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14 FLEX007 MAGAZINE I OCTOBER 2018 Indeed, innovation is commonly a product of observation and "Why and why not?" ques- tions. Such questions press the mind into action, which hopefully results in seeing (or dreaming of, as Shaw suggests) some missing piece or the boundaries of empty space that define the miss - ing pieces. After these mind-opening questions, the other familiar questions of who, what, when, where, and how will be required to shape and mold a solution to the initiating question. Thus, the first challenge that confronts the innovator is to see what is not there and to turn it from a vague, dreamy concept to physical reality. How does one approach such a chal- lenge? Let's take a short "mind walk" to try to uncover and illuminate the missing pieces that await their moment of discovery. For this exer- cise, let's apply the idea to our venerable flex circuit technology and see what it might yield. First, it is worth noting that once we become familiar with something—no matter what its nature—we become wedded to our percep- tions of it. Technology is not immune. This is a trap that humans have been falling into for ages, though some have admonished us to avoid it. Shakespeare, for example, warned us in his play Antony and Cleopatra: "Make not your thoughts your prison." Unfortunately, it is something we are all prone to do. Turning back to our technology—flexible circuits—it is clearly a highly enabling tech- nology with many facets of materials, design, manufacturing, testing, etc. While the inter- dependence and interplay between these ele- ments must be considered (changing one thing will typically impact another), it should not be an initial constraint. Instead, one should be unafraid and even encouraged to wander off the beaten path. There will be some blind alleys when not staying on the main streets, but these alleys can sometimes yield unex- pected treasures that—while not of value to the current effort—could be useful in unre- lated efforts later on. Another thing to avoid early on is any con- sideration of cost. It is often the case that a process or device is expensive at the outset, but the price will come down with experience and more participants. Always be mindful of the potential to have your thoughts imprison your dreams and actions. Those points aside, let's now quickly apply the "Why?" question to some aspects of flexible cir- cuit technology to see what it yields. Spoiler alert: there will be no answers to follow, as those will be the reader's responsibility. Thus, the follow- ing questions are presented for readers to ponder on their own and hopefully come up with some "Why not?" ideas of their own. Consider the fol- lowing: Why do we use only certain materials? Why do we need holes? Why do we use cover- layers? Why do we need lamination? Why do we need solder? Finally, for a little bit of controversy, why do we even need flexible circuits? Remember, there are no right or wrong answers; they are merely questions that might help us all to break loose from our mental chains (escape our prisons, if you will) and think in new directions and dimensions. Having opened this brief discussion and challenge with a quote from one of the world's greatest thinkers, it seemed appropriate to end with a quote from another great mind, Supreme Court Justice and philosopher Oliver Wendell Holmes, who astutely observed the following: "Man's mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimension." It seems doubly fitting knowing that the act of stretch- ing also helps one to stay flexible in both mind and body. FLEX007 Joe Fjelstad is founder and CEO of Verdant Electronics and an international authority and innovator in the field of electronic interconnection and packaging technologies, with more than 150 patents issued or pending. To reach Fjelstad, click here. Indeed, innovation is commonly a product of observation and "Why and why not?" questions.

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