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Does higher usability require more flexibility? In many cases the answer is yes. In order for devices to be less intrusive and perhaps more universally acceptable, they need to be thinner, lighter and more flexible. The driving force is to have technology seamlessly interface with humanity. This is a large factor in what is driving wearable technology and bionics. Something that is thin and flexible can go just about anywhere and have a minimal impact on aesthetics, size or agility. Conversely, large, rigid and heavy can be annoying and counterproductive.
Here are a few examples of development effort to accommodate the drive to flexibility:
- A recent article in Design News discusses the flexible battery. According to the article, one of the last obstacles for completely flexible devices is a reliable battery. That is now changing as a number of companies are coming out with flexible batteries and flexible battery products. The flexible battery was first invented in 2007, but there is still a lack of viable commercial products available for every need. The specific product discussed in this article is a rechargeable backpack. But there are many emerging applications for flexible batteries such as powered skin patches, implantable medical devices, consumer electronics and health/fitness products. In order for flexible batteries to become more commercially viable, they need to come down in cost as well as improve on performance.
- The Apple iPhone 7 will feature a flexible display and flexible case. According to several news posts:
“A patent allegedly [coming from] Apple was recently leaked, suggesting that the iPhone 7 may have a flexible display. The patent filing is said to reveal the company developing a bendable screen, with touch-sensitive layers, and display covers for a future device.”
One of the big advantages of a flexible display is it will be less susceptible to cracking or breaking.
- Stretchable and flexible printed circuit boards may be a commercial reality someday, as several universities are developing interconnects that could stretch up to 30%. Wearable technology and certain medical applications would benefit from stretchable PCBs. Admittedly, this adds another dimension in the drive to flexibility.
It is understandable that some of the more advanced, cutting edge technologies are requiring the use of flexible circuits. Flex tends to be light weight, thin, bendable and its versatility for interconnection can eliminate assembly costs. Flexible circuits can be your high density solution for just about any electronic application. Not only could a flexible circuit solve your size and weight challenges, a flexible circuit could be your most cost effective solution for electronic interconnects.
- Design News, Backpack is a Wireless, Wearable Charging System, May 7, 2015.
- Venture Capitalist Post, Apple iPhone 7 release becoming a monstrous affair, April 27, 2015.
Dave Becker is vice president of sales and marketing at All Flex Flexible Circuits LLC.