Toshiba and Sony are close to beginning trial production of semiconductor chips using a manufacturing process more advanced than any in commercial use today.
The technology is capable of making chips with features as small as 65 nanometers and its development is vital for Sony to produce its planned Cell microprocessor.
The chip, which it is developing with Toshiba and IBM, is expected to form the heart of its future PlayStation 3 games console and other digital consumer electronics products, but existing production technologies are not yet sufficiently advanced to manufacture it in large quantities.
Toshiba's trial production of sample chips using the 65-nanometer technology will begin in March. At that time, the company will turn out system LSI (large-scale integrated circuit) chips on a trial line and supply them to its customers for evaluation purposes.
Commercial production of chips using the technology is not expected to begin until the first half of Toshiba's 2005 financial year, which is the period from April to September 2005.
The construction of the factory making the chips is scheduled to end next month and initial production on a 90-nanometer process is to begin in the middle of 2004, after which it will be upgraded to handle the 65-nanometer process. The plant will process 300mm diameter wafers.
"This is the fundamental technology for 65-nanometer chips," said Shinji Obana, a spokesman for Sony in Tokyo. He added that the two companies have already succeeded in producing a sample system LSI, which also contains 32Mbits of embedded memory. "We tested the device and it works correctly."
Martyn Williams writes for IDG News Service