Purdue Joins Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Initiative


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Purdue will be a part of a $171 million initiative that hopes to bring America to the forefront of an emerging technology.

The University will head a part of the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which aims to improve the manufacturing side of flexible hybrid electronics. In addition, the project will include 96 companies, 11 laboratories and non-profits, 41 other universities and 14 state and regional organizations.

The initiative is funded, in part, by the Department of Defense. The Obama administration wants America to be at the forefront when it comes to the manufacturing of flexible hybrid electronics. A key aspect of this five-year undertaking is job creation.

“We don’t want to put all of these types of jobs offshore,” said Ali Shakouri, the Mary Jo and Robert L. Kirk director at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park and professor of electrical and computer engineering. “20 years ago they said we just want to be a service industry, but now they realize that is not good. If you don’t manufacture, you don’t innovate in that area and eventually others will.”

Flexible hybrid electronics serve many uses. Many of the uses are in the realms of soft robotics, medical health monitoring and fitness. If you have ever played “Call of Duty,” you can picture the idea of information being fed to you as you wander about playing soldier. This is not too far from reality. The Department of Defense has taken an interest in this project, because of the benefits it could have for what they define as warfighters.

The warfighter will be able to understand his or her environment better by superimposing information onto a battlefield screen that tells the individual about resources and threats in the environment, allowing for more awareness and safety.

Most of these uses are already known, but there is still a problem.

The methods of manufacturing the flexible hybrid electronics are not efficient or cost effective enough in the U.S. to compete with global markets.

To do this, the flexible hybrid electronics will be exposed to an additive process of printing, as opposed to the subtractive process of etching that currently holds back the industry.

“The cost, in many cases, is dictated by tooling and set up time,” said Tim Fisher, professor of mechanical engineering, who is involved in the initiative. “If you can make your process much more customizable, then you could be faster and more adaptable to the need for customization. There will also be less material wasted if you are printing it directly as opposed to dumping it on and washing part of it away, then recovering what is left.”

The improvements to the manufacturing and printing processes will take place, in part, at Purdue. It will give students the chance to learn and help the process, thanks to the infrastructure already on campus.

“It is really all about making devices for what people need in their daily lives,” said Fisher. “So much of what we do involves things that bend and fold, like newspapers, but also the visor for a pilot that needs to be bendable. The impetus is to make it more consumer friendly.”

Purdue gives a large sum of money to the world of military technology.

Purdue puts forth a substantial amount of money for the world of technology, as the U.S. strives to better provide for soldiers. Part of the developmental process will take place at Purdue, where students will be given to chance to take part in the process.

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