The Bitaxe - Open Source Bitcoin Miner

The Bitaxe - Open Source Bitcoin Miner

 

Bitaxe Open Source ASIC Miner

The Bitaxe is an open source ASIC miner developed by Skot9000, an avid Open Source protagonist in the Bitcoin space.  The project is wide open with all software and hardware specs available on Skot's Github page.  From the GitHub you can obtain the software, build and gerbers for PCB ordering, build of materials for parts, and even some tips on assembling the device.  Amazing.

There are two main versions of the Bitaxe - Bitaxe Max (1397 ASIC chip)  and the Bitaxe Ultra (1366 ASIC chip).  This article focuses on the Ultra though both models have had a profound impact on the democritisation of Bitcoin mining so far.

Bitaxe Ultra features:
- BM1366 ASIC (found in the Bitmain S19XP Miner)
- an ESP32-S3 MSU-based SOC (programmable microcontroller chip) that has 2.4G wifi enabling connection to your favourite pool (Public-Pool.io).  The firmware, ESP-Miner runs on this.
- a small display to show stats like hashrate, power consumption, IP address, fan speed, chip temp, etc.
- Capable of up to about 550 GH/s
- Low power consumption of about 15W

It's powered by a basic 5v DC power supply - something easily found on online marketplaces or even your local hardware store.  Check out our Build a Bitaxe Guide if you're keen to dive in and build one yourself (or purchase a fully assembled one from the 32Bitcoins store)

Everything you need is listed and linked to on the GitHub.

Why is this cool / important?

Many reasons.  I'll keep it brief:

1. Its a great affordable ASIC miner to get started with Bitcoin mining.  Miners can cost anywhere from a few hundred - for an older model, to tens-of-thousands for the latest hardware.  The more you pay the more hashing power you get but generally the more electricity it will cost to run too.

2. It's open source.  This allows others to build upon the project and develop it further. 

3. It allows people to learn, tinker, and explore the world of mining, Bitcoin, pools, and nodes.  If Bitcoin is the future of money... the new gold standard... the only true decentralised currency... it might be worth diving in to this world.

4. It enables pretty much anyone to participate in strengthening the security, longevity, and decentralisation of the Bitcoin network - with the (slim) chance to find a block!

The current state of Bitcoin mining is dominated by large mining pools, which are essentially controlled (centralised) by two main companies: AntPool and Foundry USA.  Below is a graph which shows the hashrate distribution over the past 12 months (article written Jan 2024).  Bitmain, one of the worlds largest manufacturers of Bitcoin Mining hardware, owns and runs Antpool.  While Foundry USA is owned by Digital Currency Group whose list of subsidiaries include Gensis and Greyscale.

Mining pool hashrate from Jan 2023 to Jan 2024
source: https://www.blockchain.com/explorer/charts/pools

Why is this an issue?  With almost the majority of mining pools operated and "controlled" by a few large pools with deeper pockets and computational power, we lose the smaller players and broader network of individuals.  Anyone with a computer can mine Bitcoin, but large pools with massive hashing power deplete the opportunities for the small miners to secure a reward.

Sure we can join these large pools and mine away, paying fees for splitting rewards and have to hit certain thresholds to get Satoshis into our wallets - but this was not the ideology of Bitcoin. 

The Bitaxe has been the perfect tool to ignite newcomers to dip their toes into the technical side of Bitcoin (opposed to simple investment and HODLing) - peaking interest from hobbyists and developers alike.

Without digressing too far...  This miner is a small but powerful tool for anyone interested in Bitcoin, mining, pools, how it all works and what it all means.

Is it Profitable?
Important point to note.  While the Bitaxe is an amazing development in Bitcoin mining - particularly for home mining - its hashrate of around 450-550 GH/s is not great enough to generate sufficient rewards in a mining pool (nor is it deigned to) in a short period of time - it can, but it would take years to meet the pools minimum threshold.

However, the Bitaxe Ultra does provide opportunity to solo mine and potentially find a block, resulting in a block reward (currently 6.5 BTC).  Low hashrate miners have found blocks - and will again - mining is a mixture of hashrate / computational power / connectivity and luck.

Also important to note that the Bitaxe is an open source project built, in my opinion, to generate interest and others to contribute to the project - see how far something like this can go.  This project is essentially reverse engineering large miner manufacturers hardware and chips to understand how they work and if they can be reproduced or used more efficiently - breaking down some of the main barriers to entry (cost either from miners or electricity to name a couple) for the general population to access an essential part of the Bitcoin world.

There are a few revisions and a couple of models of the Bitaxe - but the project is evolving quickly and some other versions and additions to the Bitaxe are appearing online too: Bitaxe HexQaxe and PiAxe are a couple examples.  Revisions and updates will probably outpace my ability to keep this article updated - so please bookmark the GitHub pages linked here to keep a watch on the (r)evolution.

 

Back to blog