Bitmain places orders for 5nm mining chips with TSMC

midian182

Posts: 6,786   +61
Staff member
Why it matters: In what could be more bad news for those hoping to see an end to the chip shortage crisis, crypto mining giant Bitmain has reportedly tapped TSMC to create an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) using the Taiwanese firm’s 5nm fabrication process.

According to a report from DigiTimes (via Tom’s Hardware), Bitmain’s 5nm chip orders with TSMC will begin at the start of the third quarter before ramping up substantially in Q1 2022. The improved power-efficiency of the foundry’s N5 process would be well suited for mining, and with Bitcoin and Ethereum prices reaching record highs, demand is likely to remain high for a while.

The concern here is that Bitmain’s order could put pressure on other 5nm-based products. Right now, the biggest N5 customer is Apple, which uses the process for its A14 Bionic (iPhone 12, iPad Air) and M1 system-on-chips in the latest Macs and iPad Pros.

AMD’s Zen 4 architecture is set to be fabricated on the 5nm process node and is projected to go into production later this year. Mobile SoC companies Qualcomm and MediaTek are also expected to start using N5 manufacturing technology soon.

Exactly how much 5nm capacity Bitmain will take up is unknown. Earlier this year, analysts predicted that TSMC would increase its N5 capacity from 55,000 - 60,000 wafer starts per month to 110,000 – 120,000, so the mining ASICs may not have much impact, hopefully.

The use of the 5nm is good news for Bitmain’s products as it could improve their performance and efficiency. The company’s upcoming Antminer E9 Ethereum mining box boasts a 3 GH/s hash rate—the equivalent of 32 RTX 3080 cards—at 2,556W.

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Dimitriid

Posts: 542   +932
I know this would never happen as it goes against most of what companies like AMD or Nvidia want, but if miners want to gobble up all of 5nm fabs, just let em: Pull off an intel move and just stay on 7nm for multiple generations.

You don't get the bragging rights and Apple will probably brag about their efficiency even more but is not like you're without customers that are currently just waiting to give you money and that mostly haven't been able to buy any of your new products anyway
 

Mighty Duck

Posts: 185   +122
What use are those machines once the mine craze fades away? With a GPU, the miners can sell it but what about this machine?
 

Bobbydpue

Posts: 107   +69
I know this would never happen as it goes against most of what companies like AMD or Nvidia want, but if miners want to gobble up all of 5nm fabs, just let em: Pull off an intel move and just stay on 7nm for multiple generations.

You don't get the bragging rights and Apple will probably brag about their efficiency even more but is not like you're without customers that are currently just waiting to give you money and that mostly haven't been able to buy any of your new products anyway

Intel didn't choose to stay on 14nm their fabs couldn't keep up with their designs and TSMC didn't want to expand capacity that could sit idle once intel's fab caught up.
 

Bobbydpue

Posts: 107   +69
What use are those machines once the mine craze fades away? With a GPU, the miners can sell it but what about this machine?

Mining cryptocurrency is easier when fewer people are doing it and odds are they will increase in value again if they ever significantly drop in value like they have in the past. Anyone who used an older ASIC for years to mine bitcoin while it was low would likely have made a lot of them before the spike in price.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 542   +932
Intel didn't choose to stay on 14nm their fabs couldn't keep up with their designs and TSMC didn't want to expand capacity that could sit idle once intel's fab caught up.

1) Yeah I don't see a pragmatic difference: I don't think AMD will have much of a choice at all when it comes to staying on 7nm for a long while

2) I don't think that's the case. I mean I know it's part of it sure, but it's not the entire story. I think that TSMC looked at all the companies trying to do business with them and saw there's at most just one other competitor and thought "Well now, I could go into incredible debt to start expanding now and get ahead of the high demand or I could just drag it out, wait for the demand we can't meet and nobody else can (Intel up until recently didn't share their fabs) so we'll just keep our production rate, get lots of money from the constrained supply of chips we're going to create and not go into debt to invest in expanding production"

It's sounds like a calculated shortage that will work out great for TSMC and Samsung and nobody else because everybody else decided "We'll just rely on these 2 companies for all our products I foresee no issues with that!"
 

HardReset

Posts: 1,109   +688
1) Yeah I don't see a pragmatic difference: I don't think AMD will have much of a choice at all when it comes to staying on 7nm for a long while

2) I don't think that's the case. I mean I know it's part of it sure, but it's not the entire story. I think that TSMC looked at all the companies trying to do business with them and saw there's at most just one other competitor and thought "Well now, I could go into incredible debt to start expanding now and get ahead of the high demand or I could just drag it out, wait for the demand we can't meet and nobody else can (Intel up until recently didn't share their fabs) so we'll just keep our production rate, get lots of money from the constrained supply of chips we're going to create and not go into debt to invest in expanding production"

It's sounds like a calculated shortage that will work out great for TSMC and Samsung and nobody else because everybody else decided "We'll just rely on these 2 companies for all our products I foresee no issues with that!"
Like I have said before: GlobalFoundries was supposed to have 7nm production around half of what TSMC has. That is mean reason for shortage. Even without epidemic and crypto there would have been 7nm shortage, not so severe but still because of GF not producing any 7nm wafers.

As it takes at least three years to build more capacity, we can except to have less shortages soon. Since TSMC will have quite lot 5nm production later this year, it makes around three years since GF's exit (August 2018). As expected.