Pentagon to Invest in Bendable, Wearable Electronics Manufacturing Facility

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter today will announce a five-year, $75 million contract award to a consortium of companies, universities and independent research organizations to stand up a major manufacturing facility based in the Silicon Valley for bendable and wearable hybrid electronics.

The Pentagon’s investment in the FlexTech Alliance Consortium will be matched by more than $90 million in private sector funding, bringing the total investment in research, dvelopment and manufacturing to $171 million. Carter is scheduled to announce the contract today during a speech at Moffett Air Field in Mountainview, Calif., where he will also host the first-ever industry roundtable at the newly-established Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental (DIUx) — a small unit designed to be the Pentagon’s point-of-presence and coordinating hub in the Silicon Valley.

“Secretary Carter is demonstrating tangible progress in building relationships with Silicon Valley, which he believes is necessary to help the U.S. military remain on the cutting edge well into the future,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook. “The public private partnership he is announcing at Moffett Field will benefit both the future warfighter and customers of a range of U.S. companies, helping the U.S. maintain leadership in manufacturing and innovation for years to come.”

altFlexible hybrid electronics manufacturing is a process that combines the traditional manufacturing techniques of the electronics industry and the high-precision printing industry, with the power to create sensors that can be lighter in weight, or conform to the curves of a human body, and stretch across the shape of an object or structure. “Integrating ultra-thin silicon components — through high precision handling, printing with conductive and active inks, and pasting on stretchable substrates — flexible hybrid technologies can revolutionize how we wear and monitor our own physiological information to optimize health and lifestyles, while improving the connectivity of devices through the ‘Internet of Things,'” according to a White House fact sheet obtained by MeriTalk.

The manufacturing facility will be the seventh of nine established to date as part of the Obama administration’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, launched in 2012.”After a decade of decline in the 2000s, when 40 percent of all large factories closed their doors, American manufacturing is adding jobs at its fastest rate in decades, with nearly 900,000 new manufacturing jobs created since February 2010,” the White House fact sheet states. “Today’s new action is the kind of investment we need to build on this progress, creating the foundation for American manufacturing leadership for years to come.”

Hybrid Electronics

The emerging field of hybrid electronics enables the placement of electronic components on flexible stretchable substrates while preserving the full operation of traditional electronic circuits in wearable and flexible form factors. The devices can be attached to curved, irregular and often stretched across buildings, objects, and humans. According to the White House and Pentagon, there are a wide array of potential applications for such devices, including:

  • Revolutionizing electronic wearable information devices to monitor vital signs and physical states to optimize health and lifestyles decisions.
  • Dramatically improving medical technology delivery — through biomarkers and device implants — which can monitor vital signs for the elderly, those with chronic conditions, and our soldiers during combat.
  • Enabling embedded sensors to monitor the state of commercial automobiles and aircrafts operating in harsh environments such as undersea pressures or extreme temperatures.
  • Improving security operations, with applications in light weight robotics, as well as, next generation imaging and sensing capabilities, used across the entire spectrum of land, air, sea, and space-based systems.
  • Dramatically reducing the electronic systems package size and weight through electronics that conform to complex shapes such as aircraft wings or unattended vehicle platforms, and integrating electronics in clothing and fabrics.

The Winning Team

The winning team, led by the FlexibleTech Alliance and headquartered in San Jose, CA, and includes the following 96 key partners and 66 additional consortia members across the country:

96 Companies:

4D Technology

ABRe

Acellent Technologies

Advantest Akron Polymer Systems

AlphaMicron

American Semiconductor

Apple

ANSYS

Applied Materials

Bestronics

Blue Spark Technologies

BMNT Partners

Boeing Co.

Brewer Science

Butler Technologies

Carpe Diem Technologies

Chasm Technologies

Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Medical Devices

Corning, Cubbison Company

Domtar, Dupont Plates

Dupont Teijin Films

E Ink

Eastman Chemical Company

Eli Lilly and Company

EMD Milipore

EnerDel

Engineered Materials Systems

ENrG

ExSys Technology

FLEXcon

Flex

Fujifilm Dimatix

General Dynamics Land Systems

General Motors

General Electric

GrafTech

HANA Microdisplay Technologies

Harper Corporation

Harris Corporation

Henkel AG

HP

i3 Electronics

IMA Life

Imprint Energy

Integrated Deposition Solutions

Intrinsiq Materials

IQRMI

Jabil Circuit

John Deere

Kellogg Company

Kent Displays

Kodak

Landauer

LasX

Lockheed Martin

Lumitex

Mac Arthur Corporation

Mark Andy

MC10

MIRWEC Films

Molex, Motorola Mobility

Novacentrix

ON Semiconductor

Optomec

Orbital Research

PARC, a Xerox Company

Polyera

Quality Electrodynamics

Qualcomm

Raytheon Company

Roche Diagnostics

SABIC

SAIC

Sandisk

Sensics

Si2

SmarchShape

Smith&Nephew

SPEC Sensors

Sonoran Analytical Instruments and Diagnostics

SSI Electronics

Surfx Technologies

Sun-Tec

Thin Film Technology

TI

TTM Technologies

UES

Uniqarta

United Technologies Research Center

Valtronic Technologies

Vitriflex

Dan Verton
About Dan Verton
MeriTalk Executive Editor Dan Verton is a veteran journalist and winner of the First Place Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for Best News Reporting -- the highest award in the nation for business/trade journalism. Dan earned a Master's Degree in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C., and has spent the last 20 years in the nation's capital reporting on government, enterprise technology, policy and national cybersecurity. He’s also a former intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps, has authored three books on cybersecurity, and has testified on critical infrastructure protection before both House and Senate committees.
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