The Second Annual NextFlex Innovation Day was held on September 21st at NextFlex in San Jose, Calif. Designed to be a celebration of progress made on project work, ramp-up of the Technology Hub, and results in Workforce Development activities, it turned out to be much, much more. Over 300 people came to hear about how NextFlex and its members are working together to realize the goal of “electronics on everything,” and see firsthand the flexible hybrid electronic (FHE)-enabled technology displays that will not only improve people’s daily lives, but will improve the safety and security of our warfighters. NextFlex almost doubled its membership over the past year, with the exciting announcement that Qualcomm had joined that day, bringing the number of members to 80.
Executive Director Malcolm J. Thompson opened the event by thanking members and government partners, educators, and elected officials in attendance for generous support over the past year, in helping us to achieve our mission of catalyzing FHE adoption. NextFlex and its members are proving that the Institute is a true enabler of innovation as we celebrate 24 member generated projects valued at $45M (including cost-share) and which represent 212 months of project innovation. Notable speakers included Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, (CA-19) who was instrumental in the passage of RAMI and establishing NextFlex in San Jose; Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17); Dr. Jerry McGinn, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy; Col. Charles Ormsby, Acting Director, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate; and Dr. Debbie Budd, San José-Evergreen Community College Chancellor and FlexFactor™ community college partner.
Forty-five FHE technology displays were the star of the day, including the Lockheed Martin Desert Hawk III drone (pictured left) with Steve Gonya of Lockheed Martin explaining how FHE will be incorporated into the next generation of the drone to FlexFactor™ alumna Kristyn Nguyen of Wilcox High School. In the photo on the far right, Dr. Andrew Burns of GE Global Research is demonstrating a wearable bio-fluid monitoring patch system for continuous monitoring of hydration for athletes and soldiers while Malcolm Thompson and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren look on. Other notable displays included DuPont’s stretchable electronic inks and films that transform fabrics into active, connected, intelligent garments; Georgia Tech’s flexible sensors for wireless human-machine robot interfaces; and many more.
First-off-the-production-line versions of the flexible Arduino board were demonstrated by NextFlex. Arduino is an open source microcontroller-based system for automation and IOT applications. In its rigid form the Arduino microcontoller board is widely used for prototyping of new products and has freely available compilers and hardware extension kits – making it a favorite of the maker community, product developers, and teachers alike. Increasingly, there are many devices that require flexible form factors so redesigning the rigid board to one that is flexible is of interest to the FHE community. NextFlex developed and tested a complete end-to-end manufacturing process and results were shared with Innovation Day attendees.
Window tours of NextFlex Technology Hub were enjoyed by attendees as well. Process capabilities displayed included electronic printing and additive processes and curing systems, component integration and assembly, and test and measurement systems. Installed in state-of-the art class 10,000 clean rooms with utilities and environmental controls, all the equipment is operated by experienced technical personnel and is available as a collaboration center for NextFlex members.
FlexFactor™ – NextFlex’s project-based STEAM learning program for high school students that combines skill-building in entrepreneurship, product development, and FHE technology – was also on full display at Innovation Day. Seven FlexFactor™ alumni were present to tell their stories about their experience and how FlexFactor™ has changed their outlook on manufacturing as a career choice. FlexFactor™ students are challenged to define a real-world human health problem and develop a business model for an FHE technology solution, and at the close of the four-week program, students pitch their product and business plans to a “shark tank” style panel of industry mentors. What started as an idea on a white board not even 12 months ago, FlexFactor™ will reach almost 2,000 Santa Clara County high school students this academic year, and considerably more as the program is adopted nationally.
On the day before Innovation Day, ten equipment vendors briefed members on the tools installed at NextFlex as part of the Technical Council meeting, and then conducted hands-on demonstrations in the clean room with NextFlex staff for nearly 30 members on the day following Innovation Day. A few members expressed interest in spending more time at the facility, and/or contracting with NextFlex for manufacturing or process development work.
All in all, it was a celebration and affirmation that NextFlex, and its members and partners, are true enablers of innovation. With this amount of enthusiasm, technical brilliance, and momentum, let’s see what we can do over the next 12 months! Thanks again to all participants, and a special thanks to SEMI, who supported the event.Back to all news