SanDisk announced today that it has given birth to a new generation of flash memory products. The new multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash memory uses 43-nanometer (nm) technology, which has double the density of the last generation of 56nm flash.

This will lead to the commercialisation of new 32GB flash memory chips which will soon be seen in first-party USB drives as well as the Sansa View MP3 player.

The 43nm flash technology is not quite cutting edge. It was created some time ago, but the fact that SanDisk has now put it into mass production is significant. It’s the world’s biggest flash memory manufacturer and that spells good news for flash memory capacities across the board in solid state drives (SSDs) and third-party mobile devices like phones and GPS systems.

Good news for everyone

The 43nm chips have twice the amount of transistors in the same amount of space as the 56nm ones. The practical upshot of which is that you get twice as much capacity, for the same price. The 32GB chips will start shipping in the second half of 2008.

“We’re excited about commencing the production ramp of the 43nm generation of MLC NAND flash memory with its significantly lower cost benefits,” said Dr. Randhir Thakur, SanDisk’s executive vice president of technology and worldwide operations.

“Technology features include SanDisk’s patented All Bit Line (ABL) architecture with efficient programming algorithms and 8-Kilobyte (KB) page size, providing high performance capabilities. State-of-the-art lithography, other process technology innovations and industry-first 64-NAND string architecture provide lower cost per megabyte and excellent performance. The 43nm technology generation will become our major focus during 2008 as we continue to provide leading-edge technology and cost benefits to our customers,” he added.

Meanwhile, SanDisk engineers themselves think that the limits of flash memory technology will have been reached by 2012. This means that after around 2012, flash memory will have reached its physical limitations and manufacturers will have to look to alternative technologies to further increase solid state capacities.