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Flash memory capex to set new high in 2022

IC Insights has forecast that NAND flash memory capital spending will rise 8% to US$29.9 billion in 2022, surpassing the previous all-time high of US$27.8 billion spent in 2018.

Flash memory capital spending soared in 2017 when the industry transitioned to 3D NAND and has topped US$20 billion every year since, IC Insights said.

The US$29.9 billion in spending represents 16% of the US$190.4 billion in capital spending forecast for the total IC industry in 2022 and trails only the foundry segment, which is forecast to account for 41% of industry capex this year, IC Insights indicated.

New and recently upgraded NAND flash memory fabs include Samsung's Pyeongtaek Lines 1 and 2; Samsung's Phase 2 investment in Xi'an, China; Kioxia's Fab 6 and Fab K1 in Iwate, Japan; and Micron's third flash memory plant in Singapore. Also, SK Hynix outfitted the remaining space in its M15 plant for NAND flash.

Through the forecast period, new fabs and new equipment will be needed as NAND flash suppliers gear up to enter the race for 200-plus layer devices starting at the end of 2022 and into 2023, according to IC Insights. Samsung and Micron might be the first to start volume production of 200-layer devices later this year.

With an increased focus on enterprise storage applications, SK Hynix expects to migrate to 196-layers in 2023, IC Insights said.

Samsung's wafer fab in Xi'an, China is and will be a key manufacturing location for leading-edge NAND with two fabs - each capable of 120,000 wafer starts monthly when they are fully operational, IC Insights indicated.