Obelisk Update: January-May 2018

We’ve been working hard on Obelisk, and are excited to start sharing frequent updates as we approach the June 30 target ship date for Batch 1. We’ll be providing you with in-depth information about every step of our process as we prepare to ship.

Most mining companies do not communicate this kind of information with their customers. As a community-funded hardware company, we are striving to be as transparent as possible.

Mechanical Design

Design is important to us, and we want to ensure that Obelisk units look good, are easy to assemble, and are easy to repair. We had originally wanted to give users the option to stand units up on their sides — like an obelisk — but we chose to go a more conservative route to save costs, ensure good performance, and guarantee compatibility with existing mining setups.

We chose to locate the control board below the fan, rather than above it. This gives us the ability to build a more modular unit, where each hashing board slides directly into the control board via a connector. This allows us to eliminate all cables between the hashing boards and the control boards. It also means that the control board draws its power from the hashing boards, eliminating the need for a dedicated PCIe power connector.

We will provide images inside the unit in the next couple weeks, and include some videos about how to assemble the unit and swap hashing boards.

Manufacturing

We had originally planned to assemble the Obelisk units in Shenzhen, China. Instead, we will be building all Obelisk Batch 1 units in the United States. Most of our facilities are in driving-distance from our Boston office, and we are excited to be using domestic manufacturing.

This may change in subsequent batches, as we work to reduce costs and build larger quantities of units for Batches 2-5. We will likely move some amount of the work to US-owned facilities in Mexico. It is currently unlikely that we will be manufacturing Batches 2–5 in China.

Shipping

Because units are now being manufactured in North America, and because we have a very low percentage of China-based customers, we will not have a China-based distribution center. Chinese customers will be responsible for any applicable import taxes.

We are currently working on setting up a European Union distribution center, and expect to have this solidified in the next two weeks. We know our European customers are concerned with import taxes. We charged the same price to all Obelisk customers, meaning that we did not charge extra for EU import tax. European customers, like our other international customers, will therefore have to pay any applicable import tax before receiving their units.

Chips

Our first batch of test chips from TSMC mostly worked, but there was an issue that prevented us from reading the solution after hashing. We therefore had to make a small change and submit it to TSMC, in what’s called a “metal spin.” Luckily, the required change was in one of the final production steps, so we did not anticipate that there would be more than a short delay.

Fully-packaged Obelisk SC1 ASIC chips

TSMC unfortunately rejected the metal spin, and required that we submit a second one. We successfully submitted a second metal spin to TSMC, but this pushed our timeline back by a few weeks. We are therefore going to be receiving production chips for Batch 1 from TSMC throughout the month of June.

Chips come from TSMC unpackaged, meaning that they need to be packaged at a different location. The chips then need to be sent to California, where they are tested and sorted, and then finally to our manufacturing facilities in Massachusetts.

We are working to expedite each step of the process, but there is a chance that some percentage of our Batch 1 chips will arrive after June 30. If that occurs, Batch 1 units may ship a couple weeks after the originally anticipated schedule.

The good news is that our chips are working! While we await production chips from TSMC, we have ample numbers of test chips that we are using at every step of the process, including testing, prototyping, and manufacturing preparation.

Specifications

With each update, we will post our current unit specifications. These will change (and hopefully increase!) as we approach the ship date, but we believe it is very important to keep our customers updated.

Keep in mind that we are still testing the chips and optimizing the units. The below specs are based on testing individual cores on individual chips. There is a chance that the performance for SC1 and DCR1 will increase as we test our full hashing board and make numerous optimizations.

  • Dimensions: 15.3 inches long, 6.5 inches tall, 5.6 inches wide (will not change)
  • Weight: 9 pounds (approximate, may change)
  • SC1 Performance: 550 GH/s for SC1 at 500W
  • DCR1 Performance: 1200 GH/s at 500W

In about two weeks, we will have full prototype hashing boards to test. We will update the specifications with the results of these tests.

Schedule

We are on track to ship by June 30, but we will not be shipping early. Candidly, we will be cutting it very close. There is a good chance that Batch 1 units get delayed 1–2 weeks. We will keep you closely updated throughout the process and give ample notification — and explanation — of any production delays.

The potential delay is mainly caused by the chips. As discussed above, our production chips were delayed several weeks because of an error that required two metal spins. Chips will be arriving to our manufacturing facilities throughout the month of June, but we are at the mercy of TSMC’s production schedule. And keep in mind, once we receive chips, we will be rushing to assemble them onto hashing boards — which will take a few days.

Batches 2, 3, 4, and 5 will ship back-to-back. Batch 2 is still on track to ship by August 30, but there may be chip delays. Chip production typically takes eight weeks, and we placed the order with TSMC last week. We are currently waiting to hear back from TSMC on the production commencement date and delivery schedule.


Please let us know if you have any questions. We will continue to keep you up to date with frequent posts.

– Team Obelisk