Toshiba plans to ramp up its NAND flash manufacturing capabilities with the expansion of its Yokkaichi production facility in Mie, Japan.

The Japanese electronics giant plans to commence construction in August of the second phase of Fab 5 at Yokkaichi, which will increase NAND flash production capability and expedite the shift toward vertically organized 3D NAND – a new memory chip which Toshiba is now pioneering.

The second phase of Fab 5 will be developed with sustainability and pollution minimization in mind. The facility will emit 13 per cent less carbon dioxide than the Yokkaichi site’s Fab 4 by adopting measures including energy efficient production methods, recovery of waste heat and LED-based lighting.

The decision to expand its NAND flash manufacturing capabilities comes just a year after Toshiba cut production of the memory chips in July 2012 due to concerns about oversupply on the market and dwindling chip prices.

The decision triggered a swift backlash among customers, who voiced complaints within six weeks that the memory chips were in short supply.

Other factors favouring a expansion in NAND manufacturing capacity at present include a rise in prices for NAND chips since the start of the year, and a weak exchange rate in Japan, conferring Toshiba with a cost advantage compared to its South Korean rivals such as Samsung and SK Hynix.

Following completion of construction and installation of equipment, the Fab 5 Phase 2 will be capable of employing Toshiba’s multi-layered BICS (Bit-Cost Scalable) process to manufacture 3D NAND memories – a technology which has not yet entered production, and one in which Toshiba is now taking the lead.

The company first announced that it had developed 16-year prototype devices, based on a 50-nanometre diameter vertical channel, toward the end of 2012. Toshiba plans to produce samples this year and commence large-scale production in 2015.

While Toshiba has scheduled completion of the facilities for the summer of 2014, the company has not yet made any firm decisions with respect to equipment investment, instead saying that any such purchases “will reflect market trends.”

Toshiba’s reluctance to commit to any capital expenditures at present could reflect its continued trepidations about possible shifts in market conditions for memory chips.