28 Aug 15. Carter Announces Manufacturing Initiative to Aid Warfighters. The Defense Department is partnering with a large-scale consortium in the creation of a National Manufacturing Innovation Institute to produce hybrid electronics, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced today at Moffett Federal Airfield, California. The FlexTech Alliance consortium of 96 companies, 41 universities, 14 state and local government organizations, 11 labs and non-profits will showcase the new institute as it advances manufacturing frontiers among Pentagon, academia and private-sector partners, Carter said. Flexible hybrid electronics have enormous potential for the defense mission, the secretary said. DoD will invest $75m in the institute, which will be established in Silicon Valley, he said, adding that DoD public- and private-sector partners in the audience today, have contributed investments that match or exceed the department’s investment.
An Emerging Technology
Carter described hybrid electronics as an emerging technology that uses 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.”
With hybrid electronics, Carter said, DoD’s industry partners will be able to shape electronics to platforms, after decades of having to do things the other way around, “by seamlessly printing lightweight, flexible structural integrity sensors right onto the surfaces of ships and aircraft, or folding them into cracks and crevices where rigid circuit boards and bulky wiring could never fit, we’ll be able to have real-time damage reports — making the stuff of science fiction in that sense into reality.”
The new technologies also will make lifesaving advances and improve mission effectiveness, the secretary said.
Helping the Troops Directly
“Our troops will be able to lighten their loads with sensors and electronic gear embedded in their clothing, and wounded warriors will benefit from smart prosthetics that have the full flexibility of human skin,” Carter noted.
Other defense applications include intelligent bandages and smart clothing that will alert soldiers to the first signs of injury or exhaustion, he said. Structural integrity sensors will offer real-time damage assessment for helicopters or aircraft after engagement. Small, unattended sensors will give soldiers greater situational awareness.
“Like the six other manufacturing innovation institutes established by President [Barack] Obama over the last three years, four of which DoD helped lead … this will ensure that pioneering innovations needed to develop, manufacture, and commercialize these cutting-edge electronics will happen right here in America,” Carter noted.
“The reality, though, is … we don’t know all the applications this new technology will make possible — that’s the remarkable thing about innovation — and it’s another reason why America, and America’s military, must get there first,” the secretary said. (Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)