high density embedded and removable SD/MMC cards in volume — for both product operation and user data storage. PNDs and cell phones are good examples of consumption of high density memories because of insatiable user appetites for more and more inexpensive storage (to hold maps, videos, music, and games). In addition to unending user appetites for storage, the electronic products themselves are "converging". Products that were formerly used for a single function (cell phone, PDA, MP3 player) have "converged" into a single portable device that performs all of those functions creating additional demand for high density storage.

New cost-effective automated systems are now being introduced to the market to provide huge gains in duplication capability over manual systems

But with the radical increase in consumption comes a host of production issues that are driven directly by the density of these devices. Of the media duplication systems available today, most are small manual machines that suffer from throughput and quality issues. New cost-effective automated systems are now being introduced to the market to provide huge gains in duplication capability over manual systems while maintaining a small footprint, simplicity of operation, and production quality.

NAND Market Growth
Five years ago, the value of NAND/NOR memory shipments was $5-$6 billion. 2007 sales will surpass the $23 billion mark and now approaches 50 percent of the size of the DRAM market (which has been around many, many years). The NAND cost per bit continues to fall, and new densities are announced every few months. Market acceptance and growth is unprecedented.

Exponential Growth
In 2003-4, a one-gigabyte device was the upper density limit. In 2007-8, we now have 8 and 16 gigabyte devices in remarkably small geometries. To grasp the densities of these devices, consider that a 1GB device can store:

  • 1000 novels (100,000 words per novel), or
  • 18 hours of MP3 music (128kbit/s), or
  • 12 hours of flash video.

Early implementations of NAND memory provided inexpensive user data storage and were often co-resident in the electronic product with other forms of memory (i.e., NOR). While generally lesser expensive (per bit) than NOR memory, early NAND devices were imperfect and often required the additional design of bad block management schemes. Today, file systems or other techniques remove the design pains of managing NAND bad blocks and has the added benefit of being used to both boot the product and run the application.

Today's Card Media
Embedded Flash memories are mounted on a PCB inside the electronic device. Removable media is socketed on the electronic product and is available in several form factors including standard secure digital (SD), mini SD, micro SD, MMCplus, MMCmobile, and MMCmicro. The dramatic surge in device density has driven demand for new production technologies. Duplication of smaller volumes and smaller devices (densities) could be done with manual copy stations. But the densities of the memory devices have grown so fast that traditional means of loading data has grown from seconds to several minutes per device.

Keeping up with production schedules can mean installation of several more manual duplication systems and increased expense for additional operators and duplication consumables (since older style socket adapters do not provide extended life as measured in the number of insertions). Manual duplication systems are also prone to operator error.

Duplication & Secure Data
The common (manual) duplication process involves copying the data file from a master device or software file. Newer production systems also provide for secure networked control of job setup and process flow. In today's virtual production environment, such capability is valuable for production floors located in different geographies than the design facility. Newer production systems can provide for authorized system access, special data handling (e.g.,

serialization), encryption, and post-duplication job logs that can connect with the corporate ERP system.

Flash media vary in how fast data can be written to the devices. Older general purpose duplication systems were not optimized for high write speeds of these new device technologies, and for many production environments, it is all about high-quality hourly throughput. Today, desktop automated systems are available that minimize operator error and provide high throughput. Very high density Flash memory devices can be expensive components that demand high first-pass yield production. System robotics and interconnect schemes are significant variables in achieving high throughput and yields.
Data I/O's Flash media duplication system.

Older style automated duplication systems often require changes in the production facility, most often in terms of floor space, air supplies, and special power requirements. Automated desktop systems that can operate in normal office environments without facility modification are self-contained and as small as 24.2 x 30.3 x 23.3-in. (615 x 770 x 592mm h x l x w).

Socket adapter cartridges can be expensive consumables — most only provide insertion count life of up to 10,000 operations (given careful maintenance) before replacement is needed. High insertion count socket adapters designed specifically for Flash media cards (that use spring-pin contact technology) can deliver 250,000 contacts per socket as well as the highest yields and the lowest cost-per-device available.

Automated Desktop System
Small in footprint and high in throughput, Data I/O's flash media duplication system electronics and robotics were optimized for Flash media production. In addition, the modular structure allows for the use of other programming modules that support traditional memory device types and packages.

When selecting a high-speed duplication system, production managers might consider automated systems that can achieve high card write speeds. Data I/O's Flash-optimized automated system produces over 700 devices per hour and is simple to set up and operate.
An example of high insertion count interconnect technology.

Semiconductor manufacturers have responded to exploding demand for data storage in a variety of consumer electronics products. The sharp increase in volume consumption of embedded and removable Flash memories has created the need for new cost-effective production technologies that provide high throughput and first-pass yields in simple-to-operate automated systems. New Flash-optimized production systems have been introduced to the market to address those demands not only for volume production but also for connectivity with other production applications.

For more information, contact: Data I/O Corp., 10525 Willows Road N.E., Redmond, WA 98052 425-881-6444 fax: 425-881-6856 Web:

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