Chinese factories have sprung up to refurbish Nvidia gaming GPUs to convert them for use in data centers as artificial intelligence chips.

Ahead of the US ban on the export of high-end chips to China, Nvidia is believed to have prioritized the export of AD102 GPUs and GeForce RTX 4090 graphics cards to the country.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 Graphics Card
– Nvidia

Chinese hyperscalers are also thought to have tried to stockpile as many Nvidia GPUs as they could before the ban.

Last year, the US blocked the export of A100 and H100 GPUs, so Nvidia developed the pared-back A800 and H800 product line, selling hundreds of thousands of units in China.

Those too were banned this October, alongside the fastest gaming GPU, the RTX 4090. Nvidia plans to launch three new chips - the HGX H20, L20 PCIe, and L2 PCIe - that are even further pared back.

While the latter two are set to release this year, the most powerful, the H20, has been delayed into early next year.

In this vacuum, and amid a GPU demand surge thanks to AI, Chinese manufacturers have sprung up to convert remaining RTX 4090s for server use.

The companies disassemble the graphics cards, desolder the GPU and memory components, and then reassemble them on custom-designed circuit boards.

Images of the process have been shared on Baidu forum Tieba.