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Thursday, December 11, 2003
Toshiba, Sony close to 65nm sample production

Toshiba and Sony are close to beginning trial production of semiconductor chips using a manufacturing process more advanced than any in commercial use today, according to official statements.

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 Corp., is expected to form the heart of its future PlayStation 3 games console and other digital consumer electronics products, but current production technologies are not yet sufficiently advanced to manufacture it in large quantities.

A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter and chip production technology is typically described by the smallest resolution possible. As the resolution gets finer, more components can be crammed onto a chip's surface and that leads to more powerful chips that consume less power.

Toshiba's trial production of sample chips using the 65-nanometer technology will begin in March 2004, said Junichi Nagaki, a spokesman for Toshiba in Tokyo. At that time, the company will turn out system LSI (large scale integrated circuit) chips on a trial line at its Yokohama, Japan, factory and supply them to its customers for evaluation purposes, said the spokesman.

Commercial production of chips using the technology is not expected to begin until the first half of Toshiba's 2005 fiscal year, which is the period from April to September 2005, he said.

The base for that production is planned to be a new factory currently under construction at Toshiba's plant in Oita prefecture, Japan. Construction is scheduled to end in January 2004 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 300-millimeter diameter wafers.

The system LSI chips, while falling short of a prototype of the Cell processor, amount to one of the first steps that Sony needs to take towards eventual mass production of the chip.

The trial production plans comes as many semiconductor companies are still in the midst of upgrading from 130-nanometer generation technology to the latest 90-nanometer technology.

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