As part of the Department of Defines effort to partner with the private sector and academia in the new frontiers of manufacturing, Secretary of Defence Ash Carter announced that the Obama administration will award a Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics to a consortium of 162 companies, universities, and non-profits led by the FlexTech Alliance.
A truly collaborative consortium, the FlexTech team includes more than 160 companies, nonprofits, independent research organizations and universities. The cooperative agreement will be managed by the U.S. Air Force Research laboratory (AFRL) and will receive $75 million in DoD funding over five years matched with more than $90 million from industry, academia, and local governments.
Members of the consortium include industry leaders such as Boeing and General Motors, as well as a number of leading research universities. A total of $171 million in funding — $75 million in federal grants and more than $96 million in non-federal contributions — support the initiative. This newest Manufacturing Innovation Institute, funded by the Department of Defence, is the most recent of seven launched in the last three years by the Obama administration to reinvigorate manufacturing leadership and job creation in the U.S.
Flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing describes the innovative production of electronics and sensors packaging through new techniques in electronic device handling and high precision printing on flexible, stretchable substrates. The potential array of products range from wearable devices to improved medical health monitoring technologies, and will certainly increase the variety and capability of sensors that already interconnect the world. The technologies promise dual use applications in both the consumer economy and the development of military solutions for the warfighter.
Stretchable, bendable, wearable next-generation electronics open the doors to countless innovations — from smart bandages to sensors embedded in bridges and airplanes — but the technology is not yet developed enough for the devices to be manufactured and sold at a large scale and low cost. For consumers, low-cost FHEs could make a big impact, particularly for medical care. Advances in these devices and their manufacturing could eventually create a world where someone could walk into a local drugstore and buy bandages that monitor and treat wounds, or an arm patch that measures glucose levels and delivers insulin.
Researchers will be working to develop and improve flexible electronic devices as well as low-cost and scalable ways to manufacture those devices, like roll-to-roll manufacturing: the process of creating FHEs on rolls of flexible plastic or foil similar to plastic wrap and aluminium foil. In addition to research efforts, the manufacturing initiative includes a program in education and workforce development run locally by the regional branches of the partnership.
Flexible electronics opened a new class of future electronics. The foldable, light and durable nature of flexible electronics allows vast flexibility in applications such as display, energy devices and mobile electronics•