Held on Feb. 23-26, 2015 – and for the first time at the Monterey, CA Conference Center – 580+ registrants saw first-hand demonstrations of end products, as well as new manufacturing tools and materials. The Flex Conference is sponsored annually by FlexTech Alliance.
Dr. Anil Duggal of GE Global Research opened the conference by explaining GE’s strategy to exploit the healthcare market pull. He noted that the wearable electronics universe currently encompasses sports, wellness, home health and in-hospital care. New medical devices must be wearable and wireless, eventually encompassing body area networks. An especially egregious problem – re-admissions to the hospital within 30 days – can often be mitigated through successful adoption of wearable electronics.
Organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) for displays and lighting were addressed by international guest speakers. Dr. H. K. Chung of Sungkyunkwan University declared the beginning of the plastic displays era through active matrix OLEDs. Key manufacturing challenges are cost reduction, maintaining a thin form factor, and reliability. Commercializing OLED technology for lighting was addressed by Dr. C. T. Liu of Taiwan’s world-famous ITRI. He announced the formation of OLCA – the OLED Lighting Commercialization Alliance.
Air Force Research Lab’s Dr. Michael Durstock explained the impact of flexible hybrid electronics, where conformable substrates and printed circuity meet traditional semiconductor IC devices. He was followed by Brandon Larson of Red Bull, who explored elite human performance through the lens of technology. Multiple factors impact human performance including basic skills, nutrition, creativity and – increasingly – technology.
Indro Mukerjee, chairman of FlexEnable, concluded the plenaries by noting that the wearables momentum is undeniable; that ubiquitous sensing connects us with the world around us; and that fulfilling expectations of electronics everywhere can only happen with shapeable, bendable and flexible electronics.
All plenary speakers affirmed that external collaboration, standards and testing platforms and methodologies will be critical to achieving success in adopting flexible electronics.
New to the show floor was a printed electronics demonstration center hosted by Cal Poly State University, Western Michigan University, University of California at Berkeley and Clemson University. Exhibit and conference attendees were able to see technology products manufactured in real time. This was complemented by an end user pavilion, where flexible electronics customers provided insights into their present and future product requirements by meeting one-on one with other attendees.
Technical sessions are always the highlight of the Flex Conference. This year’s session topics included hybrid electronics, manufacturing improvements, sensors, substrates and integration. Two key application areas addressed were smart packaging and flexible displays.
“Registrants complimented the program and location, which is a testament to the hard work of FlexTech’s advisory committee and the competence of our conference planning team,” noted Michael Ciesinski, President of FlexTech Alliance. “We are especially gratified with the commercial, consumer, and defense end users who registered for 2015FLEX and engaged with our exhibitors.”