PCB007 Magazine

PCB-Apr2015

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44 The PCB Magazine • April 2015 we put all of these components in and how do we select those components? On the printed circuit side, historically we're used to circuit boards being like 2D structures, thus they would be flat, and then we would place the components on and go. But now we also have to take into account that they're go- ing to bend and move. When it starts getting into the apparel side, do you make that cloth fabric your printed circuit substrate? Those are the things that people are coming to us with and saying, "Hey, can you guys do apparel?" But what does that mean? Are you going to wash it? There are a lot of questions to ask. Matties: With the power technology in apparel and wearables, certainly washing must be a big issue. Vrtis: Yes, it is a big issue, as is drying. Matties: What's the craziest thing that someone has approached you with? Vrtis: Let's see. I've had some very interest- ing requests for solutions with the printed cir- cuit, but the craziest probably doesn't need to be recorded here. Matties: That's okay; we can leave it to the imagi- nation. Vrtis: The important thing is that they needed all of the same components I have been talking about. They needed power and they needed some way to have this wireless to connect. Matties: Let's talk about the market a little bit. What's the size of the market right now, the way you are seeing it? Vrtis: Wow, it's in the billions! I've read eight billion is predicted in the next couple of years. Matties: Where was that just a few years back? Vrtis: It was a twinkle in the eye. It start- ed with these activity band-type systems. I think Nike was one of the first, and I'm not promoting any product, but I recall as a run- ner, you would put the accelerometer in your shoe and if you had an iPhone, it would con- nect to it. Then Nike put it on a wrist. It was a very interesting transfer of the product. If you look back in time and you think back to the 1960s, one of the first things I remember in wearables was the feedback technology. Take the mood ring, for instance. The mood ring, if you think about it, was a wearable device that could tell the mood of the person based on a thermotropic technology system. That was the first one that I remember, but electronically, my experience was probably running with the Nike band. Matties: You have talked about flex and all the challenges in the field. But in terms of manufactur- ing wearables, what are your challenges? Vrtis: As I stated, almost everything we've done in the past have really been 2D, flat print- ed circuits, where you place it in the end prod- uct and the printed circuit never moves again; it stays static. Now that wearable electron- ics products move, the printed circuit has to move, the assembly has to move, and a better understanding of the use condition to main- tain circuit integrity has to be understood. Printed circuits are primarily copper and poly- mer systems, the dielectric—what materials are chosen is based on what the requirements are of the end product. In my group we under- stand the end-product so we can engineer and IntervIew THE CHALLENGES OF THE FAST-MOVING WEARABLES MARKET continues

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