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Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
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Introduction

Michael Andrews
L-3 Communications

Dr. Andrews began by noting that the study of future of the flexible electronics industry is a part of a larger subject—the role of manufacturing in the growth and economic security of the United States. He said that the first point to clarify was the definition of flexible electronics. This was a point often left unanswered, he said, because it means different things in terms of substrates and technological application. “But at the end of the day,” he said, “it gets down to where it fits into some desire for products that are lighter weight, more rugged, and more capable, both for the commercial world and for providing security for the nation.” He said that the workshop was likely to struggle with this issue to some extent, and that it might strive to develop an “umbrella” definition that would capture the general features of flexible electronics.

In a broader context, he said, the likelihood that flexible electronics will produce jobs is great. “A new technology always has the potential to create many jobs,” he said, “but the underlying elements of this technology can reach across many applications.” He said that his own familiarity with the subject came out of a military perspective, from which he saw “great advantages in being able to lighten the load that our soldiers and marines on the ground have to carry.” He noted that flexible electronics was also bringing a new generation of sensors to aircraft, including more information about structural dynamics. The subject applied as well to the work of the Department of Homeland Security, where it promised to address critical infrastructure issues. But the “heart of the debate” about flexible electronics, he said, was its potential to spawn many new subindustries and applications throughout the economy, especially in new forms of display, lighting, sensing, and imaging, all of which may be manufactured by efficient roll-to-roll technology.

Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
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Dr. Andrews acknowledged the “great debates” in the United States about how best to sustain domestic manufacturing and economic growth. “Many other nations don’t have such debates,” he said, “they just go do it. Our challenge is how we can better do these things, which is always tough. We’ve invested reasonably well in the basic research, and in some of the applied technology areas. It’s time to hit harder on developing prototypes and demonstrations, and in advancing the technology to the next level of manufacturing.”

Based on the workshop and the deliberations of the STEP board members, he said, the STEP panel would develop recommendations on these questions to the nation. It would be looking in particular at better models for collaboration and community to develop the technologies, which were both “very difficult.” He said that the virtue of collaboration was that it could make “one plus one equal three,” but the hard question was how to apply the best balance of incentives to make this happen.

Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
×
Page 27
Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
×
Page 28
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Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States is the summary of a workshop convened in September 2010 by Policy and Global Affairs' Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy to review challenges, plans, and opportunities for growing a robust flexible electronics industry in the United States. Business leaders, academic experts, and senior government officials met to review the role of research consortia around the world to advance flexible electronics technology. Presenters and participants sought to understand their structure, focus, funding, and likely impact, and to determine what appropriate steps the United States might consider to develop a robust flexible electronics industry.

Flexible electronics refers to technologies that enable flexibility in the manufacturing process as well as flexibility as a characteristic of the final product. Features such as unconventional forms and ease of manufacturability provide important advantages for flexible electronics over conventional electronics built on rigid substrates. Today, examples of flexible electronics technologies are found in flexible flat-panel displays, medical image sensors, photovoltaic sheets, and electronic paper. Some industry experts predict that the market for global flexible electronics will experience a double digit growth rate, reaching $250 billion by 2025, but most experts believe that the United States is not currently poised to capitalize on this opportunity. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States examines and compares selected innovation programs, both foreign and domestic, and their potential to advance the production of flexible electronics technology.

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