By Heidi Hoffman, FlexTech Alliance, a SEMI Strategic Alliance Partner
Flexible and printed electronics applications are becoming real. Forecasters are predicting a nearly $30 billion market for internet-connected devices in a combined industry and consumer sector. Of those, healthcare is the strongest flexible, hybrid electronics (FHE) segment, where performance is of the highest value and reliability is life-and-death critical. The savings to be realized from these devices and more successful self-treatment will potentially in part make up for the shortages in doctors, nurses and care-givers as people live much longer lives and encounter more health problems than before.
Demand is high for increasing the manufacturability of all of these products — lowering the per unit price and increasing value to the customer– and is the reason the U.S. Government is putting its muscle (and funds) into advanced manufacturing of FHE with NextFlex – America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute.
NextFlex was announced last August, and has since released its first project call asking for proposals on advanced manufacturing methodologies for health monitoring and structural health monitoring. The products will incorporate a hybrid approach where commercial-off-the-shelf signal processing electronics are integrated onto the flexible substrate that allows for the fabrication of fully functional, mechanically flexible, sensor systems. The intelligence on small, flexible silicon can be incorporated onto flexible substrates for more conformable electronics and eliminate big, bulky, boxy electronics that are far from comfortably worn.
Over 70 organizations submitted pre-proposals to NextFlex with a wide range of projects designed to advance FHE manufacturing know-how. Much of the work in sight will be presented at the NextFlex/FlexTech/SEMI event ─ 2016FLEX ─ designed to survey recent developments in printed electronics and hear how FHE is developing cost effective solutions for manufacturing advanced products and systems. Specific development programs will be discussed on how and when FHE can and should be used in a variety of commercial and military applications. The 2016 FLEX technical conference will also feature presentations on the current state of FHE from a manufacturing perspective, including methods for integrating electronics with sensors onto flexible substrates.
Read more about 2016FLEX at www.2016FLEX.com. The event brings together 600+ of the industry’s technology leaders to present and explore the latest products, processes, materials and equipment in the flexible and printed electronics ecosystem.