Butterfly Labs (BFL) is offering a few mining products which look to be based on some sort of FPGA or ASIC but I can't find any reliable data on what parts they're using or their manufacturing techniques. I'd like to factor device cost into the profitability of mining with these low-power devices but without any MTBF/MTTF/FIT data I can't make a reasonable estimate of how long an average BFL single can be expected to survive.

Does anyone have access to time-to-failure data for BFL's products, or perhaps know what components they're using so that I might find time-to-failure data on the components? Is there any way short of serious testing or published data to determine what a reasonable lifespan should be?

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    +1 The name of the chip has been rumoured on the forums with evidence as to why but it has not been confirmed by BFL (it seems likely though). I would be very interested in this information as I am quite suspicious that these units will fail before they pay off due to the short warranty and mystery behind the chips (proprietery FPGA and ASIC seems to be just BS by them). Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 10:46
  • @SeanChapman Do you happen to have a link to the particular post containing that data? There are SO many posts about BFL that I can't even begin to find anything through the noise :( Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 4:50

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It has now been confirmed by ngzhang that BFL is using Altera Stratix III EP3SL150 FPGAs in their singles. Since Altera has made product reliability data available, we now at least have the appropriate info available for the chips themselves.

The EP3SL150 testing gives it a FIT rating of 15.1 which corresponds to roughly one failure per 66,226,166 hours or ~7,555 years. I don't think we need to worry about the FPGA being the point of failure.

That said, we have precisely zero data about the other parts or failure rates thereof nor do we know how often BFL messes up on their soldering, power supplies or any of the other links in the chain that could contribute to the overall failure rate of the BFL single. I did, however, email BFL and recently received this email from Nasser G at BFL:

Dear David,

No Failure data is available. So far, none of our units have failed, and all units go under strict quality control measures before they are shipped. We've had like 4 or 5 PSU failures among all the units that we've shipped.

Of course this is from BFL's mouth so whether it's entirely true or just marketing I can't say with certainty. Lacking data on the overall number of units sold or how long those units have been running (though we could estimate that as 24/7 since they've arrived if we had the other data) it's very difficult to estimate failure data based on BFL's comments, even if we assume them to be completely accurate.

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