Memory or flash cards are more commonly known as SD and microSD cards, although there are some other lesser-known cards such as CFast and CompactFlash which are used in a wide variety of applications.
Small but mighty – memory card solutions
Flash memory cards have been around for many years are used to expand the storage capacity in mobile phones, cameras and other handheld devices. Their small size, high capacity (up to 512GB) and low cost make flash memory cards an ideal solution for removable storage. Like all storage, choosing the right card is a simple process, after all, it’s only a memory card right! To a certain extent, that’s true, but it depends on what you are using the card for and in what type of application.
When choosing a memory card especially for a non-consumer application it’s always worth seeking expert advice to ensure a right-first-time solution. No one likes card failures, especially in critical applications in remote environments. Think of the resource and cost to get one changed, only for it to fail again. Simms has a team of experts that fully understand the technical breakdown of memory cards which is why we partner with some of the very best manufacturers in the field. Simms supply a range of consumer memory cards from Kingston Technology and also industrial-grade cards from ATP, Innodisk and APRO.
Need help to find the right memory card solution? Speak to our experts
What causes flash memory card failure?
Flash memory cards fail because they are simply not fit for purpose. Placing a cheap consumer card in an industrial application, in our experience, will fail pretty quickly. The decision to purchase a memory card is predominantly driven by price and not the requirement. This is where Simms can add value and save time and resources in selecting the right solution. Our technical experts have worked on many projects over the years to help our customers find the right-first-time solution.
It’s what’s inside that counts
Memory cards look the same in terms of size but it’s really what’s underneath that is the key difference. As mentioned, consumer cards are ideal for handheld everyday devices such as mobile phones and cameras. Kingston Technology is one such manufacturer that has an extensive range of memory cards for consumer and professional photography and video use, such as capturing 4K HD video.
Even when an SD card is opened to reveal its inner workings, it will look fundamentally the same whether a consumer or industrial card. However, some manufacturers such as ATP offer SiP (System in Packaging) which completely encapsulates all contacts and components. Both cards will have a NAND Flash chip (the large block) and both will have a controller (the small block). The NAND Flash is where everything is stored; data files, presentations, music, pictures, and so on. The controller is the brains of the device – it’s the part that communicates with the host device and manages the flash file system directory. The controller is also responsible for wear leveling, error correction and garbage collection so is vital in making the cards work.
Industrial-grade cards can typically operate in temperatures of between -40°C to 85°C which is also known as wide temperature. Consumer cards typically can operate between -25°C to 85°C. So as you can see for applications that need to run in harsh environments for long periods of time industrial-grade makes perfect sense.
Industrial-grade cards are generally not high capacity, unlike consumer cards. There is still a requirement for 128MB cards with the highest topping out at 128GB in MLC. As SLC is more expensive cards tend to stop at 32GB. Given SLC performance characteristics this capacity for most applications would be more than enough. Consumer cards using MLC and 3D TLC on the other hand, are readily available in 256GB, 512GB, and soon enough 1TB capacities.
Choosing the right NAND Flash memory card
There are different types of NAND flash available for industrial memory cards namely, SLC, MLC, pSLC and 3D TLC. Each of these types of NAND has distinct performance and endurance characteristics. The key differences are;
- SLC – very fast, low capacity (max 32GB), high endurance. The best NAND but expensive
- MLC – good speed, higher capacities available (up to 256GB) average endurance, good price point
- pSLC – sits in between SLC and MLC. Good balance of performance and endurance over cost.
- 3D TLC – fast speeds, high capacities, average endurance. A cost-effective solution.
Help is at hand. The Simms team are experts in understanding the requirements placed on the NAND flash and will be able to help you get the right solution for your project. Depending on the size of the project we can offer a free sample programme so you can use memory cards in real-time.
Things to consider when choosing the right memory card
- What application is the memory card being used in?
- Is it for a phone or camera, or industrial applications?
- Does it need customisation?
- Does it need a wide-temperature operation?
- What data are you writing to the card?
- Hi-resolution images, 4K video or small pieces of information?
- What capacity do I need?
By answering these questions first will give you a steer in the right direction as to consumer or industrial use. If you need help, then our experts are on hand to guide you.
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