What it takes to be a world-class ASIC hardware provider

Jim Seto
Jim Seto
Sep 29, 2020 · 5 min read
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The recent pandemic has made us look at things differently, focused our attention on critical infrastructure, and forced us to adapt to new challenges. As a response, old ideas have come back in fashion again showing how foundationally important they are. While new ideas have accelerated ahead spurring on important innovations.

Take for example virtual home workouts. Exercise is an enduring element of daily life. New workout routines and training programs have been created for home, but delivered interactively and streamed in real time. The content might be new, but adoption and success of this new paradigm depends on fast and reliable internet access. Internet access has never been more crucial — so much so, that it is a de facto essential service.

Good system design will lead to dependable infrastructure that is reliable and robust.

Emerging blockchain hardware: ASIC mining

In response to cryptocurrency markets, various companies, often with inadequate experience, have produced ASIC miners. In the rush to capitalize on the market, robust system design is often an afterthought by some companies. There could even be an argument that this aspect is completely overlooked. Producing an ASIC is more than just writing a few lines of code.

The adoption and success of a mining operation depends on full-system thinking, end-to-end reliability, and close collaboration with mining farms.

Some of the recent ASIC hardware providers have been struggling with poor integration into the mining infrastructure, field failures and major gaps between specifications and real-life results. While others have just disappeared.

But there are also new players emerging.

Introducing ePIC Blockchain Technologies

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This brings us to a promising North America based start-up, ePIC Blockchain Technologies.

This high performance, experienced team applies the best practices for engineering design and operational excellence from the telecom, PC and mobile industries to the ASIC hardware mining space.

SoC design and system design are highly specialized fields of engineering. Combining these specialized design skills with a deep understanding of architectural trade-offs and blockchain algorithms is the recipe for success.

At its core, this is the team inside ePIC.

To date, the industry has been preoccupied with nano-marketing name dropping. It is fashionable for companies to tout their ASIC based on the technology node. However, that may be a distraction from what is lacking.

The end-customer should not care which node their ASIC is manufactured on. What matters is the quality of the design.

The proliferation of multiple variants, 5–6 in some cases, of a manufacturer’s product is another interesting artifact of the current suite of mining providers. Is it a deliberate marketing plan for different price-points? Or is it a design and manufacturing flow that is not well understood and controlled? Could it be a very wide cross-section of performance and power outputs that are produced and pushed out to the unsuspecting customer?

What really matters to the ASIC mining customer?

The answer is simple. Get the job done right and on-spec.

Launched recently, the SC200 miner is the product that showcases ePIC’s world-class system design capabilities.

From ASIC to mining rig: a visual glimpse into bringing a product to market

Work doesn’t stop just because silicon is in hand.

Full understanding of the system is required to bring a quality product to market. Having a chip that works in isolation is not enough. Having both the depth and breadth is what distinguishes ePIC from other companies.

Here are a few examples of the behind the scenes due-diligence taken prior to the introduction of the SC200 to the market. And it serves as a macro lens into the systematic approach that is needed for future generation of ASIC hardware miners.

Socket testing for full characterization of SoC
Socket testing for full characterization of SoC
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Initial socket testing for full characterization of SoC followed by Individual hashboard testing for performance and power validation
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Simulated heat-map of chip substrate to model on-die IR drops. Advanced 3D modelling of heatsink and chip positioning
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Mechanical design and modeling including 3D modeling of the enclosure to study fan requirements and airflow dynamics
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Polycarbonate case to study thermal losses and mechanical fitment
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Infrared imagery to validate results
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Fan and air flow validation with a thermal load (yes, that is the heating element of a 1200W hairdryer)
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Calibration of temperature ramp on a per chip basis to validate heat transfer characteristics of a hashboard. This is done in an immersion tank to measure the profiles in a controlled environment.

Leading the way

In any industry, what distinguishes the leaders is straight forward — “what they deliver just works as advertised”.

ePIC Blockchain Technologies is bringing this philosophy and track record to the ASIC hardware blockchain mining industry. World-class engineering design and a maniacal focus on operational excellence are ingrained in the ePIC culture.

To be called out so early as the “Dyson of ASIC Miners” is a distinction to be proud of and the team will press on to provide dependable, robust, and reliable technology.

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www.epicblockchain.io

ePIC Blockchain Technologies

Driven by Engineering and Operational excellence.

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