Imagine looking down at your arm and seeing a flexible touch screen wrapped around it or having a helmet that contains impact sensors that can help medics prescribe better treatment with an injury. This is possible with the help of flexible circuits.
What are flexible circuits/electronics? They are ultra-thin silicon bits printed or pasted onto stretchable substrates, freeing computers, their parts, and other electronics from stiff circuit boards and chipsets. They typically only take up 10% the space and weight of wired solutions while having a tighter bend capability.
For years, engineers have been dreaming of building circuitry to fit the device instead of building a device to fit the circuit boards. This new circuitry is thin and lightweight, has a flexible packaging size reduction, and allows the boards to fit where rigid boards could not.
The U.S. Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, recently visited Silicon Valley in California to discuss a partnership with companies to develop more electronic components that bend. Carter recently announced funding for a new research institute to be run by the FlexTech Alliance, to invent and improve “flexible hybrid electronics.” Over the next five years, the U.S. Defense Department will contribute $75 million via the Air Force Research Laboratory, while 96 companies including Apple and Lockheed Martin, 11 labs and universities, and other state and local government partners will pitch in $90 million.
Some applications that military would use this technology for:
Lighten a soldier’s assault loads through these lightweight components and circuitry.
Allow sensors to operate on aircraft wings in intense conditions.
Replace soldier’s heavy and bulky computer equipment with computer displays that could fold like a fabric sleeve around a soldier’s arm.
These developments will not only affect the military industry, the robotics, wearable, and medical industry will be largely affected as well. Robotics can now be lighter and more resilient with the use of flexible electronics and wearables would be able to have sensors implanted in everyday clothing. With the help of flexible circuitry certain medical devices, like a balloon catheter, can now monitor blood flow, temperature, pressure, and electrical activity within the body.
Researchers believe that rigid chips and circuit boards will not be going away anytime soon, since they are so inexpensive to manufacture on a massive scale. But, flexible circuits allows for endless possibilities for engineers of devices.
Advanced MP Technology is a leading global distributor of electronic components and prides itself on keeping up with the latest and greatest in the technology world. With a global presence that was strategically placed and ESD-equipped warehouse, we are ready for the exponential advancement that technology brings to the market.