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An Interview with Rafael Tudela, Application Engineer, Tapecon Inc.

Interview with Rafael Tudela, Application Engineer, Tapecon Inc.

Tapecon Inc. – a medium-sized corporate NextFlex member – partners with product teams to develop, scale, and deliver better products through responsive and reliable printing, converting, and advanced manufacturing. Tapecon provides expertise in specialized printing and converting, printed flexible electronics, and outsourced manufacturing of disposable devices for medical and industrial markets. Established in 1919, Tapecon is a 5-generation, family-owned business based in Buffalo, New York.

Q: Rafael, tell us about your role at Tapecon and the focus of your organization.

A: I am an Application Engineer at Tapecon, focused on the Printed Electronics Division. In my role, I actively work on further developing flexible hybrid electronics capabilities at Tapecon.

Tapecon has always explored innovative technologies and adapted manufacturing methods to fit market trends. Tapecon has been manufacturing Flexible Hybrid Electronic (FHE) devices since the early 1990’s, in a broad definition, through printed circuitry for membrane switches. As the world moves to supplement traditional circuit boards with FHE, Tapecon continues to evolve manufacturing processes to support the trend.

Tapecon’s experience leverages current manufacturing capabilities and material knowledge to better serve the FHE community. In most instances there is a gap translating new technology developed in a lab into a fully manufactured product. Tapecon helps close that gap by being involved in the FHE discussions to help guide technology to manufacturability.

Q: You are a very strong supporter and a recognized leader in flexible and hybrid electronics manufacturing. How did you find your passion for this emerging technology?

A: I have always been passionate about electronics since childhood, which eventually led to a degree in Electrical Engineering and Electronics Engineering. I started working at Tapecon because they are using additive manufacturing instead of subtractive manufacturing via conductive inks, which was different from my formal education and very interesting to me. Also, the growth in the industry has allowed my passion to expand even more.

Q: What is a key innovation that will enable widespread adoption of FHE and related technologies, and what application areas are you working in?

A: Roll to Roll printing and converting will be crucial to FHE adoption, especially smart labels and low cost FHE, because roll to roll allows you to produce large volumes in a shorter time. This is critical for manufacturing costs because there is currently a lot of per part and by hand application.

The application areas Tapecon is working in are mainly smart labels and wearables. Areas of focus are Supply Chain Logistics, Asset Monitoring, and Healthcare. For smart labels we are looking at environmental sensing and tracking. For wearables we are looking at low cost at home patient monitoring.

Q: You have been active on project calls and in the Human Monitoring Systems Technical Working Group & Asset Monitoring Systems Technical Working Group. What upcoming activities are you most excited about?

A: I am looking forward to the upcoming Winter Symposium. We will also be participating in SEMI / FLEX 2023, giving us the opportunity to engage and connect with more members and people in the industry. Lastly, I’m looking forward to the return of Innovation Days in 2024, since it’s always a great event for education and collaboration.

Q: You have been an active member of NextFlex and have participated in a variety of ways. What has the membership experience been like for you?

A: The community created by NextFlex is an excellent model of collaboration between manufacturers, labs, and end users. Being able to have academics and manufacturing in the same conversations allows for accelerated advancement of FHE. It gives the chance for industry to impact technology before the technology impacts industry. By working hand and hand, technology can go from lab to scale with less obstacles. Also, because of our involvement and membership, Tapecon has invested more on FHE capabilities.

To hear more from Rafael Tudela about Flexible Hybrid Electronics, click here to listen to his podcast appearance.