Executive director Malcolm J. Thompson opened the event by thanking members and government partners, educators, and elected officials in attendance for generous support over the past year, in helping to achieve its mission of catalyzing FHE adoption. NextFlex celebrated 24 member-generated projects valued at $45 million (including cost-share) and which represent 212 months of project innovation.
Forty-five FHE technology displays were featured, including the Lockheed Martin Desert Hawk III, with Steve Gonya of Lockheed Martin explaining how FHE will be incorporated into the next generation of the drone. Dr. Andrew Burns of GE Global Research demonstrated a wearable bio-fluid monitoring patch system for continuous monitoring of hydration for athletes and soldiers. Other notable displays included DuPont’s stretchable electronic inks and films that transform fabrics into active, connected, intelligent garments; Georgia Tech’s flexible sensors for wireless human-machine robot interfaces; and many more.
First-off-the-production-line versions of the flexible Arduino board were demonstrated by NextFlex. Arduino is an open source microcontroller-based system for automation and IOT applications. In its rigid form the Arduino microcontoller board is widely used for prototyping of new products and has freely available compilers and hardware extension kits – making it a favorite of the maker community, product developers, and teachers alike. Increasingly, there are many devices that require flexible form factors so redesigning the rigid board to one that is flexible is of interest to the FHE community. NextFlex developed and tested a complete end-to-end manufacturing process and results were shared with Innovation Day attendees.
Window tours of the NextFlex Technology Hub were also held for attendees. Process capabilities displayed included electronic printing and additive processes and curing systems, component integration and assembly, and test and measurement systems. Installed in state-of-the art class 10,000 clean rooms with utilities and environmental controls, all the equipment is operated by experienced technical personnel and is available as a collaboration center for NextFlex members.
FlexFactor – NextFlex’s project-based STEAM learning program for high school students that combines skill-building in entrepreneurship, product development, and FHE technology – was also on full display at Innovation Day. Seven FlexFactor alumni were present to tell their stories about their experience and how FlexFactor has changed their outlook on manufacturing as a career choice. What started as an idea on a white board not even 12 months ago, FlexFactor will reach almost 2,000 Santa Clara County high school students this academic year, and considerably more as the program is adopted nationally.
On the day before Innovation Day, 10 equipment vendors briefed members on the tools installed at NextFlex as part of the Technical Council meeting, and then conducted hands-on demonstrations in the clean room with NextFlex staff for nearly 30 members on the day following Innovation Day.
All in all, it was a celebration and affirmation that NextFlex, and its members and partners, are true enablers of innovation.
Photo courtesy Flickr/NextFlex US