Aug 31, 2015 | By Alec

Various institutes affiliated to the US government have been at the forefront of 3D printing innovation for a while now – NASA tested 3D printed rocket engines only last week – but it looks like now even the Pentagon is getting involved. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has just announced a new partnership with a large conglomerate of 96 companies, 42 universities, 14 state and regional organistations and 11 laboratories called FlexTech Alliance to develop the next-generation range of 3D printed wearables. The US government will be providing $75 million in funds for this new round of research.

The press release was held last Friday. The goal of this new collaboration is very ambitious. The idea is to develop a range of high-end 3D printed wearables, full of electronics and sensors, to be used in military environments. Think soldiers equipped with wearable flexible sensors that monitor their health and position, and tanks and planes equipped with flexible parts capable of withstanding extreme pressures and heat and covered in sensors to monitor structural performances. ‘This is an emerging technology that takes advanced flexible materials for circuits, communications, sensors and power and combines them with thinned silicon chips to ultimately produce the next generation of electronic products,’ Carter said. Civilian uses, such as monitoring the health of patients, could also be developed.

Wearable example by jeanbaptisteparis via Flickr

The idea is that this collaboration will also result in the creation and the managing of a flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing facility’, that will operate for at least five years. Aside from the substantial federal subsidy of $75 million, other non-federal sources will provide an additional $96 million in funds to manage and finance this research facility. Defense Secretary Ash Carter was pleased with the announcement. ‘I've been pushing the Pentagon to think outside our five-sided box and invest in innovation here in Silicon Valley and in tech communities across the country,’ he said at the press release at Moffet Airfield near Mountain View, California. He went on to state that this development was necessary to keep the US military’s technological standard up to par with the rest of the world. As part of that new way of thinking, working with external partners instead of developing technologies itself was a logical option.

Representatives of the FlexTech Alliance, a conglomerate that includes Boeing, Apple, Harvard University, Advantest Akron Polymer Systems, Motorola, Qualcomm, MIT, and even Kalamazoo Valley Community College and many more, was also excited about this new development. ‘FlexTech is privileged to accept this award from the Defense Department to stand up and lead the FHE MII [Flexible Hybrid Electronics Innovation Institute]. We are excited by the FHE manufacturing challenge and eager to get operations underway,’ Michael Ciesinski, the President and CEO of FlexTech Alliance added.

The institute where all this will be located will reportedly be called the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Hub, and is set to be based in San Jose, California. It is just one of nine research manufacturing institutes backed by the Obama administration with the express purpose of stimulating innovation and national manufacturing. In addition to this purpose, the plan is also intended to create jobs in educational fields such as engineering, as well as in production and sales. 




Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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