In May 2022, NextFlex commissioned a study to gain insight into the Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) manufacturing ecosystem along with the markets and plans for commercialization. Input was obtained from member and non-member companies to create a representative view of the current state of the FHE manufacturing ecosystem. This was the initial gathering of data to assess the FHE ecosystem and has successfully established a baseline. From the data collected in this study, FHE seems to be at a cusp of transitioning from an early-stage technical curiosity into a viable commercial reality.
The definition of Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) was provided to all participants as the field that exists at the intersection of printed and additively manufactured electronics with conventional semiconductor devices and discrete components. FHE is broader, though, than is sometimes interpreted from this description, as FHE also includes electronics that can stretch, bend and twist, those which are conformally built onto surfaces in three dimensions, and those which are additively manufactured in three dimensions, regardless of mechanical flexibility. Advanced semiconductor packaging and additive printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing are areas of increasing focus as novel additive techniques provide distinct capabilities on both flexible and rigid substrates.
In this initial study, 30 companies participated with 20 of those being members and 10 non-members. These companies represent a good cross-section of participation in the FHE Ecosystem (Figure 1) and in the market segments they serve (Figure 2). This breadth of participation enhanced the assessment of the FHE ecosystem as compiled.
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