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NextFlex Special Call: NF-21-006-GP

Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) funded follow on to drive manufacturing development for fully flexible high performing electronics

The purpose of this Special Call is to provide public notification of additional research areas of interest to DTRA in advancing FHE manufacturing in the United States.



Prior to this effort, OSD ManTech, DTRA, and ARL have collaborated with multiple industry and other ecosystem sources to develop a portable x-ray imaging system for dismount and expeditionary explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) applications. This system contains a flexible thin film transistor (TFT) photodiode imaging array and supporting analog and digital electronics all packaged in a lightweight but rigid aluminum chassis.

Proposals are sought from the NextFlex membership and FHE ecosystem to work with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) for designs, packaging, and support for the electronics and digital interfaces for existing x-ray imager panels to demonstrate a fully flexible x-ray imager system. This DTRA funded project is expected to collaborate with the MSTP Flexible x-ray ManTech program. The performer will assist DTRA in establishing the design parameters of a US manufactured flexible TFT X-Ray array; continue development of a field deployable fully flexible X-ray DDA; conduct Testing and Evaluation (T&E) and assess design of the fully flexible DDA for improvements or transition to a manufactured product as per the following tasks. The designs shall work towards a final system design that is ultrathin (less than 10 mm) and a design with the imager array in a semi-flexible form-factor. This project is not to address the flexible x-ray imager panel manufacturing. Performers are expected to have expertise in x-ray system analog and digital electronics designs and knowledge to support flexible x-ray imager array manufacturing performed by a third party.



Task 1 Complete Ultra-Thin X-ray Imager DDA system build based on existing design: This task supports additional development if problems with the FY19 designed flexible X-ray array require extensive debugging or redesign efforts. Additionally, this task supports basic system noise and image quality testing to determine functionality.

Task 2: Reduce chassis minimum edges: Explore methods to reduce minimum edges of array by folding array or chip on flex (COF) chips so readout electronics sit below imager. Explore the trade-space between edge width and package thickness. Propose a package with the data readout chips and gate drivers folded under the array to minimize dead space.

Task 3: Develop hardware and software to support a 6.3”x 8.4” active area array pitch X-Ray array. The proposer will assess current main boards and provide update designs to utilize X-Ray mask set design. This work includes modifying the main board hardware to add additional memory to the field-programmable gate array (FPGA) and modifying the array board hardware to accommodate additional readout and gate driver chips. Additionally, we will modify the capture software on both the main CPU and the android control program to produce higher resolution images.

Task 4: Build Ultra-Thin Field Deployable X-ray Imager DDA system. Build four systems using the commercial-grade manufactured flexible arrays.  X-Ray array and Carrier PCB must be semi-rigid flexible and detachable from the main and power PCB on the DDA system. X-Ray array and Carrier PCB will be tethered to the DDA main computer and power PCB via USB or other compatible transfer cable. DTRA will determine the desired chassis design comparing the tradeoffs between the folded packaged design developed in Task 3.2 and the ultra-thin designed.

Task 5a: Support Flex X-ray Array Design and Development. The performer shall support the ongoing flexible x-ray array mask set design.

Task 5b: Develop array testing electronics. Design and build testing electronics to support the commercial grade manufacturer array fabrication and quality control screening process.

Task 6: Project Management. The performer shall provide NextFlex with Quarterly work completion, progress and project status reporting summary with financials.

Task 7: The performer shall provide DTRA with Monthly work completion, progress, and project status reports.



Task Type Description
1 Deliverable Complete, upgrade or repair three ultra-thin X-Ray imaging systems from FY19 SOO Task 2.1 as required and determined by DTRA.
2 Deliverable Reduce chassis minimum edges.
3 Milestone Develop hardware and software to support commercial-grade manufactured x-ray backplane.
4 Deliverable Build four ultra-thin field deployable prototype x-ray DDA systems using commercial-grade manufactured x-ray backplanes. Prototypes delivered to DTRA.
5a Deliverable Support commercial-grade manufactured x-ray mask set design and development.
5b Milestone Support Flex X-ray Array Design and Development Subtask B: Develop array testing electronics


6 Deliverable NextFlex quarterly reports.
7 Deliverable DTRA monthly status reports.



The recipient shall participate in all activities associated with the disciplines of the organization’s Industrial Security, Information Security, Personnel Security, Operations Security (OPSEC), and Antiterrorism programs, following appropriate measures in each program as required for this particular agreement. Security measures are required to reduce program vulnerability from successful adversary collection, exploitation of critical information, and violations of export control requirements. The prime recipient shall ensure all subrecipients, if applicable, conform to these requirements as required by the prime recipient.



Any potential critical program information (CPI) generated as part of this effort will be reviewed to determine the need for a PPP or to be included as part of an existing PPP.

Security Requirements – Information Regarding Non-US Citizens Assigned to this Project

(a) Contractor employees requiring access to USAF bases, AFRL facilities, and/or access to U.S. Government Information Technology (IT) networks in connection with the work on this contract must be U.S. citizens. For the purpose of base and network access, possession of a permanent resident card (“Green Card”) does not equate to U.S. citizenship. This requirement does not apply to foreign nationals approved by the U.S. Department of Defense or U.S. State Department under international personnel exchange agreements with foreign governments. Any waivers to this requirement must be granted in writing by the Contracting Officer prior to providing access. The above requirements are in addition to any other contract requirements related to obtaining a Common Access Card (CAC).

(b) For purposes of paragraph (a) above, if an IT network/system does not require AFRL to endorse a contractor’s application to said network/system in order to gain access, the organization operating the IT network/system is responsible for controlling access to its system. If an IT network/system requires an U.S. Government sponsor to endorse the application in order for access to the IT network/system; AFRL will only endorse the following types of applications; consistent with the requirements above:

(1) Contractor employees who are U.S. citizens performing work under this contract.

(2) Contractor employees who are non-U.S. citizens and who have been granted a waiver.

Any additional access restrictions established by the IT network/system owner apply.



Proposal responses should be submitted to

Complete Proposals should contain the following elements:

  1. Cover Page
  2. Technical Proposal (Attachment 2 – Detailed Research Plan (DRP))
  3. Cost Proposal (Attachment 1 – Project Costs and Financial Reporting)



Close of business on Friday, April 16