There’s no shortage of options in new board materials.
Intel recently concluded a major hunt for materials cheaper than Megtron-6 that could handle fast boards and found some options. “There’s a whole infrastructure that wants lower loss and very cheap materials and there’s some nice things on the horizon,” said Jeff Loyer, a signal integrity expert at Intel.
“At 25G, you might have room for FR4,” said Chad Morgan, a senior principal engineer at TE Connectivity, who co-authored a paper of simulations beyond 25G using Megtron-6. “I think most people that do this work will need new materials and when you get to 40-56G, there’s no choice."
The 4000-series materials from Rogers Corp. (Rogers, Conn.) offer similar performance to Megtron-6 but lack its flexibility, said Nelson of Sanmina. “It’s the most constrained material, and that opened the door to Meg6 which offers all the thicknesses of FR4 and more,” Nelson said.
Others in the race include Isola Group (Chandler, Ariz.) with its I-Tera MT and Park Electrochemical Corp. (Fullerton, Calif.) with Nelco 6800 now renamed Meteorwave, the latter tested by SCI Sanmina. “It’s very viable as long as the price is good and they may be doing cost reduction to get in game,” Nelson said.
A representative of Isola said I-Tera costs as much as 20 percent less than Megtron-6 and has similar performance characteristics.
Still other options including Teflon amalgams may be in the works. “We’re working with laminate vendors to bring up products that weren’t ready for prime time but are getting close,” said Nelson.
The bad news is the new materials will need more than a year to finish long-term reliability tests for telecom customers and get UL approvals.
“Some people say 2014-2015 is their target,” said Nelson. “The market has to want to pay for 25G because these products will be very expensive."
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.