Flex Conference 2013 Focuses on Multi-Market Applications for Flexible, Printed Electronics
Feb 6, 2013
Printable spacecraft, nano-bio sensors, miles of rolls of efficient solar material and other groundbreaking applications of flexible, printed electronics were featured at the recently concluded 2013 Flex Conference. Overall attendance at the 12th annual event exceeded previous years. Attendees, speakers and exhibitors came from Asia, Europe, North America and South Africa - illustrating the penetration of flexible, printed electronics into global markets. World-class companies Avery Dennison, Corning, DuPont, EMD/Merck, PARC, Panasonic, and Philips among others shared their insights into getting products from the laboratory to commercialization.
For example, innovating from the core, presented by opening speaker Dave Edwards, former CTO of Avery Dennison, explained how companies can achieve economic success by penetrating into new business segments. Cross functional teams with domain experience are essential, according to Dr. Edwards.
Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Plastic Logic, shared his views of how the science of printed electronics must become a manufacturable product. “Trying” isn’t enough; organizations must “do” in order to achieve success. Manufacturing companies, especially, cannot be concerned with one variable only, as in a lab environment, but must take into account many factors simultaneously such as yield, cost, lifetime and other factors contributing to the bottom line.
The conference emphasized how printed and “smart” electronics turned the corner this year. Printed and flexible technology is being used to create systems with more interactivity, providing such applications as smart packaging and smart sensor systems for health monitoring of people and structures. Many examples were presented throughout the conference including the following:
- Printable memory from Thin Film Electronics and PARC. With an addressable thin film tag market of $20-25B. Thinfilm president Davor Sutija explained how printed memory enables the Internet of Things (IoT).
- A printable spacecraft concept presented by Kendra Short of the Jet Propulsion Labs. She explained how a notional mission to Mars could serve as a “reference mission” for designing and fabricating an integrated functional platform prototype including sensor, power, and RF capability.
- Several bio-medical devices such as a vital signs monitor developed by Physical Optics Corporation under a grant from FlexTech Alliance, and sensor systems from MC10 that measure the impact of head trauma.
On the conference’s opening day, FlexTech Alliance announced that it has received an award from the U.S. Air Force Research Lab for a virtual nano-bio manufacturing consortium. Bringing together world-class researchers and building prototype monitoring devices are the new nano-bio manufacturing consortium’s primary goals. Jeff Stuart of Lockheed Martin gave an inspiring presentation detailing the significance of combining nanotechnology, biotechnology, additive manufacturing, and flexible electronics with this new consortium.
Other important work relevant to “smart systems” was presented such as continued improvement in TFT technology beyond that needed for displays, innovations in flexible materials including flexible glass, and breakthroughs in processes enabling large scale manufacturing of flexible products.
The state of the art facilities at the Phoenix Convention Center allowed for hands on exhibits with operating tools and equipment from NovaCentrix, Sun-Tec, and Frontier Industrial Technology among other equipment manufacturers. Abbie Gregg Inc. showcased a concept for an ever expanding materials registry database for the printed electronics industry.
The 2014 Flex Conference is scheduled for February 3-6, 2014 at the Phoenix, Ariz., Convention Center.