Intel and Micron Technology say that they have started sampling NAND flash memories built on a newer, smaller process than current versions of the chips, which are used for storage in mobile devices such as phones and tablet computers, as well as in solid state drives (SSD) used for corporate storage environments.

The result of the new process will be to enable engineers to fit more memory in a smaller space, freeing up as much as 30 to 40 percent board space over current technologies.

Made by Intel’s (NASDAQ: INTC) and Micron’s (NASDAQ: MU) IM Flash Technologies joint venture, the new memories will the first to use line widths of 20 nanometers — billionths of a meter. That’s a significant improvement over the existing 25nm manufacturing process, particularly when it comes to saving board space.

“The new 20nm process produces an 8 GB multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash device, providing a high-capacity, small form factor storage option for saving music, video, books and other data on smartphones, tablets and computing solutions such as solid-state drives (SSDs),” a joint statement by the companies said.

Intel and Micron said they have begun sending samples of the new 20nm 8 GB memories out to customers and expect full-scale manufacturing of the new 20nm NAND flash memories to begin in the second half of the year.

Also during the second half, the partners plan to begin sampling a 16 GB NAND memory built using the 20nm process. That will let customers create a single device that incorporates up to 128 GB of storage on the space of a postage stamp, the statement said.

It has been barely a year since the companies introduced 25nm manufacturing technology, but the quest for ever smaller, ever faster memories continues.

“Reduction in the flash storage layout provides greater system level efficiency as it enables tablet and smartphone manufacturers to use the extra space for end-product improvements such as a bigger battery, larger screen or adding another chip to handle new features,” the statement added.

The two chip giants formed IM Flash Technologies in 2005 in order to manufacture NAND products for them.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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