Gettin’ Down on the Show Floor: DesignCon 2016

By Contributed Article | January 20, 2016

The DesignCon show floor opens today, so we spoke with some of the exhibitors to find out what they expect will be the hot technologies in this year’s Expo Hall.



Did you enjoy your workshops and survive your bootcamps? Well, slip on your walking shoes because the DesignCon show floor opens today, and there is so much good stuff out there you don’t want to miss.

 The “Buzz”

There’s no doubt that the show floor, open today and tomorrow from 12:30 until 6:00 p.m., will feature all the latest in high-speed products that maintain signal integrity as the demand for increased bandwidth continues to grow. But what do exhibitors and organizers expect will take center stage this year?

“I am not yet ready to predict,” says Janine Love, DesignCon technical program director. “But we do have a number of new exhibitors this year at DesignCon, and I know many of our established exhibitors are planning to introduce some new products and/or showcase some fascinating products and tools. Attendees can look forward to some great hands-on opportunities, speed training, and demos on the show floor.

“We introduced the wireless and photonics track at DesignCon 2014, and each year there is growing interest in copper versus photonics. This year there are sessions on this topic as well as a panel. There is also a lot of interest in PAM-4, especially in terms of link design and verification, as well as how to detect and solve power integrity issues.”


Love is not alone in thinking PAM-4 will be a hot topic at DesignCon.

According to Jim Nadolny, principle SI and EMI engineer at Samtec and member of the technical program committee for DesignCon, “At DesignCon 2016, I expect to see the greatest change and/or development in PAM-4 technology. In 2015, IEEE 802.3bs was released in draft form, and this Ethernet specification identifies PAM-4 encoding for 50Gb/s chip-to-chip and chip-to-module applications. Ethernet is the networking standard and architects, instrumentation vendors, SERDES vendors, and component suppliers have been gearing up for this change over the past year. Papers on nuances of testing, simulating, and correlation with PAM-4 are scheduled, and I am curious to see test solutions on the exhibit floor.”

Ching-Chao Huang, president of AtaiTec Corporation, agrees the interest in PAM-4 is due to the IEEE 802.3bs 400Gb/s Ethernet Task Force’s proposal of CDAUI-8 (eight lanes of 50Gb/s) with PAM-4 signaling. “A number of papers will be presented on PAM-4 at 56Gb/s. We expect many exhibitors will show products – chips, interconnects, simulation software – for this application as well. In 2016, we’ll see more refined products, including test equipment for PAM-4 at 56Gb/s. A few vendors may also start prototyping products (chips, for example) for NRZ at 56Gb/s for very short interconnects.”


Jairo Guerrero, director of marketing, enterprise business unit, Molex, says this focus on high-speed components in the 56Gb/s range has been the next-generation target for some time: “Different elements are coming together now to enable successful operation within this data rate. Also, expect to see some of the latest I/O components as the industry is shifting to 50Gb/s and 100Gb/s Ethernet, PCIe Gen 3 and 4, and SAS4.”

The Samtec team expects 56Gb/s to be on full display with both copper and fiber solutions hitting the floor. “Technologies for designing, testing, and simulating systems for 28Gb/s, 56Gb/s, and beyond will be a common theme,” says Brian Vicich, Samtec’s CTO. “Rapid growth of server, network, and Internet traffic is fueling the need for higher data rates. While fiber optics are capable of delivering data rates into terabits per second, it is very difficult to put the number of optical connections required on a PCB to replace the aggregate bandwidth of which copper traces are capable, so both copper and optical solutions for these ultra-high-speed applications will be a common theme.”

While some are looking at component functionality, others think the big news on the floor will be end-user applications.

“Wearable devices will see the most changes and/or developments this year,” says Ila Pal, COO, Ironwood Electronics. “It is a growing market. Along with fitness, biometric and vital science data will generate more interest from the late adopters. I have read some articles about being able to charge your phone just by putting it in your pants pocket – clothing embedded with photovoltaic cells to act as power bank. Wearables are the next wave.”

Interconnect Exhibitors

Examples of these highly anticipated technologies are found in just a small preview of the expo hall.

At this year’s show, Molex will focus on solutions that meet the most stringent high-speed performance requirements in the industry. Its team will demonstrate several solutions – including new backplane, I/O, and other advanced solutions that provide technically sound and practical solutions to critical design issues. Showcased products will include the High-Speed Low-Loss Flex Circuit Assemblies for electronic data transmission applications such as servers and high-end computing, storage servers, and signal processing; and the NeoPress High-Speed Mezzanine System, which offers design flexibility through a unique triad structure that enables the universal housing to populate 85-ohm, 100-ohm, and power triads in any housing slot. Molex will debut several other new products, including advanced backplane solutions, analysis tools, and heat dissipation options. Additionally, the manufacturer will host a cocktail reception open to the public on Wednesday, January 20 from 5 – 6 p.m. in Booth 817.

Samtec will promote complete system optimization and its silicon development expertise, which supports the silicon industry with high-speed silicon-to-silicon interconnect solutions that are ideal for test, evaluation, and emulation applications. Featured products at the booth include ExaMAX, Samtec’s high-speed backplane system that delivers 28Gb/s performance on 2mm pitch while offering an easy migration path to 56Gb/s on a 3mm column pitch; Z-Ray one-piece arrays that are ultra-low-profile, high-density, and highly customizable with compression contacts that make them ideal for use as interposers or integrated into connector housings; and the FQSFP Series, a flyover QSFP assembly that achieves 28Gb/s performance, is backward-compatible with all QSFP cable assemblies, improves signal integrity by flying critical data over lossy PCB materials, and provides more flexibility in the system architecture.

When asked what her team will feature on the show floor, Eve Wee of FCI had one thing on her mind: “High-speed connector solutions. High speed, high speed, high speed!” While Wee wants to maintain suspense to lure you to FCI’s booth, she says visitors can expect to see the companies “Basics” product line; quicker, faster, better storage connectors; innovative high-speed backplane solutions; and a wide range of power solutions including HSIO high-speed copper and optical cable assemblies. Additionally, FCI will unveil several new connector and cable assembly solutions.

Also focused on speed, Neoconix will feature high-speed products for greater than 28Gb/s and integrated connector-plus-FPC solutions. The manufacturer recently released its first two products in the FPConnected family, which provides standard product options for customers looking for pre-design FPC-plus-connector solutions: A USB 3.1 Type-C bridge for customers looking for an alternative solution to just soldering the Type-C receptacle at the edge of the PCB, and the XFPC jumper, an ultra-low-profile link between two PCBs using Neoconix’s X-Beam line of connectors.

AirBorn will highlight its HD4 interconnect solution, which offers the highest density-to-performance ratio currently available for data communications applications that require high-speed, high-reliability connections within the smallest footprint in the industry. Also on display will be AirBorn’s verSI, an open-pin-field product line designed to meet the requirements for high-speed/signal-integrity applications while delivering reliability.

Hirose will focus on high-speed mezzanine connector solutions that offer transmission speeds up to 56Gb/s+ per differential pair. The company will launch the IT8 Series, a new BGA high-speed mezzanine connector line. Available in two versions, the two-piece model offers a low stacking height designed for 28Gb/s+ applications, while the three-piece version features a slightly higher stacking height for 56Gb/s+ applications. Hirose will also introduce the IT9 Series, a three- or four-row SMT mezzanine connector that offers high transmission speeds of 28Gb/s+.

Ironwood Electronics will feature a high-speed logic and memory socket at its booth, as well as a 75GHz high-performance BGA socket. The team will also demonstrate a Bluetooth temperature-monitoring socket.

Finally, to end your show on a high note, be sure to join TE at Booth 811 on Thursday at 5 p.m. for a festive Happy Hour with free drinks for all.


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