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Sensors, Wearables and Manufacturing are Among NextFlex's First Four Project Awards

By David Savastano, Editor | September 21, 2016

Industries, researchers and universities are partnering on projects to advance field of flexible hybrid electronics.

The opportunities for flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) are seemingly limitless. Flexible, low cost and conformable electronics can add tremendous functionality to everyday products. The ability to develop and manufacture these systems is one of the challenges ahead, and the NextFlex Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) Manufacturing Innovation Instituteis working with industry, researchers and universities to solve these concerns.
 
Formed in August 2015 through a cooperative agreement between the US Department of Defense (DoD) and FlexTech Alliance, NextFlex is a public-private partnership set up to create and manufacturing processes for FHE applications. The DoD has provided $75 million in funding for NextFlex, which has issued project calls in order to award contracts.
 
“Our mission is to develop and help make a robust manufactuing supply chain and ecosystem for flexible hybrid electronics,” said NextFlex executive director Malcolm Thompson. “Our working groups are examining different parts of the manufacturing processes and technology and then we identify gaps where we need to develop more maturity and certain process equipment and materials.
 
“We put out project calls which ask for people to address these issues, and the working groups use a selection process,” Thompson added. “We have selected up to to $43 million in projects so far. Our first range of project calls were fairly broadly based, and we received 71 responses, which was pretty impressive. These projects are really good.”
 
NextFlex recently presented its first four awards, which are:
 
• Purdue University, Integra Life Sciences, Western Michigan University and Indiana University School of Medicine: Creating a printed FHE smart wound dressing that can sense oxygen levels in a wound and deliver topical oxygen to stop further deterioration of the wound.
 
• California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), Jabil Circuit, DuPont and NovaCentrix: Developing an assembly method for attaching ultra-thin chips onto printed flexible substrates for providing improved performance and comfort for wearable medical/human monitoring systems.
 
• Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and University of California at San Diego: Developing a mouth-guard biosensor label that will continuously sense lactate concentration, an indicator of fatigue, as well as wireless communications for members of the military and others in high-stress positions.
 
• Binghamton University (BU), GE Global Research, i3 Electronics, Infinite Corridor Technologies, Rochester Institute of Technology, Analog Devices and Corning Inc.: Developing FHE manufacturing technologies for fabricate low cost wireless integrated sensor systems.
 
NextFlex anticipates making its next set of awards shortly.
 
“Our second project call was narrowed to eight different disciplines and we got very good, specific responses,” Thompson noted. “We are in the process of signing development agreements with the organizations involved.”