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Architecting an Institute for Flexible Electronics Manufacturing

Flexible Printed Electric Circ

Goal: Establish a consortium for flexible electronics technology development and manufacturing and devise a comprehensive plan for a ready-to-launch Institute for Flexible Electronics Manufacturing. 


Background:  Flexible electronics is a technology for assembling electronic circuits by mounting electronic devices on flexible plastic or similar materials. 

It is a highly innovative, emerging technology area that can enable new high-value products with a built-in seamless interface between microelectronics and people. The technology is broadly deployable, with applications ranging from healthcare to infrastructure and from airport security to solar energy. The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative predicts that the world market for large-area flexible electronics will grow to $126 billion in 2020.

Approach:  Arizona State University’s (ASU) Flexible Electronics & Display Center, in collaboration with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, leveraged existing research and development strengths, manufacturing technology assets, and industry-university collaborations in the Phoenix area and around the country to establish and strengthen a consortium for flexible electronics development and manufacturing. 

Several workshops were held, with attendees from a broad representation of companies of all sizes, not-for-profits, R&D labs, universities, and industry associations.  Outputs of the workshops and planning sessions included a list of the most promising new flexible electronics technology products, along with critical manufacturing technology gaps—or showstoppers—and candidate solutions that a prospective institute could pursue. 

Using the technical experience of the consortium members, industry analysis, and input from key stakeholders, three technology platform areas in flexible electronics were identified as the most promising industry opportunity areas:  biomedical technology, wearable technology, and the Internet of Things (IoT)/Sensors. 

Outcome:  The outputs were used to create a comprehensive plan for a ready-to-launch Institute for Flexible Electronics Manufacturing that incorporates: 1. a vision and a technology product focus that will energize the institute participants and attract external support; 2. an institutespecific manufacturing technology plan with projects identified to close the most critical gaps and break through the difficult barriers in flexible electronics manufacturing; 3. a definition of the required shared infrastructure, associated resources, and operating framework to effectively run the Institute in a shared space context; and 4. a viable business model and governance framework to facilitate longterm impact and successful realization of the institute’s vision.

Going forward, the long-term plan is to use the outcomes of this project to pursue the following:

  1. Creation of a regional technology development center, Velocity, a Phoenix metropolitan area regional economic development initiative with a focus on sensor systems
  2. Creation of an applied R&D center (possibly modeled on the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany) with a focus on biomedical devices for sensing/diagnostics/imaging
  3. Creation of an independent start-up company with FHE Foundry capability, but funded through a hybrid consortium membership model coupled with venture capital funding

Lead: Arizona Board of Regents, on behalf of Arizona State University

Funded Participants: Greater Phoenix Economic Council (Phoenix, Arizona
Award Number: 70NANB14H046
Federal Funding: $499,441
Project Duration: 24 months
AMTech Project Manager: Thomas R. Lettieri

More information:

Created May 6, 2014, Updated February 27, 2019