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Author Topic: Block Erupter: Dedicated Mining ASIC Project (Open for Discussion)  (Read 37315 times)
friedcat
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July 02, 2012, 12:23:42 PM
 #1

Hi everyone. Our team has just started a project of mining ASIC design & production. We believe it will be both profitable for us and good for the Bitcoin community if we fully work it out.

It is widely believed that the NRE cost of ASIC is very high, while the margin cost of mass ASIC production is very low. However, we happen to be in China, where the NRE cost is much more reasonable (~150k$ for 130nm, ~500k$ for 65nm, furthermore much less if you do a 1/N mask) than most people thought. And we are going to take well advantage of that.

Our approach is incremental in all aspects. We will set several milestones and see what will happen if we achieve each of them. The report on each stage will be posted here.

In the design stage, including both the front-end and the back-end, we are going to fund ourselves. When we are finally ready to turn our design into real chips, we will seek investments, possibly both inside and outside the Bitcoin world. The first batch of our ASIC will not be an end, and we are going to renew our technology with the evolution of the hardware industry, so we are going to make this project a long-term one. However, this thread is not for investment asking, but merely for discussion and our status report.

Open discussions (feel free to add more!)

1. Self mining .vs. Selling hashes .vs. Selling hardware

2. Warnings, e.g. what are the typical causes to a failed ASIC manufacturing

3. Approaches to get enough funding for production

(To be extended)

Status reports

July 18
We have had our IC design company registered at Shenzhen, China. The name of our company is "bitfountain"

We also have signed the confidential contract with the IC manufacturer and got the process library necessary for correct DC synthesis.

July 29

Front-end work done. Preliminary specification given.

August 2

More optimization and trade-offs applied. MH/J improved and Watt/mm^2 reduced at the cost of some chip area increase.

August 11

The pictures of our IC layer are revealed.

(Larger pictures: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=99497.msg1092138#msg1092138)

September 22
We are in the taping-out process with the foundry. The chip spec and interface made public.
https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=91173.msg1211518#msg1211518

(To be extended)

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July 02, 2012, 02:01:05 PM
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Selling products will inevitably pull us into the hassle of shipping, consulting, and custom service. So product sales are not a short-term option.

I think that there is demand for an alternative to BFL because many (myself included) do not like their business practices. If you have a competitive product then I'm sure that somebody would be willing to act as a distributor / retailer to handle the shipping for you (and to earn some money).

Those who cause problems for others also cause problems for themselves.
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July 02, 2012, 03:21:50 PM
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Selling products will inevitably pull us into the hassle of shipping, consulting, and custom service. So product sales are not a short-term option.

I think that there is demand for an alternative to BFL because many (myself included) do not like their business practices. If you have a competitive product then I'm sure that somebody would be willing to act as a distributor / retailer to handle the shipping for you (and to earn some money).

+1.

You can sell gear and not have to deal with thousands of customers.
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July 02, 2012, 04:28:56 PM
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We have already been considering about building ASIC chips of ourselves for mining for quite a while.

Which technology background has 'we'? Did you make a FPGA miner oder other project including bitstream, schematic and pcb Artwork for yourself. Did you make an ASIC before?
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July 02, 2012, 04:47:48 PM
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Ok.. so you announce in the custom hardware forum about a product that you may develop that nobody can buy. You instead state that you will mine on the hardware for yourselves and sell some of the hashing power.

Why would you even waste the time to post all this information here? Make a website, post to the mining sub-forum and/or marketplace->services and who cares where the hashes come from. We don't care that it costs $xxx,xxx dollars to manufacture your masks and the ROI when all you are selling is a commodity(hashes).

This is like selling bushels of wheat and telling me how much sun was needed, how much fertilizer was needed and how much gasoline was used to plant, tend and harvest. Just sell me the damn wheat.
friedcat
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July 03, 2012, 01:47:00 AM
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Ok.. so you announce in the custom hardware forum about a product that you may develop that nobody can buy. You instead state that you will mine on the hardware for yourselves and sell some of the hashing power.

Why would you even waste the time to post all this information here? Make a website, post to the mining sub-forum and/or marketplace->services and who cares where the hashes come from. We don't care that it costs $xxx,xxx dollars to manufacture your masks and the ROI when all you are selling is a commodity(hashes).

This is like selling bushels of wheat and telling me how much sun was needed, how much fertilizer was needed and how much gasoline was used to plant, tend and harvest. Just sell me the damn wheat.

Thanks for your reply. It's not a single-sided announcement from us. It's supposed to be a board asking for discussion. We have some plans ourselves but since we haven't got any real Bitcoin community in the physical real world, this forum is a precious place for us to get information.

Therefore we are kind of chatty and informal in this thread, and we share the information as long as it's not IP-related or business-secret-related. And thanks to the replies, we realize that we pre-maturely ruled out the possibility of selling chips. Though things are not as feasible as western countries in China to sell tangible products, it's still viable.

The custom hardware sub-forum seems indeed to be not he best place to put this thread in. If the mining section is more suitable. Could the moderator move it to there?

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July 03, 2012, 01:57:57 AM
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Which technology background has 'we'? Did you make a FPGA miner oder other project including bitstream, schematic and pcb Artwork for yourself. Did you make an ASIC before?

"We" the founders are three people at this moment. One of the partner has been working on the hardware section of a general purpose CPU design group. The other one has been working on the software section of a embedded-system-oriented CPU group but is heavily involved in the front-end of hardware design.

So we have the ASIC experience, but in different larger projects, and as smaller roles than, say, "they are made by just us".

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July 03, 2012, 02:12:58 AM
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I think that there is demand for an alternative to BFL because many (myself included) do not like their business practices. If you have a competitive product then I'm sure that somebody would be willing to act as a distributor / retailer to handle the shipping for you (and to earn some money).

The license and permission of selling products to either direct customers or retailers in China are a little more painful to get. But you are right, it should still be taken into account as a possibility. Thanks for your suggestion.

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July 03, 2012, 03:45:12 AM
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I think that there is demand for an alternative to BFL because many (myself included) do not like their business practices. If you have a competitive product then I'm sure that somebody would be willing to act as a distributor / retailer to handle the shipping for you (and to earn some money).

The license and permission of selling products to either direct customers or retailers in China are a little more painful to get. But you are right, it should still be taken into account as a possibility. Thanks for your suggestion.

The Bitcoin community would welcome a competing ASIC option to BFL with open arms. If you need proof of this just check out the responses and orders going on in the Enterpoint thread for a product that barely even works. The openbitASIC discussion is another great example of people clamoring for another option. A company that does ASICs right is a company that will win loyal customers. I firmly believe people put up with BFL because the rewards currently outweigh the difficulties. Hell, I even considered purchasing a few Singles myself..

Otherwise, another mining company, regardless of how the hashes are generated, is just another mining company.
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July 03, 2012, 12:22:52 PM
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The Bitcoin community would welcome a competing ASIC option to BFL with open arms. If you need proof of this just check out the responses and orders going on in the Enterpoint thread for a product that barely even works. The openbitASIC discussion is another great example of people clamoring for another option. A company that does ASICs right is a company that will win loyal customers. I firmly believe people put up with BFL because the rewards currently outweigh the difficulties. Hell, I even considered purchasing a few Singles myself..

Otherwise, another mining company, regardless of how the hashes are generated, is just another mining company.

Indeed. It is always a better thing for other miners to see direct competition of mining device providers than indirect ones. We are not in a proper position to comment other ASIC vendors or producers though. Smiley

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July 03, 2012, 07:40:02 PM
 #11

I would personally love to see a well documented Bitcoin-specific ASIC that is sold by reel (or in smaller quantities to hobbyists by a retailer). This way there could be many companies developing and offering products from "coffee-warmers" to 4U Terahash-class racks. ASIC performance would this way be available to all at a reasonable cost, and the manufacturer/owner of IPR would get a fair flow of income without the hassles of consumer relations and warranty.

www.BitfuryStrikesBack.com
 - From miners to miners -
friedcat
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July 05, 2012, 02:29:51 AM
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I would personally love to see a well documented Bitcoin-specific ASIC that is sold by reel (or in smaller quantities to hobbyists by a retailer). This way there could be many companies developing and offering products from "coffee-warmers" to 4U Terahash-class racks. ASIC performance would this way be available to all at a reasonable cost, and the manufacturer/owner of IPR would get a fair flow of income without the hassles of consumer relations and warranty.

Indeed. This saves most hassle dealing with end-users. We hope the whole Bitcoin economy will soon grow to a level allowing a well-developed chain of mining industry so that we could implement this idea. Thank you very much for your suggestion.

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July 11, 2012, 06:59:11 PM
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I would personally love to see a well documented Bitcoin-specific ASIC that is sold by reel (or in smaller quantities to hobbyists by a retailer). This way there could be many companies developing and offering products from "coffee-warmers" to 4U Terahash-class racks. ASIC performance would this way be available to all at a reasonable cost, and the manufacturer/owner of IPR would get a fair flow of income without the hassles of consumer relations and warranty.

+100!

One step further though (or perhaps back, depending how you look at it) how about a rather generic SHA256 ASIC?  Put two of them nut-to-butt and there's 90% of your miner; put one into a cryptophone or whatever else uses hashing.  This would increase your market by a massive factor, and in doing so decrease your per-unit design cost and thereby price.

How small could one make a simple SHA256 chip?  If they can fit three complete unrolled engines on a single S6LX150, one can be crammed into a damn tiny bit of silicon real estate.

As a Chinese manufacturer, you'd also be uniquely placed to market PCBs, assembled boards, and even assembled BFL-style units at really competitive prices.  Initially though, at least to recoup the initial investment, I'd vote for a single generic SHA256 engine on a chip as the best answer.

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July 12, 2012, 02:32:36 AM
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One step further though (or perhaps back, depending how you look at it) how about a rather generic SHA256 ASIC?  Put two of them nut-to-butt and there's 90% of your miner; put one into a cryptophone or whatever else uses hashing.  This would increase your market by a massive factor, and in doing so decrease your per-unit design cost and thereby price.

Thanks for your advice. Our first generation will be customized for mining only (bitcoin-specific constants baked in, only information about nounces being passed out), but in the future we will make generic SHA256 ASICs if there's indeed much other use.

I guess your "put two of them nut-to-butt and there's 90% of your miner" means two hashing units. Because both "two hashing units in one chip" and "one hashing units, two rounds for a double SHA256" are much more technical viable than separating two hashing units into two chips then using outside circuits to make them communicate.

How small could one make a simple SHA256 chip?  If they can fit three complete unrolled engines on a single S6LX150, one can be crammed into a damn tiny bit of silicon real estate.

The technology of our first batch products will not be as good as, say, 45nm. Therefore, we believe they will be small, but not crazily small. Smiley

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July 18, 2012, 08:45:30 AM
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Update

We have had our IC design company registered at Shenzhen, China.

We also have signed the confidential contract with the IC manufacturer and got the process library necessary for correct DC synthesis.

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July 18, 2012, 08:54:45 AM
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I kinda chuckled when I read your name. I read a few pages in Lord of the Rings (魔戒) and they transliterated "hobbits" into 霍比特人 (huòbǐtèrén)

Anyways... fun times =)

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friedcat
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July 18, 2012, 09:02:09 AM
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I kinda chuckled when I read your name. I read a few pages in Lord of the Rings (魔戒) and they transliterated "hobbits" into 霍比特人 (huòbǐtèrén)

Anyways... fun times =)

By "my name", I guess you mean my forum id instead of our company name, because the latter is quite normal. My forum id is indeed kinda weird but shouldn't be read literally. It has been my nickname for many many years in the real world.

There's another alternate translation of "hobbits", that is 哈比人(hābǐrén). Both are transliterations. Smiley



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July 18, 2012, 09:14:32 AM
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I actually meant your business name because 泉 and 人 (while different phonemes) can sound similar in certain dialects. And of course 比特 from 霍比特人. I haven't seen that one, but it could have been used in a different translation.

Either way 音译 (transliteration) of names is such a pain in Chinese. Since more and more Chinese are becoming (slightly) proficient in English I imagine in time they will stop doing it and just use the actual English/German/French/whatever name. I remember taking my final test in Chinese and I heard the name 马拉多纳 (ma la duo na) which sounds like 'maladewanaw,' and it took me a few seconds to get it was Maradonna...  Cheesy

Anyhow... *thread hijack over* sorry Wink

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July 29, 2012, 01:39:29 PM
 #19

Update

Our RTL design, optimization and simulation are finished. We have some data to predict the specification of actual chips after they are manufactured.

Hashrate: 1.25GH/s per chip
Area: 17.5mm^2 per chip
Power Consumption: 13.3W

Note that they are calculated from the front-end design and not accurate enough. But of course the possible difference range won't be large. We will keep our updates.

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July 29, 2012, 01:48:39 PM
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13W at 17 square mm - seems like a significant mount of heat to deal with.

When I was a kid, I used to have a 25W soldering iron and it was melting solder perfectly well. Smiley

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