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We know how to design, build and bend
— The future is flexible

Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) combine the flexibility and low cost of printed plastic film substrates with the performance of semiconductor devices to create a new category of electronics that can bend, stretch, and conform to any shape.

With this approach, there are no rigid printed circuit boards or chip packages, no high-temperature solder processes, and yet, no compromises in system performance.

Not only can FHE systems replace rigid systems in current applications, they can also enable applications that do not currently exist, such as smart bandages for wound monitoring and treatment, electronics that conform to curved surfaces on aircraft or vehicles, and flexible electronics for robotic applications.

In addition to it’s ongoing collaborative programs with members, NextFlex is developing the flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing ecosystem with system and component manufacturers and designers, product developers, and materials and equipment providers.

NextFlex Application Expertise

UAV / Satellite / Aerospace

With a rapid push toward fly by wire and unmanned platforms, the aerospace industry has sought a variety of technological developments, especially those enabled by FHE, to impact communication systems, navigation & surveillance systems, flight control & management systems, mission/tactical systems, and electrical & emergency systems. And because the enabling technology must be streamline for speed and light-weight for cost, FHE finds itself front and center in the evolution of the industry. Similarly, the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in various commercial applications, such as monitoring, surveying and mapping, precision agriculture, aerial remote sensing, and product delivery increases, is resulting in even greater increased demand for NextFlex developed FHE components.

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RF & Communications

A key space that has seen explosive growth in military, commercial and communications is that of RF. From the 77GHz radar range-finding for automotive, to electronic warfare systems to wideband satellite communications to 5G connectivity, or BTLE enabled wearables, or IOT protocols like SigFox and LORA or even true mesh networks, RF is one area where FHE growth continues to accelerate. As a result of this escalating demand for radio frequency components and innovative materials used in manufacturing these devices, NextFlex is playing a lead role in multiple segments within the RF and communications space building everything from NFC and BTLE devices, to complex AESA structures for electronic warfare.

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Medical Devices & Wearables

The recent growth in activity around digital health is the culmination of years of development in the historically disparate fields of advanced wearables and medical sensors, data science and security and genomics and personalized medicine. But what is truly poised to deliver on the long-held vision for improved patient wellness at lower costs, is the addition of better data from better sensors, both benefiting from NextFlex’s leadership advancing the development of FHE. FHE is enabling ultrathin and flexible/ stretchable wearables that can sample biomarkers in sweat, tears, saliva and interstitial fluid as well as convention skin surface sensors. Through new ways to manufacture wearables and intelligent devices and integrated sensor fusion approaches, FHE is enabling medical quality data that ties to gold standards in the medical community. These new devices and wearables encompass a broad range of products addressing both consumer and industrial application and include everything from sports and activity trackers, to healthcare monitors, smart clothing, watches and glasses, and wearable 3D motion trackers. Current FHE enabled devices support both diagnostic and therapeutic applications and are deployed in handhelds, headbands, straps, shoe sensors and a new and emerging class of wearables.

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Automotive

As vehicles continue to get smarter and more electronically complex, new challenges are being introduced throughout the development process. Factor in consumer preference considerations and increasing safety requirements, and the need for savvy and skilled design, prototyping and pilot scale manufacturing capabilities are growing within the automotive PCB market. Early FHE applications are addressing everything from Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and basic safety components that utilize FHE, to body comfort and vehicle lighting and powertrain systems aided by FHE technology.

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Soft Robotics

Whether it’s the ability to fly through the air, race across land, or read your mind (ok, maybe not read your mind but certainly the state of your overall health), soft robots are enabling high adaptability and flexibility for accomplishing routine tasks, as well as improved safety when working with, and around, humans especially in a manufacturing environment. With their unlimited strength and inexhaustible stamina, FHE enabled soft robots (and NextFlex and its members) have found early application in the fields of medicine and manufacturing in particular. Robotic exoskeletons designed for giving mobility back to those who have lost it and/or assisting with moving and lifting objects (e.g., crates, cartons and boxes) to reduce workplace injury, are prime examples of early soft robotic applications. Similarly, assistive soft robots are proving useful to first responders and medical technicians for providing safer and better handling of patients and incapacitated individuals.

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Asset & Structural Health Monitoring

As infrastructure ages and complex systems such as commercial airlines require increased maintenance to keep them operational, intelligent systems that can trigger maintenance and improvements based on the actual state of wear versus the traditional time-based system, become essential. These newly developed systems are monitoring the structural integrity of everything from bridges, buildings, dams, levees, tunnels and other civil infrastructure, to aircraft, wind turbines, and other large structures. As it relates to NextFlex and FHE innovation, the market can be segmented into two categories, wired and wireless, and includes applications impacting civil infrastructure, aerospace & defense, energy, mining, and industrial machinery, automotive, transportation, and marine structures. At present, FHE is improving both the sensors that collect the structural data as well as the hardware to process the sensor inputs that informs the analytics tools providing actionable insights from the data collected.

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