Sep9

FlexTech: The Flexible Electronics Generation

Posted by Kelly Kirkham

Flexible technology is entering research and development with collaboration from technology’s heavy hitters.

The Pentagon, Boeing and Apple enter a room… No, it’s not the beginning of a bad joke but the beginning of what could be groundbreaking technology. These three technology megastars have joined together with a group of 160 companies with the backing of a $171 million Department of Defense grant. The group will work in San Jose in a new institute called the Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics, nicknamed FlexTech.

This effort stemmed from a Federal initiative launched by President Obama in the early years of his second term. The initiative was created in attempts to encourage research and development for specific technologies including a push for 3D printing in 2012 as well as solar panels and faster internet in 2013.

FlexTech is the seventh branch of the Federal initiative; the team will research technologies used to create electronics that stretch, bend and fold while maintaining connectivity. We can pause for a moment while you dream of the cell phone that you could fold up into a swan and tuck away in your pocket…

According to Reuters this specific technology could be used in batteries that roll up or can be strapped to a chest or back, advanced wearable technologies, or sensors that can fit  into place without having to redesign the entire device. FlexTech could create new devices bringing  older model tanks, planes and vehicles technologically up to date without major reconstruction.   

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter explained that “this is an emerging technology that takes advances flexible materials for circuits, communications, sensors and power and combines them with thinned silicon chips to ultimately produce the next generation of electronic products.”.

The project is scheduled to last for five years and involves leading universities like Harvard, Cornell, Stanford and MIT in the development. The Obama administration along with defense officials claim that the world’s rapid development of new technologies has forced the government to collaborate with the private sector to match pace. No longer will The Pentagon look to fund, research and develop its own technologies as they have in the past.

The FlexTech initiative will be goal structured with different tasks freeing up more grant money. While the goals haven’t been determined as of yet, they will be based around creating smaller, lighter and less expensive technologies for the use of the United States Government as well as private businesses within the country.

While headquartered in San Jose, FlexTech will also have regional hubs spread throughout the United States, located primarily close to partnering Universities. The Obama Administration hopes to eventually stimulate tech education across the country while creating jobs and a greater economy for the entire country.

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