FlexFactor: Faith in the Future

Take just a minute and read through this list of new product ideas. Can you identify the common thread? Yes, they are all enabled by advanced technology, but would you believe that these products were all pitched in the last year by high school students?

Drive Alert:

Problem – Drowsy driving.

Solution – A patch placed on the temple can detect if the user is drowsy and wakes up the user.

Technology – Circuits form a flexible patch with sensors detecting theta brain waves indicating if the user is drowsy or daydreaming.

Fast Asleep:

Problem – In 2015, there were nearly 4,000 Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDS) in the U.S., with 1,600 of those being attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Because of this, 59% of working parents do not get enough sleep.

Solution – A small wristband fits snugly around sleeping baby’s arm and measures movements, oxygen, and heart rate, to let you know the baby is safe and sound asleep.

Technology – Mounted flexible hybrid electronic wristband connected to device via Bluetooth.

RA Solutions:

Problem – RA is a chronic, inflammatory disease that causes mild to severe joint pain and stiffness, which can lead to a wide variety of damaged body systems including skin, eyes and lungs.

Solution – The Relieve Sleeve, a pain reliever that administers heating sensations and applies electric pulses tailored to a user’s needs. The functions are embedded in a compression sleeve for easy application around joints and muscles.

Technology – Flexible battery, micro-coiling embedded in the compression fabric, Bluetooth chip to connect to the app, electrical pulses produced from thin wires, wireless charging hub for battery.

Asthmex:

Problem – According to CDC, 25.7 million Americans suffer from asthma. Between the years 1996–2012, 8% of Olympic athletes suffered from asthma. 11.8% of the 7.8 million high school athletes in the U.S. have asthma.

Solution – A chest band with a smart patch to detect asthma symptoms, which triggers and administers medication via auto-injector.

Technology – Smart fibers within the band detect symptoms of an attack specific to the individual.

Just to reiterate, these creative new product ideas have all been pitched by high school students! These students have all participated in the NextFlex FlexFactor program. Growing the next generation of advanced manufacturing workforce is a key component of the NextFlex mission of developing technologies for commercial adoption while supporting a sustainable manufacturing ecosystem.

What is FlexFactor™?

This program is designed to enable youth to engage with next generation technology through entrepreneurial immersion. Over the course of this program, students work in teams to conceptualize a flexible hybrid (FHE) electronics-based hardware device that solves a human health issue or performance monitoring program, develop a business model around the opportunity, and pitch “Shark Tank” style to a panel of industry representatives. In the process, students become immersed in advanced technology and entrepreneurship, are inspired by the advanced manufacturing industry segment, and gain a deeper understanding of the education and career pathways for the future.

This four-week program kicks off in the classroom where students break into teams, are given the mission, the building blocks of flexible hybrid technology, and can define the problem and research hypothesis. Throughout the program, students interact with assigned technical mentors as they develop their product idea.

To read the full version of this column which appeared in the November 2017 issue of The PCB Magazine, click here.

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2017

FlexFactor: Faith in the Future

11-27-2017

Take just a minute and read through this list of new product ideas. Can you identify the common thread? Yes, they are all enabled by advanced technology, but would you believe that these products were all pitched in the last year by high school students?

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Flex Talk: The Man Behind the Curtain

10-03-2017

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” This famous quote from The Wizard of Oz conjures up the image of Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow discovering that the great Wizard of Oz isn’t as grand or as magical as he seems.

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Flex Talk: Knowledge is Power

08-31-2017

“What can I do to help drive cost from my design?” This is a question that I am asked routinely. That question is often followed by, “Can I get these faster?” Both questions are even more predominant when talking about flexible circuits or rigid-flex.

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Flex Talk: Mina—Trouble-Free Soldering to Aluminum

06-22-2017

Thinking about the RFID market and the significant growth projected in this market, I decided to do a little research on RFID tag manufacturing. During this research, I learned of a relatively new offering, Mina, an advanced surface treatment technology that addresses the common constraints of large scale manufacturing of aluminum on polyester (Al-PET) circuits.

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Flex Talk: Squink—Integrating Fabrication and Assembly in one Package

05-01-2017

When walking through trade show expos, I tend to be drawn into product demonstrations on the show floor. Recently, at the IPC APEX EXPO, I stopped in front of a piece of desktop printing equipment that was demonstrating with a flexible circuit.

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Flex Talk: Flex Material Handling—An Inside Peek

04-03-2017

As increasingly more designs move to flexible materials to take advantage of space, weight or packaging benefits, it has been clear that flexible circuits require a different set of rules than their rigid counterparts. We spend substantial time working through the design to ensure that he flex is as robust as possible.

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Flex Talk: Final Surface Finish—How Do You Choose?

01-26-2017

There are so many final surface finish options to choose from today. How do you decide which is best? HASL—both tin-lead and lead-free—immersion tin, immersion silver, ENIG, OSP, and ENIPIG are the primary finishes used in PCB fabrication.

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2016

Flex Talk: A Glimpse into PCB Sales

12-28-2016

Summarizing the feedback from both customers and manufacturers, the most successful PCB salespeople are organized, take a genuine interest in their customers’ needs and business challenges, have a better than average understanding of the PCB industry, fully understand the manufacturer’s strengths and capabilities and advocate for both to find the best solution.

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Flex Talk: Troubleshooting Flex Circuit Applications for Mil/Aero Projects

10-06-2016

I imagine that everyone has been in this position at one time or another: Despite everyone’s best attempt at creating the perfect design, PCB fabrication and assembly, something goes wrong and the troubleshooting begins.

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Flex Talk: Inaugural West Coast Geek-A-Palooza a Fun-filled Success

05-24-2016

Geek-A-Palooza kicked off the 2016 schedule May 12 in Irvine, California. Historically, Geek-A-Palooza has been held in Minneapolis but is expanding this year to include Orange County and Boston as well.

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Flex Talk: PCB Sourcing? One Size Does Not Fit All

04-18-2016

When analyzing a set of PCBs to improve yields and maximize profits, the first place to start is with a critical review of each PCB design. Are there any attributes that are pushing your manufacturer’s standard design rules? If so, is this necessary to the design or is there another approach that could improve the manufacturer’s yields, reduce cost, and ultimately increase profit?

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2015

Flex Talk: Thoughts on the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Forum

11-19-2015

As an attendee at the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Conference held October 28–30, I found myself in a room of people, all eager for technical information, with the opportunity to reconnect with industry friends and to make new connections. The audience was diverse with young people, new to our industry, sitting alongside industry veterans willingly sharing their knowledge and passion for HDI design and flexible circuit technology.

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Designing Flex Circuits for Domestic Prototyping

08-20-2015

Designing a flex circuit to be prototyped domestically? No problem. Designing a rigid-flex circuit for production offshore? Got it. Designing a part that will be prototyped domestically with a seamless transition to offshore production? That can be a little more challenging.

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Rigid Flex: Total Cost Comparison

07-09-2015

The transition to a rigid-flex design from the traditional approach of using cable assemblies to join two or more PCBs has obvious benefits—space, weight, packaging, reliability and increased currently carrying capabilities. Yet many times the perception that rigid-flex is a high-cost solution causes designers and engineers to hesitate.

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Primary Cost Drivers for Flex Circuit Designs

06-25-2015

Someone once told me that the potential applications for flexible circuits are really only limited by our imaginations. After pondering that a bit, I had to agree. In fact, one of the things I like best about what I do is that moment during a discussion when I can see the light bulb go off in a designer's head.

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The Flex-to-Fit Approach

06-04-2015

The flex-to-fit concept reminds us that creativity and engineering go hand-in-hand. When there is not ample space for a conventional approach, this process, which is the convergence of the mechanical world and the electronics world, results in the ability to design a flexible circuit along the contour of an existing, irregularly shaped structure.

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