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February 2, 2017 – Moving Beyond Wearables: Flexible Hybrid Electronics and Human Monitoring

There is increasing demand for electronic systems that are flexible and have the ability to sense, process, take action, and communicate with other devices and networks. Important applications include human performance monitoring devices, “smart” bandages for medical treatment, and other consumer wearables, as well as “soft” robotics for autonomous devices and advanced prosthetics.

However, current devices are limited by the performance of flexible electronics, typically comprised of simple devices printed on polymer films or other flexible materials, and by the traditional packaging of semiconductor chips, which are bulky and inflexible. Flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) is an emerging technology category that combines thin semiconductor chips and printed devices on flexible substrates, enabling high performance systems that can be worn on the body, integrated into clothing or other materials, or built into structures such as vehicles and infrastructure.

On August 28, 2015, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that our Department of Defense had agreed to spend $75 million over a five-year period to fund a Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics. The Institute, subsequently named NextFlex, is a public-private entity that is part of the Manufacturing USA Network, authorized under the 2014 Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act, to increase advanced manufacturing in the United States. Each institute is designed to advance the manufacturing maturity for a particular technology area, through collaboration between Federal agencies, private sector companies, universities, state and local governments, and non-profit organizations.

As part of this effort, NextFlex has partnered with CMTC (California Manufacturing Technology Consulting, a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) sponsored non-profit), to make small to medium size manufacturers aware of this technology and enable their participation in NextFlex. This effort will be crucial in helping companies using traditional electronics assembly techniques, to learn about the technology, in order to meet their customers’ needs, compete effectively with foreign suppliers, and develop new and unique products.

Headquartered in San Jose, NextFlex is operated by a professional staff in collaboration with representatives from the US Army and Air Force Research Laboratories. NextFlex is a member-driven organization, with programs and projects selected by governing and technical councils comprised of members and government representatives. The members set the technical direction of the institute’s programs, collaborate in carrying out development projects, and have access to the results of institute projects. In order to assure that there is an educated and trained workforce to support advanced FHE manufacturing, NextFlex is conducting projects to assess requirements and needs of industry, create content, and work with educational institutions and manufacturers to educate and train technicians, engineers and researchers. NextFlex is also building a pilot manufacturing and prototyping facility for FHE devices at its headquarters in San Jose, and is involved in sponsoring several funded projects with industry each year. Currently, there are 25 projects underway funded at a total of $45M, which includes NextFlex funding and cost-sharing by participants. This presentation will describe NextFlex and its activities, with a focus on human monitoring devices and other biomedical applications.

If you’d like to receive more information on programs and services in FHE for small to medium-sized companies, please contact William Metzger at CMTC/NextFlex, at wmetzger@cmtc.com.


Paul Semenza, Director of Commercialization, NextFlex-America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute, has been responsible for membership, partnerships, and development of the business model for NextFlex since its inception. Paul’s extensive experience includes business development, strategy consulting, market analysis, technology assessment, and engineering, both in the public and private sectors.

Prior to joining NextFlex in 2015, Paul consulted with the FlexTech Alliance to develop the proposal for NextFlex, while also working with industry clients, and serving as an expert witness. From 2008 to 2014, he was with the NPD Group, as Senior Vice President, and President of its Technology Analyst Business, responsible for Display Search and Solarbuzz, both global market research groups tracking the display, lighting, and solar photovoltaic industries. From 1997 to 2000, Paul was as an analyst and manager at Stanford Resources, and after its acquisition by iSuppli, he served as Vice President for display research through 2008. Prior to his career in market research, Paul worked in technology policy assessment at the National Research Council and the U.S. Congress, and as a member of the technical staff at the Analytical Sciences Corporation. Paul received BS and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University, and a MPP degree from the Harvard Kennedy School. He is an Adjunct Lecturer in the Engineering Management and Leadership program at Santa Clara University.

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