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OCTOBER 2022 I DESIGN007 MAGAZINE 87 electronics, capable of adapting and facilitat- ing the myriad changes required to build the dizzying array of electronic devices that have come to enhance and improve our lives—even as they increasingly invade life in general. Like a chameleon, these circuits largely stay out of sight and remain invisible to the user. We are not just surrounded and laden with electron- ics, we increasingly wear them as flexible cir- cuits. We have even changed the way we refer to them, not as simply flex circuits but as flex- ible electronics and flex hybrid electronics. While traditional flexible circuit technolo- gies will likely continue to serve the needs of designers in established roles such as electrical and electronic cables, they are also enabling and pervading a fascinating range of new per- sonal products. Note: e flex circuit technol- ogy getting ever greater use and attention these days was historically called polymer thick film technology (PTF). Polymer thick film is cur- rently being rebranded as flexible electron- ics (FE) and flex hybrid electronics (FHE) 2 . Regardless, the printing of electronic conduc- tors has been in the tool chest of circuit design- ers for nearly three quarters of a century. Once largely relegated to the production of PTF membrane switches, which serve nearly every imaginable type of electromechanical machine interface, the printing of conductors has been paired with a wide range of substrates because the printing and joining technologies used in manufacture do not require the high tempera- tures associated with soldering. As well, for some time there have been semi- conductor chips increasingly thinned to the point where they can be bent without frac- turing, attached to the flexible base film, and interconnected directly to the circuits. is solution has been thoroughly embraced at NextFlex and it opens doors to products that can conform to the contours of the product being served, arguably in the same way that the chameleon adapts its appearance to mimic its surroundings. In that regard, most flex- ible circuits are "invisible," hidden from the view of the user. We see this with electronic textiles, and I expect this trend to increase as more designers conceive of clever products to tempt consumers, whether for vanity, utility, or a combination. It may well be the addition of textile-based circuits that will allow clever designers to create adaptive, wearable camou- flage for the military that helps keep future war fighters out of enemy sights. Now that would most definitely be a worthy demonstration of a flex circuit's chameleon nature. In summary, flexible circuits, regardless of the terminology used to describe them, are enabling an untold number of new products, performing their illusory magic flawlessly and unobtrusively. We can expect to see them (or not) in products long into the future. DESIGN007 References 1. "The First 105 Years of Flexible Circuitry," by Ken Gilleo. 2. To learn more, I recommend reading "The Chip Shortage Leads to Innovation," by Dr. Malcolm Thompson, NextFlex, September 2022, Design007 Magazine. 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 185 patents issued or pending. To read past columns or contact Fjelstad, click here. Download your free copy of Fjelstad's book Flexible Circuit Technology, 4 th Edition, and watch his in-depth workshop series "Flexible Circuit Technology." Like a chameleon, these circuits largely stay out of sight and remain invisible to the user.

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