COVID-19 RESOURCES FOR NEXTFLEX MEMBERS

Advancing America's Manufacturing Ecosystem

Through an innovative approach to developing a robust FHE ecosystem, NextFlex has not only established a cost competitive and responsive network of suppliers, but we have created a mechanism that helps Agencies move projects through the development pipeline more quickly, at a lower cost and requiring fewer resources to complete. By leveraging NextFlex’s Cooperative Agreement with the Department of Defense, Agency project work can move through the budget approval process in as little as 30 days resulting in faster speed to market and lower administrative costs overall.

In addition to a rapid budget approval process and access to NextFlex’s world class design and engineering resources, agency partners also have priority access to the NextFlex Technology Hub where they can fabricate fully integrated FHE devices, conduct pilot-scale manufacturing and undertake broader advanced packaging development projects.

Resources

Tech Hub

NextFlex development and manufacturing capabilities.

Tech Hub

NextFlex development and manufacturing capabilities.

Agency/Project Support

Helping partners achieve manufacturing goals.

Agency/Project Support

Helping partners achieve manufacturing goals.

Project Calls

Calling all tech visionaries and 'big idea' people.

Project Calls

Calling all tech visionaries and 'big idea' people.

Workforce Training Programs

Developing the workforce of the future.

Workforce Training Programs

Developing the workforce of the future.

Membership

Investing in America's manufacturing ecosystem.

Membership

Investing in America's manufacturing ecosystem.

About NextFlex

Building the next big thing in FHE.

About NextFlex

Building the next big thing in FHE.

Through the Technology Hub, NextFlex has established a proven and reliable mechanism for problem-solving both design and executional challenges facing the DOD, and the greater industrial base as well. In the process, we have facilitated the creation of an efficient system to transfer acquired capabilities to the Institute’s membership freeing
NextFlex to continuously identify and address relevant problem/opportunity areas challenging the DOD, other areas of the Federal Government, and our member companies that support both.

Also, with all devices produced at the NextFlex Technology Hub now ITAR-compliant, and with both the Army and Air Force Research Laboratories serving important roles on NextFlex’s technical councils, our agency partners can rest assured that all projects are approached with an eye toward meeting the needs and requirements of America’s military in both the short and longer term.

Similarly, with the NextFlex Technology Hub’s adherence to Quality Standard Requirements known as 21 CFR Part 820, all medical device production in NextFlex’s Technology Hub meets FDA regulatory requirements.

Workforce Development Support:

NextFlex’s Learning Programs Division has rapidly established itself as a national leader in workforce development programs. Leveraging the Institute’s strategic position as an intermediary between education, industry, and economic development, NextFlex Learning Programs has developed a robust portfolio of products and programs, including the award-winning FlexFactor, that is actively assisting in the creation of the talent needed by both the broader commercial sector, and the defense industrial base in particular.

The Learning Programs approach blends the implementation of new programs with existing activities to actively increase awareness of the breadth of education and career pathways associated with advanced manufacturing, while also providing skill-development opportunities for existing engineering talent already working in the advanced manufacturing sector.

Still, while the existing Learning Programs portfolio addresses a broad spectrum of products and programs ranging from awareness and skill building to enterprise training, additional work remains. Leveraging the success FHE has afforded NextFlex in helping to attract and guide the next generation of advanced manufacturing workers, NextFlex Learning Programs is now beginning to widen its purview to address some of the corresponding societal, business, and further workforce transformation that is required to maintain and grow advanced manufacturing leadership in the U.S.

For more information on how NextFlex Learning Programs can develop a tailored workforce development initiative for your company, click here.

Success Stories

GE’s Wearable Sensor Platform for Medical Devices

Overview

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.

NextFlex’s Role

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.

Benefits

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.

For more information, please contact info@nextflex.us

NASA AstroSense (In-Space Manufacturing, Multi Material Fabrication with Printed Electronics)

Overview

NASA developed a next-generation wearable flexible sensor array for astronaut crew health monitoring, also known as “AstroSense”. Multi-disciplinary teams from Marshall Space Flight Center, Ames Research Center, and Flight Surgeons at Johnson Space Center all collaborated with NextFlex to design a wearable sensor array aimed at monitoring astronaut’s health and vital levels in space.

NextFlex’s Role

In the span of four months, the NextFlex team contributed to the development efforts of the next generation sensor for astronaut crew health monitoring by building and delivering a specific piece of hardware called a potentiostat for performing electrochemical analysis and printed disposable electrodes for use with artificial sweat samples. The team also performed biocompatibility tests, designed an encapsulating enclosure for moisture and dust ingress protection, and delivered several mock-up prototypes for demonstration purposes.

Benefits

With the support of NextFlex, the AstroSense device consists of two main components: a reusable electronic reader and a disposable electrode sensor. The reusable reader contains an antenna for wireless communication, electronic circuitry for data collection, processing and transmission for astronaut crew health monitoring, a coin battery and silicone encapsulant. The disposable electrode sensor consists of a flexible substrate with conductive electrodes and a stack of adhesives. The disposable sensor is attached to a reusable reader on one side and to human skin on other side. This next-generation wearable health monitor will allow NASA’s flight surgeons and health professionals to gain valuable data on the effect of stress upon the astronaut’s performance. This will lead to long-term improvements in the astronaut’s performance and overall health.

For more information, please contact info@nextflex.us

Profusa’s Skin-worn Reader for Continuous Oxygen Monitoring

Overview

Profusa had a vision for its Lumee™ Oxygen Platform to be used in patients with potential acute and/or chronic changes in tissue oxygen levels who may benefit from continuous monitoring. Before it could be commercially available, Profusa had a key issue to resolve with the wearable reader of its injectable hydrogel sensor.

“Ten years ago, you couldn’t build a reader that could sense multiple signals and filter out the ‘noise’ of the body’s other signals, all while being small and skin-worn,” explains Ben Hwang, CEO of Profusa. “With the latest advancements in flexible hybrid electronics technology, it’s just mature enough to work the way we want — primarily because we selected the right domain expertise partner to work with, namely NextFlex.”

NextFlex’s Role

Rather than try and balance a complex development cycle across multiple R&D and manufacturing facilities, Profusa found a one-stop­-shop solution at NextFlex’s Technology Hub in San Jose, which is also an FDA compliant manufacturing facility. Here, Profusa found it could develop its solution with NextFlex’s assistance in just four months while having the right conversations to move its reader design toward production at scale.

By combining expertise in flexible hybrid electronics, engineering, materials science and optics, NextFlex took Profusa’s design work and design criteria, and pushed them toward a smaller, flexible form that works in harmony with Profusa’s tissue sensors. In the end, improvements to durability, flexibility and performance were all achieved. NextFlex went on to manufacture over 1000 wearable units with increasing yield and productivity by the end of 2019.

Benefits

Through NextFlex’s aid, Profusa was able to take technology that could previously only be deployed in a hospital setting and move toward having a device with clinical-grade information in a wearable and flexible form that’s attractive to consumers. Profusa has been able to respond to the accelerated adoption of wireless and flexible hybrid electronics technologies in the digital health era, moving towards the launch of a wearable device that generates data that medical doctors and consumers can get the most out of.

For more information, please contact info@nextflex.us

The Boeing Company and Georgia Institute of Technology’s Flexible Antenna Array Technology (FAAT)

Overview

The Boeing Company and its partners the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), had a vision to build flexible antenna arrays using advanced flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) manufacturing. They partnered with NextFlex, a Manufacturing Innovation Institute with the shared goal of advancing U.S. manufacturing of FHE, to help develop mature multilayer patterning technologies for array antennas.

NextFlex’s Role

NextFlex provided funding support, technology insight and guidance to Boeing and Georgia Tech to produce printed carbon nanotubes and flexible ferrites, an array with surface adherence, flexible electronic packaging and low crosstalk feed technology. The partners tested the performance of antennas at various bends and environmental conditions to generate radio frequency (RF) data on printed transmission lines, a printed assembly of packaged low-noise amplifier (LNA) and printed magnetic film to ensure optimal coverage.

By combining expertise in FHE and advanced manufacturing, the partners developed a process to print antenna elements and a microstrip feed network on flexible hybrid substrates without vertical interconnect access greatly reducing fabrication time and costs. These multilayer antenna arrays include positive, negative, positive sourcing (PnP) electronics, patterned ferrites, environmental coatings to protect the arrays from harsh conditions and flex diodes and interconnects (ICs) to help the antennas transmit and receive signals from various angles. Collaboration between these companies initiated a fundamental foundation for advancement in FHE.

Benefits

With NextFlex’s support, Boeing and Georgia Tech were able to collaborate to take the developed FHE antenna design and fabrication methods and create 2×2, 4×4 and 8×8 printed panel antenna arrays. They have been able to respond to the accelerated adoption of wireless and FHE technologies in the digital aerial navigation era, moving towards the launch of FHE “skins” for UAVs to be used in advanced commercial and military applications.

For more information, please contact info@nextflex.us

Wireless Authenticator

Secure authentication of personnel requires two or more-factors typically known as something a person knows (password, pin code etc.) something a person has (access card, dongle, etc.) & something a person is (like a fingerprint). Two-factor authentication is considered secure as it requires two separate factors to authorize access to systems.  For the Department of Defense (DoD) secure access to systems is provided by a combination of a Personal Identification Number (PIN) and a Common Access Card (CAC) smartcard.  While this system is secure and easy to use in office environments, it is not operationally feasible to use a smartcard, such as a CAC, in tactical or combat environments.

As a supplement to the CAC, NextFlex has worked with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) to develop alternative authenticator form factors that are flexible, wireless and that can be worn by placing in a pocket or embedded in clothing to allow authentication to a platform via a wireless link.  The first version of this prototype contained a standard security chip which was attached to a printed Near Field Communications (NFC) antenna to allow authentication via NFC readers connected to a workstation.  The small form factor and flexible nature of the device allows it to be readily placed or embedded in clothing to provide discrete secure access to a system.  The second-iteration of this prototype added the capability of utilizing a Bluetooth link.  The Bluetooth link allows for authentication from a longer distance enabling a more functional worn device.  These devices required the development of printed antennas as well as a strong encapsulation process for the devices to ensure their reliability in the field. The 2nd prototype devices had a good range while also being resistant to water infiltration.

These new devices have allowed the team at CCDC to investigate and develop new, improved & innovative ways of authenticating soldiers in the field.  Helping to better ensure the security of DoD systems.

“Partnering with NextFlex has been an exciting and eye opening experience. The opportunity to iteratively develop, test & demonstrate prototypes at low cost & minimal impact to acquisition schedules allows us to rapidly advance and field incremental and innovative capabilities to the soldier,” said Ogedi Okwudishu, project lead for the Tactical Identity and Access Management program.

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