DesignCon is the premier high-speed communications and system design conference and exposition, offering industry-critical engineering education in the heart of Silicon Valley. Every year, there are several hot new technologies that are featured by exhibitors. For DesignCon 2024, it was all about 224G systems. Here is a link to our photo gallery for the event.

IMG_6235.jpgThe keynotes were excellent especially Jonathan Arenberg, Chief Mission Architect, Science & Robotic Missions, Civil & Commercial Space at Northrop Grumman Space, who discussed NASA's James Webb Space Telescope: Its Mission, Design & Performance. He reviewed the challenges of designing and building the instrument with its hexagonal mirror that's 21.5 feet wide and made up of 18 smaller hexagonal mirror segments.

DesignCon's "Engineer of the Year" Award is given out each year during the DesignCon event. The award seeks to recognize the best of the best in engineering and new product advancements at the chip, board, or system level. The 2024 winner was Casey Morrison, Chief Product Officer, Astera Labs.

On the standards side, I meet with MIPI to learn more about A-PHY. MIPI A-PHY® is a long-reach SerDes physical layer interface for automotive applications, including ADAS, ADS and other surround-sensor applications, including cameras and in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) displays. The specification provides an asymmetric data link in a point-to-point or daisy-chain topology, with high-speed unidirectional data, embedded bidirectional control data and optional power delivery, all over a single cable. This reduces wiring, cost and weight, and allows designers to optimize systems for the performance, cost and complexity required by their use cases, providing scalability and flexibility to meet a broad range of speed and design needs. For integration with existing network backbones, A-PHY complements Ethernet, CAN, FlexRay and other interfaces. It is anticipated that the first vehicles using A-PHY components will be in production in 2024.

I spent most of my time in the exhibition and here is a summary of the things I found:

Anritsu was featuring their VectorStar Broadband systems that provide high performance 4-port measurements utilizing compact mmwave modules with industry-best calibration stability. While other broadband systems continue to provide raw performance with negative directivity in critical frequency bands which includes the 4-port systems includes broadband systems with positive raw directivity. The result is better calibration stability and better measurement stability with significantly longer time between calibrations for accurate measurements and improved productivity. The new ME7838G4 takes high performance 4-port broadband measurements to a new level by incorporating the Anritsu MA25400A mmWave module. The module combines Anritsu developed Nonlinear Transmission Line technology in a small, compact high performance mmWave module with a 0.6 mm test port connector for measurements up to 220 GHz.

AmphenolAmphenol was featuring first to market QSFP-DD 224G mated fixture set up operating at 224 Gbps PAM4 signaling per channel driven by Cadence’s industry leading 224 Gbps PAM4 IP Serdes. One of the biggest news items during the event was Amphenol announcing a definitive agreement to acquire the Carlisle Interconnect for $2.025 billion in cash, subject to customary post-closing adjustments. The company’s wide range of products including wire and cable, cable assemblies, contacts, connectors and sensors are highly complementary to Amphenol’s existing interconnect and sensor solutions according to the company.

Cadence Design Systems announced Cadence® Celsius™ Studio, the industry’s first complete AI thermal design and analysis solution for electronic systems. Celsius Studio addresses thermal analysis and thermal stress for 2.5D and 3D-ICs and IC packaging, in addition to electronics cooling for PCBs and complete electronic assemblies. While current product offerings consist mostly of disparate point tools, Celsius Studio introduces an entirely new approach with a unified platform that lets electrical and mechanical/thermal engineers concurrently design, analyze and optimize product performance without the need for geometry simplification, manipulation and/or translation. They also announced the Cadence® Millennium™ Enterprise Multiphysics Platform, the industry’s first hardware/software (HW/SW) accelerated digital twin solution for multiphysics system design and analysis. Targeted at one of the biggest opportunities for greater performance and efficiency, the first-generation Cadence Millennium M1 accelerates high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations. 

Hyperlabs has many components now for high-speed data including linear amps to 63 GHz, pick-off tees with ultra-broadband DC to 110 GHz performance, attenuators operating form DC to 110 GHz plus power dividers, inverters, terminations and time converters. They featured ultra-broadband parts for 112G and 224G with baluns (500 kHz-100 GHz), bias tee (160 kHz to 110 GHz) and DC block (160 kHz to 110 GHz) components.

Insulated Wire has Re-Flex™ starter kits for customers who know the advantages of Re-Flex over traditional hand-formable and semi-rigid, and to make cable selection easier for those new to our product, IW has announced a new range of Re-Flex™ Starter Kits to facilitate their installation process. Three kits are currently available with different line sizes. Each kit comprises of seven different assembly lengths 3”, 4”, 5”, 6”, 8”, 9” and 12”, 5 pieces of each, providing the design engineer with a convenient aid for performing cable routing in prototype system builds – the ability to continually re-form Re-Flex without the need for custom tooling to shape the cable, and the elimination of debris caused by micro fracturing is a key feature of the Re-Flex cable design, and enables the designer to make signal path/layout changes without having to throw product away after using it once.

I-PEXIn recent years, high-speed transmission in enterprise communications equipment, such as servers, and switches, has been rapidly advancing. This has increased the need for improved signal integrity performance of the components used in each system. In response to these demands, I-PEX has started development of new products that support 112 Gbps PAM4 and 64 Gbps PAM4 high-speed transmission. The products feature a compact design that saves space while achieving high-speed transmission. High-speed transmission cable jumper wiring reduces signal loss in board trace wiring. It is particularly suitable for jumper wiring from expansion cards such as DPU and NIC that are compatible with PCle Gen5 and Gen6 used in servers. The jumper wiring contributes to the reduction of data traffic through the Card Electromechanical slot.

Isola was featuring IS580G halogen-free laminates and prepreg materials that are well suited for high speed digital circuits, RF/microwave and millimeter-wave circuits, and high-speed optical and photonics circuits. They are high density interconnect technology compatible for closely spaced circuits and FR-4 process compatible for ease of manufacturing. The circuit materials are available in standard material thicknesses ranging from 2 to 30 mils and 0.5. 1.0, and 2.0 oz. copper weights. They exhibit dielectric constant or permittivity of 3.8 at 5, 10, and 20 GHz and loss tangent or dissipation factor of 0.006 at 5, 10, and 20 GHz. 

Junkosha recently revealed the shortlist of eleven entries going through to the final stage of its annual ‘Technology Innovator of the Year Award’. Each shortlisted candidate will present their entry to the judging committee throughout January, with the winner to be announced in a ceremony in April 2024. The winning entrant will be awarded a sum of $25,000 to invest in their worthwhile project. The company also launched the MWX004, which has been developed to cater to the demands of a 6G future in a bid to go beyond the limitations of the 145 GHz barrier. This is the first 145 GHz flexible coaxial cable equipped with features including advanced phase stability, the highest performing dielectric material and high flex life thanks to their precision engineered EPTFE tape wrapping technology. This new interconnect continues to push the boundaries beyond today’s needs to those of tomorrow, and a future that is connected far beyond the devices of today.

KeysightKeysight Technologies introduced Chiplet PHY Designer, a new high speed digital design and simulation tool providing die-to-die interconnect simulation, which is a key step in verifying the performance of chiplets. This EDA tool is the industry’s first to offer in-depth modeling and simulation capabilities, enabling designers to verify their designs meet the UCIe standard. In addition, the company announced an expansion of their SSA-X Signal Source Analyzer portfolio with three higher frequency models: 26.5, 44, and 54 GHz. These new models give RF engineers an integrated, one-box phase noise and signal source analysis solution with an extremely clean signal source for advanced wireless communications, radar, and high-speed digital applications. And finally, they introduced the InfiniiMax 4 Series of high bandwidth oscilloscope probes, which deliver the industry’s only solution with a high-impedance probe head operating at more at more than 50 GHz. This turn-key probing solution enables digital designers to speed the debugging of their high-speed digital, semiconductor, and wafer designs.

Huber + Suhner’s MXPM is the pioneering multicoax solution that supports up to 90 GHz/PAM4, 224 Gbps. By offering a high density pitch of 2.54 mm (0.1 inch), the MXPM line guarantees a hassle-free experience with its user-friendly magnet-mount connection, delivering performance, reliability and values. MXPM connectors have the following characteristics:

  • Broadband characteristics
  • 2.54 mm (0.1 in.) pitch center-to-center
  • Standard phase matching down to +/- 1 ps
  • Magnetic locking mechanism
  • Automatic interface protection
  • Cost efficient PCB sockets
  • Highly flexible and ultra-stable multiflex cable

They have just introduced a right-angle version too.

Menlo Micro introduced the MM5620 switch last year that provides the highest performance and data rates for high-speed differential data applications. It offers unprecedented levels of parallel testing on space-constrained final and probe tests for mobile phones, graphics, network processors, as well as microprocessors and high-speed memory products. Based on Menlo Micro’s industry leading 32 Gbps MM5600 double-pole/double-throw (DPDT) switch currently in production, the MM5620 2x DP3T switch offers next generation, high-speed operation from DC to 20 GHz with excellent data rates and RF signal linearity, delivering up to 64 Gbps of high-quality data signal integrity. The MM5620 switch’s system-in-package solution fully integrates the switch driver and charge pump, along with loopback capacitors, offering significant board footprint reduction for high-volume production test solutions.

MolexMolex engineers have been working alongside industry partners to co-develop fully functional solutions while addressing the many challenges of meeting 224 Gbps-PAM4 speed and performance criteria. Molex displayed the following:

  • Mirror Mezz Enhanced—the next generation of the award-winning family of genderless mezzanine board-to-board connectors supporting 224 Gbps-PAM4 speeds.
  • Inception—Molex’s first genderless backplane system featuring variable pitch densities, optimized signal integrity and simple integration with multiple system architectures.
  • 224G PAM-4 across a QSFP-DD to CX2-DS BiPass cable to support the delivery of 1.6 TB of capacity across a single port.
  • Cold-plate thermal demonstration of liquid cooling for pluggable IO enabled through Molex’s integrating floating pedestal.
  • Mechanical demonstrations of how these latest 224G products can be applied to in a physical system.

MPI Corporation recently announced a landmark achievement in RF calibration technology. Collaborating with the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt in Germany, they successfully achieved full traceability in characterizing a commercially available calibration substrate up to 110 GHz and set a new industry benchmark. This achievement, spearheaded by Dr. Andrej Rumiantsev, Director of RF Technology at MPI-AST, represents a significant leap for the entire RF product line provided by MPI product line. The fully traceable characterization paves the way for more accurate, reliable, and universally accepted high-frequency measurements, essential for cutting-edge technologies like 5G. They were featuring large and small probe stations for signal integrity including probing from both sides of the PCB board.

Picotest recently introduced a line of high-speed transient-load steppers for power systems, VRMs and power integrity/PDN validation. The product line consists of three tiers categorized by load current and distribution form factor: below 10, 10–50 and up to 2,000 A. Both open- and closed-loop–control alternatives are available. The stepper is a voltage-controlled switch that operates by opening or closing a route between the power rail and a GaN FET, together with a bespoke resistor. The probe can be adjusted to different voltage rails, causing the step current to change accordingly. However, the baseline load current is predetermined at the time of purchase, depending on a certain voltage-current combination. This results in fixed resistor values in the probe. The under 10 A solution is designed in a compact handheld probe configuration, specifically tailored to fit into narrow spaces. The open-loop current step refers to a singular, predetermined change in current.

Quantic Ohmega was reviewing their resistive foil manufacturing capabilities with attendees which is a thin-film planar resistor element that is part of a standard PCB layer's printed and etched circuitry. Quantic Ohmega's Resistor Conductor Material is a thin-film resistor copper foil that allows designers to replace discrete surface resistors with resistive networks or embedded resistors. This can improve signal routing and provide significant performance benefits.

Rogers was featuring COOLSPAN TECA, a thermosetting, epoxy based, silver filled adhesive film used in bonding high power circuit boards. COOLSPAN films provide a convenient and reliable approach to bond high power circuit boards, heavy metal back-planes, heat sink coins and RF module housings. This approach overcomes voiding and flow issues that are problematic for sweat soldering and dispensed adhesive approaches. COOLSPAN TECA films can be tack soldered in a fixture, ensuring accurate registration. This is followed by a tooled thermal cure or PCB press cycle.

R&SRohde & Schwarz demonstrated solutions for high-speed digital applications by putting attendee’s design knowledge to test with the Rohde & Schwarz Digital Debug Design challenge. The demonstrations incorporated a series of lab challenges that evaluate individual participant’s measurement skills in signal integrity, power integrity, EMI debug, and multiport optimization. Beyond the Digital Debug Design challenge, Rohde & Schwarz provided attendees with an array of in-depth, technologically advanced demonstrations. These demonstrations included the new 8-channel R&S MXO 5 Series oscilloscope, which delivers break through oscilloscope technology to speed up users’ understanding and testing of electronic systems. Another demonstration will feature the R&S ZNA vector network analyzer performing multilane 802.3ck compliance automation using the R&S ZNrun VNA automation suite.

Rosenberger North America recently announced the launch of its Subminiature Push-On Submicro (SMPS) interconnect series for 224 Gbps/lane applications first designed by MultiLane. MultiLane and Rosenberger collaborated to help accelerate the development and deployment of the SMPS product series. The SMPS interconnect series supports a frequency range of up to 110 GHz and is extremely versatile, providing customers options for board-to-board, cable-to-board, or cable-to-cable connections.

SamtecSamtec featured collaborations with Alphawave Semi, Cadence, Keysight, Microchip, Multilane, Rambus, Rohde & Schwarz, and Synopsys, with active 112 Gbps and 224 Gbps demonstrations. Starting at the front panel, offerings included Flyover® SFP, QSFP, OSFP, and Samtec’s proprietary NovaRay® IO. Mid-board solutions included: Si-Fly High Density (HD), Si-Fly Low Profile, NovaRay, and Accelerate® HD. Moving from mid-board to the backplane, Samtec introduces Si-FlyTM Backplane and NovaRay Backplane alongside existing families ExaMAX® and Xcede® HD. They also had optical mid-board options, including FireFlyTM and the newly introduced HaloTM. These products will connect with partner platforms through Bulls Eye®, Samtec’s precision RF test point system, with a new Bulls Eye® 90 GHz version. Samtec products were also be part of active 112 Gbps and 224 Gbps demonstrations in partner booths; Keysight, Cadence, and Rohde & Schwarz.

Sonnet Software is introducing version 19 this summer that will feature Beowulf Fast Solver. It is the world's first commercial solver based on the Unified-FFT Algorithm. It combines FFT-enhanced fill with FFT-enhanced solve for order N log N scaling fast analysis all while able to compute to full numerical-precision. Beowulf uses the same project fiels and interface as the current version, simulates with the same accuracy while allowing for much larger projects with faster results.

SMTA is doing an Ultra High Density Interconnect Symposium on March 26 this year so go to for more information and to sign up.

SV Microwave was featuring many cable solutions including their circular multiport connection system. It is a high density design with increased durability for field use featuring rugged, abrasion-resistant, and lightweight materials. They operate from DC to 40 GHz with highly secure, keyed, and threaded connections with customizable insert arrangement with SMPM/SMPS contacts.

TE Connectivity’s 224G portfolio solutions are a holistic product portfolio consisting of a wide array of products designed with interconnectivity and compatibility in mind – reducing time to market and overall product uncertainty. TE’s robust end-to-end product portfolio touches each part of the datacenter from server to infrastructure – and all devices in between. TE’s continued leadership in industry standards creates a robust ecosystem with design partners. Passive copper solutions provide a cost-effective pathway to achieve performance requirements for 224G architectures. Active copper products extend the channel reach while maintaining competitiveness. Where copper is not technically viable, TE Connectivity offers a wide range of optical cable solutions for achieving 224G operations. By designing near chip and on-package cabled solutions, TE products enable longer reaches with reduced insertion loss. By optimizing impedance, TE 224G improves return loss and reduced cross talk for better high bandwidth performance.  

Teledyne LeCroyTeledyne LeCroy had two important announcements. One was Teledyne LeCroy and Alphawave Semi unveiled PCI Express® 7.0 signal generation, transmission and measurement. These results accelerate the deployment of PCIe® 7.0 technology for data-intensive AI workloads for hyperscalar and data-infrastructure applications. Technical results were presented at a morning DesignCon technical session followed by a live demonstration in the DesignCon exhibition hall. The second announcement was the extension of their patented CrossSyncTM PHY technology to support the PCI Express® 6.0 specification. The new PCIe® 6.0 Card Electromechanical (CEM) interposer (PE6117UIA-X) is used with Teledyne LeCroy’s WaveMaster® 8000HD or LabMaster oscilloscopes and CrossSync PHY software to provide the industry’s only cross-layer (physical layer to protocol) analysis solution for PCIe 6.0.

Times Microwave was featuring many cable and connector solutions including HPQD™ and MPQD™ that are a new connector series for high power applications.  Featuring quick-disconnect mechanism, HPQD and MPQD are compatible with other interfaces. They are offering a broad range of products with HPQD and MPQD interfaces, including cable connectors, cable assemblies, receptacles, and adapters.