Obelisk Update: May-June 2018

Fully assembled Obelisk SC1 unit without heatsinks, airflow guides, or top cover.

It’s been exactly one month since the previous Obelisk update, and we have a ton of progress updates to share. Notably, we expect to ship Batch 1 units in the first or second week of July. As we will explain below, this is mostly due to the chip delivery schedule.

Additionally, at this time we do not have any updates on unit hashrate. We do have updates on prototype chip testing, and we explain below how this may potentially affect unit hashrate.

Chips

Last month, we explained that our ASICs had to go through a metal spin to fix three chip layers, and that the timeline was therefore pushed back by several weeks. We are happy to report that TSMC has shipped out all our final production chips, and they are currently being packaged!

You can read more about packaging here. This is the final step of chip production, and it is done by a separate packaging company. Essentially, the die is placed into a case that protects it from damage and provides electrical contacts. Once chips are packaged, they can be placed onto circuit boards.

We expect the first batches of chips to begin shipping to our chip team in 1-2 weeks. The team will then test each chip and sort them accordingly (more on that below). After a few days of testing and sorting, the team will start shipping trays of chips to our manufacturers. Therefore, we are about 2–3 weeks away from chips arriving at our manufacturers. It will take another 1–2 weeks for all chips to arrive.

From a performance standpoint, the clock speeds of our ASICs have high variance. When last month we reported minimum unit hashrate of 550 GH/s for the SC1, we were doing so based on a small sample size of early prototype chips. On SC1 chips, we were seeing clock speeds of around 300 MHz, which equals about 300 * 64 = 19.2 GH/s per chip. With 30 chips per unit, that was about 576 GH/s.

However, after a month of testing chips, our team has reported that they are seeing performance variances from 350 MHz to 600 MHz per chip. This means that, depending on the variance of our production chips, there is a good chance that we will be able to meet or exceed our unit hashrate targets. We will not know until we get our hands on production chips, and measure the statistical distribution of clock speeds. We are remaining cautiously optimistic.

Additionally, our chip team has informed us that the chips are expected to run faster at operating temperatures of 85–100 C. Our thermal simulations are showing that our chips should run at 85–90 C, so this may positively affect hashrate.

Boards

Each Obelisk hashing board has 15 chips. These chips run in a string (also known as in series), meaning that they share a common source of voltage and current. This practice helps pack more chips into a single board, and minimizes the number of components (and therefore cost) needed on a circuit board. But this presents an interesting set of challenges: unless chips are exactly equal, each chip needs to be optimally clocked, and changing the clock on one chip affects the entire string!

Halong explains it well in their recent blog post:

Due to the serial design of the PCB, chips are wired together like Christmas lights. It turns out our the chips have a much narrower tolerance to variance so we have to do more specialized sorting so that each board has similar “color”. The chips in the earlier miners were not so well sorted according to this precision and the miner manufacturing process was less mature.
Testing our hashing boards.

We will be sorting our chips accordingly, but our sorting methodology will improve over time as we better understand how to optimize strings of chips.

Additionally, there are many possible firmware optimizations to ensure that each chip is optimally clocked. In order to deliver units as soon as possible, we will likely be unable to make every possible optimization. This means that after delivery, we expect to release firmware updates that increase unit hashrate. This will be high priority for our firmware team.

Over the last couple weeks, we have been testing our control boards and hashing boards. Our electrical teams are making a few tweaks to each board, but everything is largely performing as expected.

Our control boards are about to be released for mass production, and our hashing boards are on target to be released by next Friday. It takes about 2 weeks to receive bare circuit boards. Once received, our manufactures will immediately begin building our production boards.

The bulk of our electrical engineering work is wrapping up next week, and most of our efforts will be focused on firmware over the next few weeks.

Obelisk hashing board, shown without heatsinks.

Enclosures

All mechanical aspects of the units are fully on schedule. Our enclosures have been in production for the last few weeks, and regular shipments are being delivered to our manufacturers. Below are some fun pictures of our fan grills coming off the production line.

Fan grills coming off the line. Next stop: powder coating!

Our fans are on track for delivery, and other enclosure components — such as airflow guides, board guides, and foam strips — are scheduled for delivery in the next couple weeks.

As you can see from the below photo, our control board sits below the hashing boards. This allows users to easily remove and replace hashing boards, and eliminates most cables from the unit. We are proud that our only cables in the entire unit are found on the fans!

Obelisk SC1 unit, top view. Airflow guides are not shown.

Shipping

Last month, we wrote that all European customers would have to pay import tax. We slightly misspoke. Based on the harmonized tariff schedule (HTS) code we selected for Obelisk units, there is no import tax in the EU. However, all European customers will be required to pay VAT in order to receive their units.

Today, we sent an email notifying customers that they are now able to add a VAT ID number (if applicable) for reference. If you have a VAT ID, please access the customer portal as soon as possible and add it to your account.

We are currently working with distribution partners in Europe to determine how units will get from our manufacturers in the US to our customers in the EU. Here’s the current plan. Our EU distribution center will accept a full shipment of Obelisk units into the EU. They will then pick, pack, and ship the EU units to their final destinations. We will be classifying the miners as a computer, or “data processing unit,” which is exempt from import duties in most regions.

(We will be using HTS Code 8471.50.01 and ECCN code EAR99.)

If you live in the EU or another country where VAT is enforced, you will be required to pay VAT on the value of the unit. For Batch 1 customers, this value is $2,499 USD. To understand the VAT rates in your country, see here. In Germany, for example, VAT is 19%, which would equal $474.81 USD.

The shipping companies will collect VAT for the units. If you do not pay the VAT to the shipping company, they will not release your order.

We sincerely apologize that we did not handle this better. At the time of the presale, we had not appropriately accounted for VAT in the displayed purchase price, but we will be doing so in the future.

If you have any questions regarding VAT, or suggestions about how we could have better handled this, please reach out to jacob@obelisk.tech.

Packaging

Our packing is finalized! In each Obelisk box you will find a miner, a power supply, and a power cable for your country. And don’t worry, the foam will be black and grey on production units.

We have three types of packs: a 1-unit casepack, a 2-unit overpack, and a 4-unit masterpack. This will make for more efficient shipping, as many customers ordered two units.

Detailed packaging dimensions are as follows, in inches:

  • 1-unit casepack: 18.25" long x 13.5" wide x 8.875" tall
  • 2-unit overpack: 19.5" long x 14" wide x 19.375" tall
  • 4-unit masterpack: 28.25" long x 18.75" wide x 19.375" tall

Power Supply

Though Obelisk units draw only 500W, we are including a 1000W power supply with each unit. Each PSU will have 6 PCIe power connectors. This means that, if we offer the ability to purchase a third hashing board, you will be able to install it without needing any extra hardware or accessories.

Specs are as follows:

  • Dimensions: 9.4" long x 4.8" wide x 1.7" tall
  • Input Voltage: 100–264V
  • Max output current: 100A
  • Weight: 4 pounds

If you require more detailed PSU specs, let us know!

Batch 2

We are still waiting to hear back from TSMC on our expected chip delivery schedule for Batch 2. We paid them in full on May 5, but do not yet have dates. We are checking in almost daily, and will report back as soon as we know more.

We expect Batch 2 delivery dates to entirely depend on delivery dates from TSMC. Every other aspect of Batch 2 is on schedule. We will send out an update as soon as we have this information.


Please let us know if you have any questions. We will continue to keep you up to date with frequent posts. You can always email us at hello@obelisk.tech.

– Team Obelisk