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Micron Delays EUV RAM to 2025 and Reduces Workforce by 10%

Micron reduces expenses as demand for 3D NAND and DRAM declines.

This week, Micron announced drastic cost-cutting measures, including a 10% workforce reduction and additional capital expenditure cuts. As a result, the company will slow the ramp-up of new DRAM nodes, delaying the introduction of 1 (1-gamma) production nodes using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography until 2025. In the meantime, the company has begun sampling 24Gb DDR5 memory devices for business applications.

EUV Launch Delayed

Micron is the only major DRAM manufacturer that does not utilize EUV lithography in its most recent manufacturing processes. The memory manufacturer intends to use EUV for multiple layers in its 1 manufacturing technology, which is scheduled for introduction in 2024. Because Micron must reduce spending on new equipment in fiscal years 2023 and 2024 and reduce DRAM bit shipments in the upcoming quarters, it will need to slow the ramp-up of its 1 and-1 fabrication technologies for DRAMs.

The company’s latest 1 (1-beta) manufacturing node, which improves power efficiency by 15% and increases bit density by 35%, relies solely on deep ultraviolet light (DUV lithography). Samsung and SK Hynix, on the other hand, are already utilizing EUV scanners for multiple layers in their 4th Generation 10nm-class technologies (1, 1-alpha) and intend to increase their usage with 5th Generation 10nm-class DRAM nodes. The company is delaying the introduction of the 1 to reduce bit production shipments and reduce its capital expenditures.

Micron’s statement reads, “given our decision to slow the 1ß DRAM production ramp, we anticipate the introduction of 1 (1-gamma) memory in 2025.” “Similarly, our next NAND node beyond 232-layer 3D NAND memory will be delayed to align with the new demand forecast and required supply growth.”

The delay of a EUV-based production process is significant because one EUV layer replaces several DUV masks, thereby decreasing cycle times, increasing yields, and decreasing costs. Considering that Samsung and SK Hynix will use EUV extensively in the coming years, they may have a cost advantage over Micron.

24Gb DDR5 IC Sampling

Complex high-capacity DRAM devices, such as Micron’s 24Gb DDR5 IC, benefit tremendously from advanced process technologies. The chip, which is currently undergoing qualification by Micron’s partners, will be manufactured using Micron’s proven 1 node.

Using 24Gb memory chips as opposed to 16Gb devices could increase memory module capacity by 50% without increasing the number of integrated circuits per module. That includes 48GB, 96GB, 192GB, and 384GB modules for standard and ultra-dense server servers. Additionally, Micron could produce 24GB and 48GB DDR5 client modules.

DDR5 server adoption will not commence until AMD and Intel begin shipping their next-generation EPYC and Xeon Scalable processors with DDR5 support. Meanwhile, Micron anticipates that server DDR5 bit shipments will surpass DDR4 by mid-2024.

CapEx Reduction

As noted, one of the reasons for the 1 and 1 delays is the reduction of capital expenditures in fiscal 2023 (which ends in September 2023) and 2024. (ends in September 2024). Micron has reduced it’s FY 2023 Capital Expenditures to a range between $7 billion and $7.5 billion. This is a reduction from the $8 billion target the company set several months ago and from the $12 billion in FY 2022 (i.e., a reduction of approximately 40%). The company plans to reduce spending on wafer fab equipment (WFE) by 50 percent year over year but will increase spending on construction as it constructs a new fab in Idaho. In FY 2024, WFE expenditures will decrease compared to what Micron had originally planned.

Coming Job Cuts

Since the company anticipates a modest increase in demand for both types of memory it manufactures — 10% for DRAM and around 20% for NAND — it must also reduce its operating expenses. Through a combination of voluntary attrition and personnel reductions, it intends to reduce headcount by 10% throughout 2023.

“For both years, demand in DRAM and NAND is well below historical trends and future growth expectations,” Micron said in a statement. “This is primarily due to reductions in end demand in most markets, high customer inventories, the impact of the macroeconomic environment, and regional factors in Europe and China.”

Balancing Supply and Demand

Micron’s output and cost-cutting measures may appear extreme, but the company believes that balancing supply and demand is essential to its profitability and long-term prosperity.

“The industry remains in an oversupply situation, but customers are depleting inventories, and we anticipate they will be in a better position by the second quarter of the year,” said Micron’s chief financial officer, Mark Murphy (via SeekingAlpha). However, profit will be challenged throughout the year, putting pressure on gross margins.

Sanjay Mehrotra, chief executive officer of Micron, told Bloomberg, “The rate and pace of the recovery in terms of profitability will depend on how quickly the supply is brought into line.”

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