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Will FRAM take lead in non-volatile memory?

20 May 2015  | Gary Hilson

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"Chicken and egg" challenge

Fujitsu Semiconductor's most recent FRAM product was announced at the end of 2014 with the release of MB85RDP16LX, an ultra-low-power device with an integrated binary counter function, which contributes to energy savings. The company is targeting MB85RDP16LX at industrial automation applications involving energy harvesting for rotary encoders, motor control and sensors. To meet the temperature ranges required by the industrial automation market, it can operating at a temperature range of -40 to 105°C without risk of data loss in a 10-year timeframe.

Cypress, which bought FRAM pioneer Ramtron, has committed to the technology just as it has to SRAM. Last month, it introduced a family of 4Mb serial FRAMs. The new product line is aimed at applications requiring "continuous and frequent high-speed reading and writing of data where security is essential," said Rainer Hoehler, VP the nonvolatile products business unit at Cypress, in an interview with EE Times. Applications include industrial controls and automation, industrial metering, multi-function printers, test and measurement equipment and medical wearables.

These systems require high-density, high-reliability, high-endurance and energy-efficient non-volatile (NV) RAMs, Hoehler said. Alternative nonvolatile memories, such as EEPROM and MRAM, cannot match the performance of FRAM, which consumes 30 per cent of the power of the most advanced EEPROM and offers 100 million times the write endurance, he told us.

Handy said FRAM is similar to many memories as it faces the quintessential "chicken and egg" challenge. Demand for more volume is required make wafers for cost-efficiently, and the only way to obtain that demand is a lower cost for the FRAM.

Despite the challenges, he said there is a viable market for vendors focusing on FRAM applications.

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