Workbench Wednesday with Molex’s Zach Bradford Focuses on High-Speed Connectors

Technological developments in the automotive, medical and industrial markets have increased the need for high-speed connectors that mostly had been used in the data center/telecommunications arena.

In a recent element14 Workbench Wednesday episode, Molex Enterprise Solutions Marketing Director Zach Bradford talks with “Bald Engineer” James Lewis about high-speed connectors. This article will hit the highlights of the longer discussion, but to hear all the details, please check out the entire episode.

What Qualifies a Connector as High Speed?

Molex, which has been designing high-speed connectors for about 20 years, considers a connector to be high speed if it is capable of 100 Mbps to 400 Gbps or more. In order to effectively handle such high data rates, the design and construction of these connectors is different from that of lower-speed varieties. For example, in order to ensure consistent performance within a channel, high-speed connectors tend to have common grounds, plated plastic features and multiple layers of shielding. They typically also require more design effort from customers in terms of routing within their systems.

Selection Considerations

Though this can vary by application, in general there are three issues engineers should consider when choosing a connector that would work best in their high-speed designs.

  1. Mechanical requirements, which include the connector’s density, mate and unmate forces, and tolerance variabilities, such as how those things can affect the latching that might be required, need to be taken into account.
  2. Signal integrity is another issue and refers to the efficiency of a signal that is transmitted from one chip to another and whether the receiving chip can clearly denote whether that signal is a 1 or a 0.
  3. A balance between price and connector performance is an important consideration that will contribute to the overall success of the end product.

Design and Engineering Support

Molex offers a variety of design tools to help engineers choose the high-speed connector that will help optimize their system’s performance. For example, we provide 2D and 3D models online at, along with Allegro footprints and S-parameter models.

Molex, along with our distribution colleagues, also offer hands-on field application support on the front end to support customers’ full board layouts and simulation work.

Additionally, higher speeds mean more power. Therefore, thermal issues play a significant role in the performance of high-speed connectors. As a result, Molex engineers can propose solutions to help customers maximize cooling.

Molex’s High-Speed Connector Portfolio

More than 20 years of high-speed connector experience has resulted in a broad portfolio. Molex offers a range of board-to-board and I/O connectors, along with memory, storage and backplane interconnects. Working closely with our distributors, Molex provides total channel connectivity with a wide range of supporting and engineering information to help secure a successful end product for our customers.

To learn about high-speed connectors in more detail, tune in to episode 36 of element14’s Workbench Wednesday.