Large-capacity memory cards suitable for various applications drive product development efforts.
China’s memory card makers are enhancing product features to keep up with a broadening application base. To meet demand from the consumer electronics sector, they are releasing models with larger storage capacity and advanced compatibility.
SD variants currently lead supply, accounting for 60 to 65 percent of overall yield. The line includes microSD, miniSD and SDHC versions. Regarded as the key growth driver, the first finds wide adoption in mobile phones, MP4 players, digital photo frames and other electronics devices. It took up 50 percent of output in the SD segment in 2010.
Manufacturers will continue to focus R&D on SD types as more products adopt the memory card format. SDHC and microSD, in particular, will remain strong lines together with expanding use in photo viewing, video playback and gaming. The latter is increasingly positioned as both a stand-alone card and embedded memory for mobile phones and other handhelds.
Meanwhile, CF cards account for 15 to 20 percent of total turnout. Demand for the variant has been sluggish, with application limited to upscale digital cameras or SLRs. Nevertheless, suppliers such as East Sky Industry Co. Ltd continue to produce CF kinds to boost earnings. The maker says that profit from the segment is 5 to 10 percent higher than from other types.
Expecting a stable demand from SLRs, Sai-ou International (HK) Co. Ltd will keep its CF card yield at current levels this year. The enterprise’s output of the variant in 2010 mainly targeted high-end cameras.
Overall, China’s production of memory cards is forecast to rise slightly this year. Output in 2010 hit 100 million units, up 5 to 10 percent from 2009.
There are approximately 100 suppliers of the line in China, most of them capable of manufacturing SD, microSD, miniSD and SDHC types. About 60 percent of the enterprises have CF versions in their selections. Seventy percent of the country’s flash memory card yield is exported, with OEM orders leading transactions.
Different storage capacity
Hong Kong: Wide utilization boosts SD memory card category
Taiwan: Large-capacity memory cards fuel R&D
Memory cards from China come in various storage capacity.
The range for microSD formats is 64MB to 4GB. For exports, the mainstream is 2 to 4GB. Those that are embedded in mobile phones have 256 to 512MB, while types bundled with digital cameras boast 1 to 2GB. Stand-alone kinds, which are mostly shipped overseas, are in 2 to 4GB, with the first being the most popular.
The available options for miniSD types are 512MB or 1, 2, 4 and 8GB. Boasting read and write speeds of 12MBps, they are used in PDAs, voice recorders and portable gaming devices.
SDHC varieties pack 4 to 16GB memory. Although the former currently rules demand, suppliers forecast 8GB versions will be mainstream in the next few years.
For CF cards, the typical is 256MB to 32GB. Traditional kinds support 2 and 4GB, while industrial versions have 512MB and 1GB.
Mainstream releases have 1GB memory or below. Units with 1 to 4GB are classified as midrange, and those with up to 8GB are positioned as high-end.
Most companies focus on midlevel CF cards, but some have shifted production to upscale models with elevated writing speeds. Shenzhen Ruiren Electronics Co. Ltd has rolled out variants featuring 90MBps 600x. It plans to introduce versions with 100MBps 886x this year.
CF cards are classified into traditional and industrial. The latter is used to replace HDDs in embedded systems and in digital signage and medical and military equipment. Recognizing its broad application, several manufacturers have ventured into the segment, producing industrial versions with improved reliability and durability than traditional counterparts. The first boasts a storage temperature of -50 to 95 C and a 1,000G vibration testing, while basic types have -40 to 85 C and 500G.
In 2010, Shenzhen Ruiren churned out 10,000 CF cards a month, 25 percent of which were industrial types. The bulk went to domestic buyers. This year, 10 to 20 percent will be sent overseas.
Manufacturers are likewise developing units that enable IDE PIO and UDMA mode 0-6.
NAND flash modules are the key component in production, taking up 70 to 85 percent of memory card prices. Makers source these from foreign providers Samsung, Toshiba and Hynix. IM Flash Technologies, a joint venture between Intel and Micron, is another emerging global player in this line. It introduced the first NAND silicon process technology in early 2010, and expects this to become operational by this year’s end. This aims to enhance memory card capacity.
There are three types of NAND flash modules, namely single-, multi- and triple-level cells. Traditional CF cards utilize SLC, while industrial kinds use MLC. Samsung is a major provider of the first, and Toshiba the second.
Card suppliers carry out tests to ensure that models meet product standards. Rfox Digital Technology Co. Ltd uses the Rfox eye, an equipment designed to check the quality of memory cards.
Prices of memory cards were stable in 2H10, and are forecast to remain unchanged this year.
Hong Kong suppliers are offering SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards to take advantage of the product’s increasing adoption in consumer electronics. Some makers that previously concentrated on models with proprietary formats such as MS and xD have added SD capability to their latest releases.
SDHC and SDXC types are widely used in digital camera applications, while microSD and microSDHC find adoption in mobile phones and tablet PCs. Several enterprises have branded MS PRO Duo cards for the portable gaming market segment. CF variants, meanwhile, are targeted at high-end cameras.
The storage capacity ranges from 2 to 16GB. Upscale SDXC and CF cards can accommodate 32GB or larger memory. Units likewise come in various speed class ratings.
To attract orders, makers enhance capacity and features. Microdia Ltd, for instance, has rolled out its model 466 Xtra Elite CF card with an optional photo recovery and backup software. It also includes an international lifetime limited warranty. In addition to CF kinds, the enterprise offers SDXC, SDHC, miniSD and microSDHC cards.
A Force International Ltd, a major memory module and USB flash drive supplier, churns out branded class 6 SDHC cards.
Many companies bundle memory cards with their digital cameras, mobile phones, portable media players, memory card readers, adapters and other electronics products. Some accept customized orders and conduct labeling and retail packaging.
Under its own brand name, Vida Design Ltd provides SD, SDHC, miniSD, microSD and CF cards in retail and bulk packaging. To improve service, the company has established partnerships with major couriers to ensure prompt delivery. It also offers USB flash drives, memory modules and other computer accessories.
Hong Kong’s manufacturing pool consists of makers with years of experience in developing data storage devices. Enterprises are equipped for IC packaging and testing, and conduct in-house production for RAM modules, solid state disks and USB flash drives. A number are affiliated with the SecureDigital Association, CompactFlash Association and other organizations.
Suppliers from the territory face stiff competition from foreign players such as Samsung, SanDisk, Toshiba, Kingston, Sony and Transcend, which have more resources for low-cost volume production.
Taiwan’s memory card makers are gearing product development toward units with larger storage capacity and improved performance.
They are concentrating on CF and SD cards, the latter consisting of SD, SDHC and SDXC kinds, amid strong demand from the industrial, medical and consumer electronics sectors.
Aside from expanding memory, suppliers of CF types are keeping releases competitive by developing variants with better I/O capability and data transfer rate. This is under efforts to maintain dominance in the high-end camera segment, where digital SLRs adopting SD versions are eating into the market share of CF cards. Manufacturers offer models with up to 128GB capacity. Entry-level units include 32 and 64GB kinds.
New rollouts have a memory of 32GB or larger, and 400 or 600x transmission speeds.
CF cards with 6.0 and 5.0 specifications, PATA interface and 90 and 167MBps throughput performance are also available. These boast speeds of 120, 150, 233, 300, 400 and 600x, and have up to 128GB storage. They are utilized in embedded systems, single-board computers, data recorders, heart monitors, defibrillators and slot machines.
Power Quotient International Co. Ltd has expanded its CF card capacity to 64GB maximum to meet customers’ requirements.
Manufacturers are releasing CFast cards for industrial PCs and other devices supporting SATA 3Gbps connectivity. Equipped with a bootable drive, they serve as solid state disks with a high-speed data transfer of 108MBps.
Taiwan makers are also upgrading SDXC versions to cater to different client requirements. Next-generation types will offer a storage capacity ranging from more than 32GB to 2TB, and incorporate exFAT file system to handle large volumes of data.
They can likewise enable UHS Speed and up to 104MBps.
Meanwhile, some companies incorporate value-added software to ensure stable operation, data security and recovery. For example, Transcend Information Inc. has integrated Static Data Refresh and Early Retirement technologies in its CFast cards.
Aside from correcting errors, the applications extend memory cell life span. The supplier’s 16GB models support up to 108 and 91MBps read and write speeds.
East Sky Industry Co. Ltd
Power Quotient International Co. Ltd
Model: 600X CF Card
Rfox Digital Technology Co. Ltd
Model: Ridata 600X CF
Shenzhen Ruiren Electronics Co. Ltd
Transcend Information Inc.
Model: CFast Cards
Note:This article was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
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