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Design007-Aug2019

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110 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I AUGUST 2019 However, over the last couple of decades, there has been a slow but steady shift in in- terest by universities and research institutes around the globe in what comes after the chip, as it is a gating element in the hierarchy of electronic product. Major universities (such as Georgia Tech, Penn State, and the Univer- sity of Illinois, just to name but a few in the USA), international research institutes (such as Fraunhofer in Germany and IMEC in Bel- gium), and consortiums (such as NextFlex in the USA, which collaborates with a number of different colleges and universities) are all, and in many cases, have been, engaged in devel- oping products and interconnection solutions that involve flexible circuits including materi- als, processes, and products. There are a few things that appear to have sparked the increase in interest. One is the re- branding of some flexible circuit technology as flexible electronics, and another has been the growth in experimentation with stretch- able circuits. Further, the rise of the internet of things (IoT) has steadily looked to employ flexible circuit materials and processes to cre- ate IoT tags, which are poised to connect bil- lions (and ultimately, trillions) of physical ob- jects to the internet. The interest in flexible circuits within the world of academia is as an enabler to help students and their advisers realize their cre- ative ideas, and in many cases, spin out com- panies to build and market them. Many uni- versities have a stake in these companies, and they can be lucrative sources of income for both the professors and the schools. It is pro- viding students both with an education in an important technology, and a runway for early success should their ideas succeed in taking off. Even if they do not enjoy immediate suc- cess, the knowledge they gain about flexible circuit technology can be put to good use in the industry with established electronic prod- uct companies. This is likely to provide val- ue to entry-level engineers as the appreciation of the importance of interconnection technolo- gies continues to rise. As I first observed and commented a num- ber of years ago, printed circuits were the orig- inal "integrated circuit" as they interconnected the various transistors, resistors, and capaci- tors required for the application. Semiconduc- tor technology allowed for that integration to be radically reduced in size; yet, the printed circuit never went away, and the flexible cir- cuit has vastly improved its potential. Again, this has not been lost on universities around the globe, and flexible circuits are likely to play an increasing role. In summary, educators and student at insti- tutions of higher education in technological fields have taken note of the unique ability of flexible circuit technology to help solve prob- lems in many different and disparate areas, chasing improvements in computing, commu- nications, medicine, biomechanics, and be- yond. Having their attention bodes well for continuing advances for the flexible circuit in- dustry. Expect many great things to come from the partnership of academia and industry in the future. 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 read past columns or contact Fjelstad, click here. There are a few things that appear to have sparked the increase in interest. One is the rebranding of some flexible circuit technology as flexible electronics, and another has been the growth in experimenta- tion with stretchable circuits.

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