Flexible Hybrid Electronics; NextFlex Awards $12M

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NextFlex has announced $12 million (including $7M in cost-share contribution from participants) in funding for seven projects as part of its Project Call 3.0, fueling development of flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) projects that include epidermal sensors for robotic knees to rehabilitate soldiers and industrial workers, a sensor network to monitor and communicate the status of industrial systems and infrastructure, and flexible, “skin-like” health monitoring systems for healthcare patients and athletes.

The latest round of the highly successful Project Call program (which has awarded a total of over $59 million in development funding to date) challenged companies and universities to submit projects that achieved two objectives. The projects not only had to tackle industry-driven problems head on, but also develop components and methods that bridge key gaps in the FHE manufacturing process.

“With Project Call 3.0, we wanted to focus on the future of FHE and how it would be used to improve daily life,” said Malcolm Thompson, executive director of NextFlex. “The seven projects we’ve selected not only make exciting developments in fields like healthcare, avionics or heavy industry, but they’re creating building blocks upon which future researchers can create new applications with FHE, accelerating the pace of true FHE innovation.”

The seven projects awarded funding are:

  • Development led by Boeing of printed passive elements that evaluate geometric and chemical behavior of printed materials to provide long term stability for resistors, capacitors and inductors.
  • Development led by Boeing of a large area sensor network that detects temperature, strain, humidity, pressure and other conditions and communicates status in industrial systems and infrastructure.
  • Development led by Epicore of thin, flexible systems for disposable, “skin-like” health monitoring systems for healthcare and athletic performance.
  • Development led by GE and Binghamton University of disposable, clinical-grade vital sign monitoring devices designed to increase patient safety and shorten hospital stays.
  • Development led by Lockheed Martin of a database on additively printed antennas and microwave elements for use in military, avionic and microwave communications.
  • Development led by Lockheed Martin and Georgia Tech of epidermal sensors for robotic exoskeleton knee control for real-time injury management and rehabilitation of soldiers and industrial workers.
  • Development led by MicroConnex of low cost flexible circuit fabrication processes using roll-to-roll printing for high volume production.

Project Call 3.0 shows the continued momentum and interest from industry, academic, and government leaders for finding real-world applications for lightweight, low-cost, flexible and stretchable devices made possible through FHE – an intersection of printed circuitry, passive devices and sensors, and thin, flexible silicon chips. To build on this momentum, NextFlex will be releasing Project Call 4.0 in August 2018.

About NextFlex

NextFlex, America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute, is a leading force in the Manufacturing USA network of Institutes. Formed through a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and FlexTech Alliance, NextFlex is a consortium of companies, academic institutions, non-profits and state, local and federal governments with a shared goal of advancing U.S. manufacturing of FHE. Since its formation in 2015, NextFlex’s elite team of thought leaders, educators, problem solvers and manufacturers have come together to collectively facilitate innovation, narrow the manufacturing workforce gap and promote sustainable manufacturing ecosystems. For more information, click here.


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