The first 65nm semiconductor wafers by Fujitsu and Toshiba have begun rolling off trial production lines in Japan.

Fujitsu showed some trial wafers at a show last week and confirmed they were produced using its 65-nanometer production technology. The technology is still in the development stage though, the company has stressed, and not yet reached an evaluation level or where samples can be shipped to customers.

Toshiba is slightly further along in the development of the technology and is currently evaluating early 65-nanometer samples, said a company spokesman.

One of the first uses for Toshiba's technology will be the production of the Cell processor, which will be used in Sony's upcoming PlayStation 3. Mass production is scheduled for the first half of 2005.

Today's most advanced semiconductors are produced using a 90-nanometer process. The measurement refers to the size of the smallest track or gap width that can be made on the chip's surface. Sixty-five nanometers is about a thousandth the width of a human hair.

A smaller number means semiconductors can be made physically smaller, because everything can be made to take up less space, or made more powerful, because more can be crammed into a given space. As such, progress in manufacturing technology is a vital for building faster, smaller and cheaper chips.