Expanding industry partnerships to enhance global platforms and government advocacy.
By Michael Ciesinski, President, FlexTech
In 2014, SEMI developed a new model – SEMI Strategic Association Partnership – for engaging other associations and organizations in a strategic, long-term relationship that supports and advances the interests of SEMI members in emerging and adjacent segments of the electronics supply chain. The strategic partner brings a community, brand, and product and services portfolio to SEMI’s global platforms, immediately enriching to its extended supply chain initiatives in every major electronics region of the world. With this combination of new community and global platforms, the partner advances SEMI’s goal of enabling growth and prosperity for its members.
In October 2015, SEMI announced that FlexTech, an association devoted to fostering the growth, profitability and success of the flexible, hybrid and printed electronics supply chain, had become its first Strategic Association Partner (press release announcement). Since then, both organizations have focused on becoming one, with the priority of integrating FlexTech’s membership, technology platforms, and R&D programs into SEMI and expanding flexible hybrid electronics activities worldwide.
Earlier in 2015, FlexTech was chosen to manage the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute, one of several advanced manufacturing institutes announced under the Obama administration’s National Network for Manufacturing Institutes (NNMI’s). Renamed NextFlex, the Institute operates independently from SEMI | FlexTech, with close coordination of technology and manufacturing R&D programs.
FlexTech also continues to manage the Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC) from within SEMI. NBMC is also a R&D funding government-sponsored, industry-lead program focused on creating an integrated suite of nano-bio manufacturing technologies, particularly in microfluidics, and transition them to production for health and human-performance monitoring devices.
Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) is an emerging field of electronics technology and manufacturing that enables products to be lighter, rugged, and conformable. FHE includes components like flexible sensors, printed batteries and antennas, and extremely thin ICs for critical functions including memory, processing and communications. All of these components are printed, placed or laminated onto flexible substrates such as plastic, paper, metal foil, and even flexible glass or ceramic (see diagram).
FHE represents a relatively new technology space that is evolving rapidly due to demands from industries such as aerospace, automotive, communications, health care and the IoT. Wearable electronics, human performance monitoring devices, asset monitoring devices, and smart product packaging are some of the widely-mentioned FHE applications. World-class companies such as Applied Materials, Corning, GE, and Lockheed Martin, along with many startups, are investigating the market demand for lightweight, flexible electronics.
In addition to a technology community and industry platforms, the FlexTech partnership has brought to SEMI a unique advocacy program that includes R&D government funding to address FHE manufacturing requirements. FlexTech manages two R&D programs: a supply chain R&D program for developing new tools and materials, and a nano-bio manufacturing consortium. RFPs for project funding are issued at various times throughout the year, and all awards are competitively bid and peer-reviewed. Projects recently funded include a 3D printing tool for conductive inks, flexible ceramic materials, printed sensors and batteries, and devices to check hydration. Plans to roll-out this funding management platform to other segments of the electronics industry are underway.
Seeing FHE applications and learning about FHE technology are the focus of a variety of programs and conferences around the world. The excellent technology discovery platform and networking realized at FlexTech’s annual FLEX event is being replicated in Seoul, Singapore, Grenoble and Tokyo in the coming months. In addition, FlexTech FHE Forums are currently being planned in conjunction with SEMICON West and SEMICON Japan. One-day workshops which dive deeply into a highly-focused topic are planned for several locations. Webinars on FHE technology and markets round out the information and communications plan.
There is much to gain by joining the FlexTech SIG. Primary benefits include:
If you like to learn more about FlexTech and how you can become part of the FHE action, please contact Ms. Heidi Hoffman at +1 408.943.7954 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The integration of FlexTech as a strategic partner adds an additional dimension to SEMI and its members, and expands its technology reach in the extended supply chain. As FHE products and technology mature and proliferate, new market opportunities will be created for SEMI members to provide their services, equipment, materials, devices and solutions and collectively advance the global manufacturing ecosystem.