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TSMC is Ramping Up 7nm Production, 5nm Next Year

At their technology symposium in Taipei, TSMC CEO CC Wei has made remarks, dismissing speculation that their 7 nanometer yield rate was not as good as expected. Rather the company is ramping up production capacity for 7 nm quickly, up 9% from 10.5 million wafers in 2017, to 12 million wafers in 2018. They plan to tape out more than 50 chip designs in 2018, with the majority of the tape outs for AI, GPU and crypto applications, followed by 5G and application processors.

Most of their orders for the 7 nanometer node come from big players like AMD, Bitmain, NVIDIA and Qualcomm. Apple's A12 processor for upcoming iPhones is also a major driver for TSMC's 7 nanometer growth. These orders will be fulfilled in early 2019, so it'll be a bit longer before we have 7 nm processors for the masses.

Next-gen 5 nanometer production will kick off next year, followed by mass production in late 2019 or early 2020. The company will invest as much as USD 25 billion in their new production facilities for this process node.

Bitmain Intros Antminer E3 for Ethereum, GPU Prices Could Finally Cool Down

It was only a matter of time before ASICs turned the tide on GPU-accelerated crypto-currency mining. Bitmain announced the Antminer E3, an ASIC miner purpose-built for Ethereum mining. Priced at $800 (or less than the price of an AMD Radeon RX 580 in January), this ASIC draws about 800W of power, and offers a hash-rate of 180 MH/s. To put that into perspective, an RX 580 only has about 30 MH/s, and draws around 200W at typical mining load. Bitmain has begun accepting orders for the Antminer E3, with shipping to commence in July. At its price, no GPU in the market can match the economics of this ASIC, and hence, VGA prices could begin to cool down, and GPU miners could find it hard to hodl on to their overpriced VGAs.

NVIDIA, AMD to Face Worsening Investment Outlook as Bitmain Preps to Launch Ethereum ASIC

Analyst firm Susquehanna has cut AMD and NVIDIA's share price targets on the wake of confirmed reports on Bitmain's upcoming Ethereum ASIC. There's been talks about such a product for months - and some actual silicon steering as well that might support it. Susquehanna, through analyst Christopher Rolland in a note to clients Monday, cited their travels in Asia as a source of information.

This has brought confirmations that "(...) Bitmain has already developed an ASIC [application-specific integrated circuit] for mining Ethereum, and is readying the supply chain for shipments in 2Q18." And it doesn't seem Bitmain is the only company eyeing the doors of yet another extremely lucrative ASIC mining market: "While Bitmain is likely to be the largest ASIC vendor (currently 70-80% of Bitcoin mining ASICs) and the first to market with this product, we have learned of at least three other companies working on Ethereum ASICs, all at various stages of development."

TSMC To Receive Strong Revenue Boost on the Back of Extra ASIC Sales in 2018

TSMC is the world's sole ASIC manufacturer for Bitmain - the world's largest ASIC vendor by far, commanding some 70% of the ASIC market share. DigiTimes is reporting that ASIC manufacturing will be a major part of bridging the 10-15% increase in revenue that TSMC's chairman Morris Chang expects for 2018, which will be mostly fed by high-performance computing (HPC), car-use electronics and Internet of Things (IoT) products.

One other interesting tidbit that DigiTimes is reporting on is that Bitmain might be increasing its ASIC orders from TSMC to bring a new Ethereum ASIC miner to market. Dubbed the F3, reports around the internet have placed these ASICs as leveraging TSMC's 28 nm process in a three-mainboard system. Each mainboard is reported to pack six purpose-built ASIC processors, each paired with 12GB of DDR3 memory. Whether or not this makes sense based on Ethereum's Casper update (moving from a Proof of Work to a Proof of Stake mechanism) remains to be seen. Considering the amount of work and investment that would be required towards the development of an Ethereum ASIC, though (a natively ASIC-resistant algorithm) may very well be an indicator that Casper may be longer off in the horizon than previously thought. Let's hope this is true, though; an Ethereum-geared ASIC, even if short-lived, would certainlydraw demand away from GPUs to these purpose-built systems, and there's been nary a time in the PC world where such an event was as needed as it is today.
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