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NextFlex Awards $12 Million to Projects Aimed at Developing Flexible Hybrid Electronics

The awards are intended to spur innovations in healthcare, avionics, and infrastructure monitoring

SAN JOSE, Calif.–NextFlex®, America's Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) Manufacturing Institute, recently announced $12 million (including $7 million in cost-share contribution from participants) in funding for seven projects as part of its Project Call 3.0. The funding will support projects in which researchers are working to develop applications for flexible hybrid electronics that include epidermal sensors for robotic knees to rehabilitate soldiers and industrial workers; a sensor network to monitor and communicate the status of industrial systems and infrastructure; and flexible, "skin-like" health monitoring systems for healthcare patients and athletes.

The Project Call program has awarded a total of over $59 million in development funding to date. Its latest round challenged companies and universities to submit projects that achieved two objectives. The projects not only had to tackle industry-driven problems head on, but also develop components and methods that bridge key gaps in the FHE manufacturing process.

"With Project Call 3.0, we wanted to focus on the future of FHE and how it would be used to improve daily life," said Malcolm Thompson, executive director of NextFlex, in a press release. "The seven projects we've selected not only make exciting developments in fields like healthcare, avionics, or heavy industry, but they're creating building blocks upon which future researchers can create new applications with FHE, accelerating the pace of true FHE innovation."

The seven projects awarded funding include two that are led by Boeing. One is for the development of printed passive elements that evaluate geometric and chemical behavior of printed materials to provide long term stability for resistors, capacitors, and inductors. The other Boeing-led project is attempting to develop a large area sensor network that detects temperature, strain, humidity, pressure, and other conditions and communicates status in industrial systems and infrastructure.

Other projects are the development of thin, flexible systems for disposable, "skin-like" health monitoring systems for healthcare and athletic performance (led by Epicore Biosystems); development of disposable, clinical-grade vital sign monitoring devices designed to increase patient safety and shorten hospital stays (led by GE and Binghamton University); development of a database on additively printed antennas and microwave elements for use in military, avionic and microwave communications (led by Lockheed Martin); development (led by Lockheed Martin and Georgia Tech) of epidermal sensors for robotic exoskeleton knee control for real-time injury management and rehabilitation of soldiers and industrial workers; and development (led by MicroConnex) of low cost flexible circuit fabrication processes using roll-to-roll printing for high volume production.

NextFlex said in the release that Project Call 3.0 shows the continued momentum and interest from industry, academic, and government leaders for finding real-world applications for lightweight, low-cost, flexible, and stretchable devices made possible through FHE. Such devices are said to represent an intersection of printed circuity, passive devices and sensors, and thin, flexible silicon chips. To build on this momentum, NextFlex will be releasing Project Call 4.0 in August.

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