Flexible, Stretchable, and Wearable: If You Can Dream it, You Can Create it!


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It seems that flex circuit technology is definitely coming into its own. The market for flex circuitry has always been growing, but now it is rapidly accelerating, with new technologies and new applications in the news nearly every day. Flex is not just in your laptop and camera anymore, it is in your car, in space, and on your body. In other words, flex is everywhere.

We originally intended this issue to be centered on flexible circuits, but it quickly became apparent that we needed to broaden the scope and include all (well, at least some) of the new and exciting things going on these days in the world of flexible everything. As such, we have garnered a trove of authors, with much information to impart on the above mentioned.

Our cover story from OM Group discusses the processing of flex materials using a stress-free plating technology for both flex and rigid-flex materials.

Then, Dr. Joan Vrtis of Multek gives a great market overview of that relatively new industry most often called ‘wearables.’ She points out that wearables are not new, but when combined with electronics, this industry is only limited by the imagination, as the technology to make it happen is rapidly evolving.

Looking at another flex industry segment (flex segmented!), Maarten Cauwe and co-authors from imec pull our interest in a different direction as they explore two technologies for flexible and stretchable circuits in space applications.

So back to the beginning: Two articles discuss new materials to help make some of this happen. Panasonic’s Yoshioka et al., present a high-performance substrate for stretchable electronics, while Dupont’s Sidney Cox discusses a new flex material for high-temperature
applications.

Also on the topic of the processing of flex materials, Patrick Riechel of ESI reviews three technologies for microvia drilling and cutting. Rounding out the processing topic is columnist Todd Kolmodin with a brief overview on testing flex circuits.

This month is a perfect time to introduce our two newest columnists, who will become regular contributors to our Flex007 Weekly Newsletter that publishes every Thursday. As her first subject, Tara Dunn of Omni PCB chose “Flex-to-Fit”—another flex industry subset that is only limited by the imagination.

And last but not least, Dave Becker of All Flex presents his summary of wearable technology. There’s a lot going on in flexible, stretchable, wearable technology and there is much to learn!

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