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Design007-July2019

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94 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I JULY 2019 terconnected sections. The rest of the world's manufacturing communities said, "No, that can't be done." We had to think about it, and we came up with a means of making length- unlimited multilayer flexible printed circuits. That was the innovation that we first produced a proof of concept sample for and have con- tinued to develop. This patented technology, which we call Improved Harness Technology™, has been granted in the U.K., the U.S., and China, and is in the process of being granted in the EU, Brazil, and Canada—all of the main airframe manufacturing locations. The tech- nology has been focused on the aerospace in- dustry primarily because of its ability to save weight and space. This is not a new technology. Flex PCBs have been around for the best part of 100 years, and the reason we can get a cellphone in your top pocket is that all of the wire inside has been replaced by flexible printed circuits. It's now a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry usually used inside of a phone, laptop, or an avion- ics box. Trackwise is now able to offer box-to- box wiring, so those proven benefits of weight, space, reliability, and precision can now be achieved at the fuselage or wing level instead of just inside of a box. Our original approach/intent was for the aerospace industry, but I think we are seeing an interesting macrotrend. In all industries— including industrial, aerospace, automotive, and medical—everybody wants more func- tionality into either the same or less weight or space. If you are trying to do that with wires, it's impossible. A large business jet manufacturer has been in touch with Trackwise too. They've given us an analysis that shows that the wire content in their business jets is increasing by 25% ev- ery five years because more and more func- tionality is desired. Operators want to fly jets with this greater functionality with as many passengers as they can; therefore, the issues of reducing harness weight and space are be- coming ever more significant. As I said earlier, we are seeing tremendous demand from across the industrial spectrum for this new technolo- gy, and we're all about length-unlimited multi- layer flexible printed circuits. Matties: A single- or double-sided length-un- limited PCB might be simple, but when you start adding in multilayer, that sounds like quite a challenge. Johnston: The longest we've made to date is 26 meters long with shielded power cables. The challenges have been many and varied. One of the challenges is to find equipment and machining manufacturers willing and able to modify their equipment for the particular needs of making length-unlimited. Viking Test Ltd. has been a big part of that journey for Trackwise. Matties: You must have an equipment partner willing to pay attention to these details and make it happen. Johnston: Yes. In spite of this innovation, Trackwise is still a small company, and we need suppliers who buy into the vision and are willing and prepared to listen to our story and adapt the equipment. If you want to make a 25-meter long roll into a 60-meter long circuit, we don't have a 60-meter long factory, so it has to be done roll-to-roll. Some of the PCB manufacturing steps are effectively static in nature, so we've had to turn those static ones into a dynamic process for Improved Harness Technology™ by looking outside of the indus- try for technologies that can be applied to the manufacturing process. Otherwise, we've had to find equally innovative and adaptive equip- The technology has been focused on the aerospace industry primarily because of its ability to save weight and space.

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