FeaturePak FAQ

This post is intended to provide a work space in which we can develop a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document. For now, let’s ask — and answer — questions that seem appropriate using the comments function at the bottom of this post.

Periodically the questions and answers embedded in those comments will be rolled up into the main body of this post. So, be sure to check back on this page’s evolution. Thanks for participating!

FeaturePak FAQ Questions (click each question to read the answer)

  1. What is the vendor and part number for the FeaturePak socket?

  2. How “open” is the FeaturePak standard? Must my company be a member of some FeaturePak standards organization to design, build, or sell products using the spec?
  3. Is the FeaturePak standard subject to any patents?
  4. What kinds of boards would benefit from having FeaturePak sockets?
  5. What kinds of functions can be expected to be available on FeaturePaks?
  6. Does FeaturePak cannibalize stackable architectures like PC/104?
  7. Is there an easy way add FeaturePak into my PC/104-based stack?
  8. Why aren’t there any power or ground lines designated within each of the FeaturePak MXM connector’s two 50-line external interface groups?
  9. Why is there no LPC bus?
  10. What is the minimum set of features required on a FeaturePak socket?
  11. Where can I get the FeaturePak logos?
  12. On the high-isolation section of the FeaturePak connector, there are 34 pins organized into 17 pairs having no-connect (NC) pins between. Does each isolated “pair” consist of two pins on opposite sides of the connector, or are the isolated pairs located on the same side of the connector (with an NC on either side of each pin in the pair)?
  13. How rugged is this standard? Aren’t miniature card-edge finger contacts (230 contacts on 0.5mm pitch) unreliable? To what, if any, shock and vibration specifications has the FeaturePak card/connector combination been tested?
  14. OK, I’m convinced! How can my company become a member of the FeaturePak Trade Association (FPTA)?
  15. What are the eligibility requirements for becoming a “Supporting Member” of the FPTA?

 


Answers to FAQ questions follow . . .


 
Q1: What is the vendor and part number for the FeaturePak socket?

A1: FeaturePak modules use the MXM connector, originally designed by Nvidia for notebook computer graphics cards. The connector provides 230 contacts organized into two rows of 115 contacts, with 0.5mm pitch. The connector is rated for 2.5Gbps operation, making it suitable for PCI Express, USB, and other high speed signals.

The MXM connector contains an alignment pin to ensure proper orientation of the FeaturePak module during insertion. The alignment pin is the primary reference point for the relative position of the module and the connector. MXM connectors are available with different board to board heights. FeaturePak modules use MXM connectors with 5.0mm spacing between the board and the connector.

Sources for the connector currently include:

  • Foxconn P/N AS0B326-S78N-7F
  • Foxconn P/N AS0B321-S78N-7F
  • Aces 88882-2D0M

FeaturePak’s mating MXM connector is the same one used with the Qseven COM (computer-on-module) standard.
 


 
Q2: How “open” is the FeaturePak standard? Must my company be a member of some FeaturePak standards organization to design, build, or sell products using the spec?

A2: Following public announcement and demonstration of FeaturePak in the first half of 2010, Diamond Systems, which created the FeaturePak standard, transferred ownership of all FeaturePak IP — including its specifications, trademark, and logo — to the FeaturePak Trade Association (FPTA), which is a California Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporation. The FPTA is responsible for maintaining, extending, and promoting the FeaturePak standard, and has the authority to establish rules associated with use of the FeaturePak logos and other IP.

Please note: You need not join the FPTA or be otherwise licensed, in order to develop or manufacture products based on or incorporating FPTA specifications. However, use of FPTA-owned logos is restricted to FPTA members in good standing or to those explicitly licensed by the FPTA to use them. Please contact the FPTA for details regarding non-member licensing of FPTA logos.
 


 
Q3: Is the FeaturePak standard subject to any patents?

A3: The FeaturePak standard itself is not patented. However, to protect the companies associated with the standard and its eventual maintaining organization, the FeaturePak specification contains the general disclaimer that appears below:

THIS SPECIFICATION IS PROVIDED “AS IS” AND WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY OR REPRESENTATION OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED. WITHOUT LIMITATION, THERE IS NO WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY, NO WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, NO WARRANTY OF NON-INFRINGEMENT AND NO REPRESENTATION THAT THE SPECIFICATION OR ANY PRODUCT OR TECHNOLOGY UTILIZING THE SPECIFICATION OR ANY SUBSET OF THE SPECIFICATION WILL BE FREE FROM ANY CLAIMS OF INFRINGEMENT OF ANY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, INCLUDING PATENTS, COPYRIGHTS, AND TRADE SECRETS. FURTHER, NO LICENSE, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED BY ESTOPPEL, OR OTHERWISE, TO ANY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS IS GRANTED HEREIN. ALL WARRANTIES ARE EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMED. USER ASSUMES THE FULL RISK OF USING THIS SPECIFICATION, INCLUDING RESPONSIBITY FOR SECURING ANY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LICENSES OR RIGHTS WHICH MAY BE NECESSARY TO IMPLEMENT OR BUILD PRODUCTS COMPLYING WITH THIS SPECIFICATION. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE FEATUREPAK TRADE ASSOCIATION BE LIABLE FOR ANY ACTUAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, PUNITIVE, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING FROM SUCH USE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.
 


 
Q4: What kinds of boards would benefit from having FeaturePak sockets?

A4: FeaturePak expandability and configurability would be useful on:

  • Standalone single-board computers (SBCs) in standard form-factors such as EBX, EPIC, 3.5-inch, Mini-ITX, Nano-ITX, etc.
  • Application baseboards for COM Express, Qseven, and other COMs
  • Stackable expansion modules such as the PC/104 Consortium’s PCI/104-Express and the SFF-SIG’s SUMIT-ISM
  • Backplane expansion boards such as standard PCI Express cards
  • Industrial slot-boards such as PICMG’s CompactPCI Express
  • Fully custom embedded computer boards

… and more.
 


 
Q5: What kinds of functions can be expected to be available on FeaturePaks?

A5: We expect to see a broad range of functions and interfaces show up on FeaturePak boards. Some likely ones include:

  • Data acquisition I/O interfaces
  • Precision timing controllers
  • Wireless interfaces including WiFi and cellular radios
  • GPS receivers and other positioning technologies
  • CAN, MIL-STD-1553, and other field buses
  • Relay and opto-isolated I/O
  • Multiple serial ports
  • Framegrabbers
  • Specialty graphics and alphanumeric display controllers
  • Multiple Ethernet interfaces including gateway/router functions
  • Motion controllers
  • etc…..

 


 
Q6: Does FeaturePak cannibalize stackable architectures like PC/104?

A6: No, FeaturePak is well suited for flat/thin systems where I/O spreads out to the sides rather than up a stack. Additionally, FeaturePak can be used as low-profile mezzanine expansion stackable single-board computers — including PC/104-sized SBCs — as an adjunct to stackable expansion, so it can help make stackables even more flexible, configurable, and powerful.
 


 
Q7: Is there an easy way to add FeaturePak into my PC/104-based stack?

A7: The easiest way is in tandem with upgrading to a PCI Express-based CPU at the same time. For example, an Atom-based SUMIT-ISM SBC with a FeaturePak carrier card creates a very rich and flexible set of I/O that can even shorten the PC/104 stack by one or two cards at the same time.
 


 
Q8: Why aren’t there any power or ground lines designated within each of the FeaturePak MXM connector’s two 50-line external interface groups?

A8: These two 50-line groups on the FeaturePak’s 230-signal MXM connector were intentionally left unspecified in order to maximize FeaturePak flexibility. Letting each FeaturePak define its 100 external interface lines broadens the range of applications that can be supported. Power and ground can be assigned to as many lines as required, in a card-specific manner. This lack of specificity in the initial FeaturePak standard does not preclude the possibility of developing multiple market- or application-specific external interface “profiles” in the future, however.
 


 
Q9: Why is there no LPC bus?

A9: It was decided that 2 PCI Express x1 lanes, 2 USB 2.0 channels, SMBus, and a serial port were sufficient to cover the full range of current requirements, particularly in light of LPC being an Intel-specific bus that targets a diminishing number of legacy ISA peripherals. This decision allowed us to reserve more connector pins for future purposes, thereby helping to ensure that the FeaturePak specification will be able to adapt to evolving host interface requirements.
 


 
Q10: What is the minimum set of features required on a FeaturePak socket?

A10: As of Version 0.83 of the FeaturePak specification, two types of FeaturePak-compliant sockets are defined: “FeaturePak Compliant” and “FeaturePak USB Compliant.” The minimum set of features that must be provided on each type of FeaturePak-compliant socket are listed in the two tables below. A socket must have at least the minimum set of features to use the name FeaturePak or FeaturePak USB.


Feature Requirements for “FeaturePak Compliant” Socket
+3.3VDC Present, minimum 2A available
+5VDC Present, minimum 1A available
PCIe Reset Present, active low
PCIe 1 x1 link minimum
USB 1 port minimum, 1.1 or better
Slot ID Must start with 001 and end with 110 (6 slots maximum)



Feature Requirements for “FeaturePak USB Compliant” Socket
+3.3VDC Present, minimum 2A available
+5VDC Present, minimum 1A available
PCIe Reset Present, active low
PCIe n/a
USB 2 ports, 1.1 or better
Slot ID Must start with 001 and end with 110 (6 slots maximum)


 


 
Q11: Where can I get the FeaturePak logos?

A11: Request the logos via our contact form and we will send you a set of jpg images plus a Photoshop file.
 


 
Q12: On the high-isolation section of the FeaturePak connector, there are 34 pins organized into 17 pairs having no-connect (NC) pins between. Does each isolated “pair” consist of two pins on opposite sides of the connector, or are the isolated pairs located on the same side of the connector, with an NC on either side of each pin in the pair?

A12: The isolated signal pairs consists of two adjacent signal connections on the same side of the FeaturePak connector, with no-connects (NCs) on either side of each connection in the pair. For example, I/OA-1 and I/OA-3 comprise a pair, not I/OA-1 and I/OA-2. This ensures that the high isolation between the signal pairs can be maintained by keeping the traces relatively parallel to each other, and also that the traces have equal length, resulting in maximum common mode noise rejection for differential pairs.
 


 
Q13: How rugged is this standard? Aren’t miniature card-edge finger contacts (230 contacts on .5mm pitch) unreliable? To what, if any, shock and vibration specifications has the FeaturePak card/connector combination been tested?

A13: The FeaturePak design has successfully passed random vibration testing up to 6.07Grms over 20-2000Hz in 3 axes according to MIL-STD-781D Task 401 (pdf download). See graph at right for test profile (click to enlarge).

 


 
Q14: OK, I’m convinced! How can my company become a member of the FeaturePak Trade Association?

A14: Learn how your company can become a member of the FeaturePak Trade Association, here.
 


 
Q15: What are the eligibility requirements for becoming a “Supporting Member” of the FPTA?

A15: The “Supporting Member” category is reserved for influential hardware and software vendors or organizations that have large third-party ecosystems — for example CPU and I/O silicon vendors, operating system and middleware vendors, etc. The expectation is for Supporting Members to endorse or promote the use of FeaturePak technology in news releases, on their websites, and to their ecosystems, and to indicate their FeaturePak support by being listed as a Supporting Member on FeaturePak.org. There is no charge for becoming a Supporting Member of the FPTA; however, acceptance at this level is subject to approval by the FPTA Board of Directors.
 


 

Further Information

To contact the FeaturePak Trade Association, please send an email to featurepak@gmail.com or use our contact form. Further information is available from the following FeaturePak pages or publications:

 

Join the FeaturePak Trade Association

Learn how your company can become a member of the FeaturePak Trade Association, here.
 
 

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