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Overcoming Design Conundrums with Mezzanine Connectors

The hottest technology and the demands of scalable computing really require a lot out of mezzanine connectors – high data rates and high densities, low profiles, and low thermal resistance, just to get us started.

Below are five common design challenges engineers face every day.

Challenge #1

As computing and data transmission demands have grown over the years, companies dependent on large data centers outgrew their infrastructure and were daunted by the prospect of replacing it with their own proprietary designs.

Figure 1: OCP Compute Accelerator Form Factor, Side View (Image source: Molex)

Solution: The Open Compute Project (OCP) was founded to create commodity hardware that supports companies as they transition their infrastructure to meet today’s connectivity demands. Because of its high density and innovative hermaphroditic design, OCP chose Molex’s Mirror Mezz Connector as the board-to-board interconnect solution for its accelerator cards.

Challenge #2:

As artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and other technological developments intensify demands for higher data rates, designers require high-speed, high-density mezzanine connectors.

Solution: Mirror Mezz connectors transmit up to 112 Gbps PAM-4 while offering a compact footprint (107 differential pairs per square inch). Due to its superior performance, the Mirror Mezz system presents an effective solution in cutting-edge products. For example, a technology company that produces GPUs has integrated this high-speed, compact mezzanine connector into the modules of its autonomous machine developer kits. As a result, OEMs that need to connect these modules to their AI systems — or anyone needing board-to-board connectivity in a design that will transmit large amounts of data — will want to implement the Mirror Mezz product into their design.

Challenge #3:

As end customers demand more capabilities from end products, designers struggle to free up real estate to fit necessary components in.

Figure 2: Stack heights (Image source: Molex)

Solution: With Molex’s two different height offerings of 5.50 and 2.50 mm, designers can mix and match Mirror Mezz connectors to make three stack heights when mated. These variable stack heights — 11.00, 8.00 and 5.00 mm — ease space constraints and give engineers more flexibility to manage heat dissipation in their designs.

Challenge #4:

As the capabilities of end products become more sophisticated, the number of necessary components grows, which in turn increases component-part qualification and inventory management costs.

Figure 3: Mirror Mezz Hermaphroditic Connectors (Image source: Molex)

Solution: Mirror Mezz Connectors are hermaphroditic and, therefore, mate with each other. This simplifies inventory by eliminating the need to buy more than one SKU. In short, Mirror Mezz Connectors halve tooling, inventory, and operational costs while increasing efficiencies and cost savings for customers.

Challenge #5:

High-density connectors that have hundreds of pins in miniature packages often face the risk of solder inadvertently bridging adjacent pins. Additionally, high-density can complicate heat dissipation.

Figure 4: Mirror Mezz Connector’s Ball-Grid Array (Image source: Molex)

Solution: Mirror Mezz connectors use a ball-grid-array (BGA)-attach termination (with short leads), which is ideal for high-pin-count, high-speed applications. Its consistent solder-ball profile ensures superior signal integrity. BGA connectors also offer lower thermal resistance, resulting in better heat dissipation than other termination methods.

If you’re facing multiple design challenges because of competing demands on board-to-board connectivity, Molex’s Mirror Mezz connector might be your answer. This high-performing mezzanine product, available through Digi-Key, offers a range of attributes to solve even the trickiest design conundrum.

About this author

Image of Kathy Hutton

Kathy Hutton, Senior Product Manager at Digi-Key Electronics, has been with Digi-Key since 2003 and has responsibilities for interconnect, passive and electromechanical products. She is in daily communications with engineers/customers (both internal and external) to help drive sales with her extensive product knowledge. Kathy holds an Electrical/Automation Technical Degree and was part of the Digi-Key Applications Engineering team prior to her role in Product Management. Outside of work, she is an avid fisherwoman, both competitively and just for some fun on the water.

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