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Key presentations from companies like Boeing highlight FLEX Conference and Exhibition 2022, held in concert with the annual SEMICON West show this week in San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
SEMICON West claims to be “North America’s premier microelectronics exhibition and conference,” uniting players across the entire electronics manufacturing and design supply chain.
The FLEX Conference, tucked into an alcove near the front entrance to SEMICON, boasts about 25 vendors and three presentations areas for papers and tech talks. This compact arrangement feels just about right within the expanse of SEMICON.
The aim of the FLEX Conference is to feature the latest advances in flexible and printed electronics, including applications that deepen interactions between users and their surroundings, including innovations emerging from public-private partnerships.
Now, those R&D efforts are just beginning to roll out. While the series of keynotes on Tuesday offered plenty calls to action, the most compelling was by John D. Williams, a Technical Fellow at Boeing, whose presentation was titled “Multilayer Flexible Electronic Devices for IoT and RF Applications.”
He outlined several flex designs and capabilities that Boeing R&D has developed and turned into replicable processes required for the flexible electronics Boeing aircraft need—and for which Boeing is looking for manufacturers to take on that work. To me, the message from Boeing is: If you build this, we will buy it.
In addition to the wide range of exhibitors and conference presentation, the FLEX Conference also includes university level research and presentations, providing academic R&D room to showcase their work as well. Presenters aim to speak about materials, application, and market outlook of flexible electronics.
If this show proves anything, it’s that while printed electronics has been working quietly in the background, I expect to see some major strides occurring over the next couple of years.
Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
We recently held a roundtable with a team of printed electronic circuit experts from companies that run the gamut: John Lee and Kevin Miller of Insulectro, Mike Wagner of Butler Technologies, Tom Bianchi of Eastprint, and John Voultos of Sheldahl Flexible Technologies. In this first part of the roundtable, the participants dispel 10 common myths that have been floating around regarding printed electronic circuits (PEC). They also discuss the progress that’s been made in PEC development in just the past decade, and what the future may hold for this technology.
Cody Stetzel, Cadence Design Systems
I have the tendency to try to replicate the delicacies I’ve ordered at restaurants in my own kitchen. One of my latest attempts at creating restaurant-worthy dishes was a Korean pancake that’s crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. With my amateur cooking skills, it proved to be an impossible task—I could either make only a hard pancake or one that was total fluff. While I’m still struggling to figure out the trick to bringing together the different textures of a Korean pancake, I’ve had more success in bringing together the hardboard elements and flexible PCB elements of a rigid-flex PCB. Compared to making Korean pancakes, striking the right balance of flexibility and rigidity on a rigid-flex PCB is easy if you abide by rigid-flex PCB design guidelines.
Sean Nachnani, NextFlex
Emerging innovations in the flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) domain are enabling new applications across multiple industries due to their highly flexible structures and additive manufacturing processes. The smaller form factor, lighter weight, and conformal capabilities are ideal for IoT edge devices in health and fitness monitoring, military asset identification and tracking, automotive displays and sensors, aerospace radar, and soft robotics. Significant industry research led by NextFlex is optimizing the processes from design through manufacture for FHE products.