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On the edge

New interfaces for high speed communication cards. By Kevin Canham.

Direct card edge connection has been widely used in extended office environments, with the result that there are two new PICMG standards using this technology for high speed applications in the telecom, industrial and medical infrastructure markets.
Beginning with the Advanced Mezzanine Card (AMC) specification, hot swap mezzanine cards are being defined with a card edge interface intended to support 12.5Gbit/s serial communication. The latest is the PICMG MicroTCA (Micro Telecom Computing Architecture) standard, using these AMCs for direct insertion into a backplane.
These applications have opened new pcb design and manufacturing challenges. Unlike earlier card edge standards, the contact pitch and hot swap function in AMCs do not allow direct electrical connection of the pcb’s contact pads during galvanic hard gold plating. As a result, selective plating has to be used, which introduces a number of design constraints. In addition, tight mechanical tolerances in thickness, width and pcb edge symmetry make fabrication more difficult.
The fact that direct connection is not typical for telecom applications has brought suspicions about reliability, with calls for more ‘ruggedisation’. This has led to the design of an artificial card edge to replace the original pcb interface.

Kevin Canham

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