The ever changing world of high speed digital design

February 09, 2015 //By Lee Ritchey
The ever changing world of high speed digital design
Advances in semiconductor technology in the first decade of the 21st century have had a dramatic effect on what can be done in a single integrated circuit.

Transistor gate lengths as small as 22 nanometers have made possible integrated circuits with performance at ultra-high speeds and incredible transistor densities.

At the turn of the 21st century the upper limit on transistor count of an integrated circuit was 200 million transistors with data speeds as high as 2.5 gigabit per second over a single data path. Currently, integrated circuits are commonly made with more than a billion transistors with data rates as high as 28 gigabits per second over a single data path.

These advances in integrated circuit technology have made possible products that could only have been imagined a few years ago. In addition to all of the products that have been in use for many years, two very diverse new product categories have developed around these advances.

These are the ultra-dense cell phones and tablets that have crept into every aspect of our lives and, driven by these same devices, the ultra high performance routers, switches and servers that provide all of the Internet services they require.

The first of these has driven component packages to lead pitches as small as 0.4 mm or 16 mils with components on both sides of the PCB substrate. This has given rise to build up PCBs and laser drilled blind vias as small as 0.1 mm or 4 mils. This technology had driven laminate manufacturers to develop ultrathin laminates and prepregs which have glass weaves that are uniformly spread out to improve the quality of the laser drilled blind vias.

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