Art Wall, NextFlex, San Jose, CA
Emerging technologies in today’s electronics industry continue to evolve rapidly. A new class of electronics that is enabling new applications and form factors is Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE). Flexible circuits are common, but in our case conductive traces are printed on flexible plastic substrates with a wide variety of methods, including screen printing, ink jet, aerosol jet and gravure offset. While these print methods may be well known, the methods and materials used for electronics applications are new and highly dependent on the desired outcome. The “hybrid” of FHE is defined by leveraging the best of commercial integrated circuits at the wafer level after thinning them so the chip becomes flexible (<50mm). Chips are attached directly to the printed circuits to make unique devices that can be prototyped rapidly and enable new applications. In nearly all cases, we are dealing with new materials or at least new interfaces between flexible plastic substrates, new or repurposed adhesives, and electronic components. The applications are far reaching and include aerospace, automotive, asset monitoring, medical devices and more. NextFlex leads more than 100 members of its consortium, working collaboratively to mature this new breed electronics fabrication into manufacturing jobs in the US.