General Electric quickly recognized that wearables are increasingly becoming the future of both the technology and health sectors. With this forethought in mind, GE Global Research partnered with Binghamton University, the Rochester Institute of Technology, Infinite Corridor Technologies and NextFlex to develop a revolutionary, ubiquitous sensor systems for medical devices and to help combat the key fundamental challenges of integrating stretchable printed leads in wearables.
To accomplish this mission, GE Global Research and its partners came to America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) Manufacturing Innovation Institute, NextFlex, to craft FHE platform technologies for the fabrication of wireless, pervasive, and low-cost medical devices. With NextFlex’s support, they helped solve a major fundamental challenge of keeping device design and costs low through the implementation of FHE technology. The design approach addresses system partitioning between printed and standard flex, decreasing the wearable hardware size through FHE capability and addressing cost pressures. With flexible ECG electronics embedded deep within the printed sensor boards, the design is able to bend and move with the body while monitoring internal vital signs – critical to making a wearable functional for everyday use.
Key deliverables of this NextFlex funded project also included reporting on printing and characterization of RF components, reliability assessment of printed interconnections on various materials, including polyimide and thermoplastic polyurethane substrates, and interconnection methods for ball grid array devices to flex.
With the assistance of NextFlex’s FHE expertise, GE Global Research is propelling the future of wearable tech through seamless integration, and has two prototype designs of wearable, wireless 3-lead ECG modules for clinical use. The combination of a flexible substrate with a health monitoring platform will accelerate the adoption of wireless and FHE technologies in the digital health era and pave way for more miniaturized, low cost wearables in the future.
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