Cryptocurrency mining IC startup now a TSMC top-ten customer?

April 11, 2018 // By Peter Clarke
Bitmain Technologies Ltd. (Beijing, China), founded in 2013, was responsible for between 3 and 5 percent of TSMC's revenue in 1Q18 and became one of the foundry's top ten customers, according to a Digitimes report.

On its current growth trajectory and the expected early adoption of 7nm manufacturing process from TSMC Bitmain could soon rival Nvidia as a leading TSMC customer, the report said citing unnamed sources.

Bitmain is known as a vendor of Bitcoin mining ASICs and computer units based on those ASICs. The company started with the BM138 on a 55nm manufacturing process and the Antminer S1 mining machine in 2013 and has progressed to the Antminer S9 and Antminer T9+ using the BM1387 16nm ASIC chip.

According to the Digitimes report Bitmain is now a 'unicorn' – that is a startup company with a valuation of more than one billion dollars. It has been listed in a Chinese government report as one of two semiconductor unicorns, the other being Cambricon Technologies Corp. Ltd. (see China chip startup nets $100 million Series A ), Digitimes said.

Bitmain commanded 80 percent of the market for Bitcoin mining ASICs in 2017 and is expected to launch Ethereum mining ASICs in 2Q18, the report said.

As well as branching out into other cryptocurrencies Bitmain has introduced a tensor computing processor under the Sophon brand, part number BM1680, manufactured in TSMC's 28nm HPC+ manufacturing process.

The Sophon BM1680 ASIC is for tensor computing acceleration and is intended as a replacement for the Google TPU. Its internal accelerator core uses enhanced systolic architecture technology similar to the Google TPU. It is designed for both deep learning training and inference of neural networks like CNN, RNN, DNN. Peak Performance is 2TFlops and power consumption is 41W when fully utilized with typical consumption of 25W. The processor operates on 32-bit floating point data types. It has 32Mbytes of internal memory and comes in 1599 ball grid aray package.

TSMC executives spoke at the beginning of 2018 about cryptocurrency mining as a driver of leading-edge manufacturing demand in the coming year (see TSMC talks cryptocurrency as sales driver ).

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