NextFlex to create flexible circuit system
Setting the stage for smart technologies catering to the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor applications like wearable devices, a US Air Force Research Laboratoryled project is working with NextFlex. The combined efforts have resulted in the functional samples of flexible Arduino circuit board systems made by using a flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) manufacturing process.
Lightweight, low-cost and flexible electronic systems are the key to next-generation smart technologies for military as well as other commercial applications.
And the possibilities for FHE technology are virtually limitless. “Proving the manufacturability of this technology through an open source platform will expand FHE’s reach even further by providing everyone — from industrial
product developers to high school students—the opportunity to innovate on new electronics concepts,” said Dr Benjamin Leever, the AFRL Advanced Development Team leader and NextFlex Government CTO.
Arduinos are microcontrollers, or integrated circuits, that are programmable through open source software. They can be used by anyone to quickly prototype an electronic device.
The flexible Arduino circuit board can enable rapid innovation in flexible and wearable devices for applications including monitoring a person’s hydration status, glucose levels, heart rate and more. In the process of developing the flexible hybrid device, the NextFlex team reduced the number of manufacturing process steps by more than 60 per cent and the weight of the circuit by 98 per cent, ultimately increasing the possibilities for design applications. The high performance of a traditional microcontroller circuit is maintained through this combination of surfacemounted and printed features.
Leveraging on the open source community built around Arduino helped the US Air Force accelerate innovation, enabling new technologies with tremendous potential. The NextFlex institute played a key role in this innovation process, and acted as a valuable asset for the US Department of Defense and the industry.