Tag Archives: FlexTech Alliance

Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium’s request for proposals (RFPs) on human performance monitoring platforms

The requested human performance monitor platform RFPs are for a US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) project being managed by the Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC), according to a July 17, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

The Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC) has released its first Request for Proposals (RFP) focused on developing a technology platform for Human Performance Monitors for military and civilian personnel in high stress situations such as pilots, special operations personnel, firefighters, and trauma care providers. Organized by FlexTech Alliance under a grant from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) the RFP comes only 3 month since the group officially formed its technical and leadership teams. The consortium members, working with AFRL, issued this RFP to focus on component development and integration for a lightweight, low-cost, conformal and wearable patch.

The July 17, 2013 NBMC news release, which originated the news item, offers more about this patch/monitor,

The heart of this new patch will be a biosensor device to measure chemicals, called biomarkers, in human sweat.  These biomarkers can provide early warnings of performance issues such as stress, fatigue, vigilance or organ damage.  The platform will contain the sensor, a microfluidic system that delivers sweat to the sensor, printed and hybrid control electronics, interconnects, a power supply, wireless communication, and software – all on a flexible substrate that is comfortable to wear.

“An aircraft has numerous sensors which take over 1500 measurements per second to monitor its condition in flight, whereas the most critical part – the pilot – has no monitors,” Malcolm Thompson, chief executive officer of NBMC stated.  “We are working quickly and efficiently to coordinate the expertise being generated at an array of companies, government labs and academic centers.  NBMC’s goal is to establish this technology chain to more rapidly develop products and manufacturing approaches for the Air Force and commercial markets.”

I gather the reasoning is that we should be able to monitor human beings just as we do equipment and machines.

The news release also offers information about the consortium partners,

Initial consortium membership includes a wide range of organizations.  Fortune 500 technology leaders include General Electric, Lockheed Martin, and DuPont Teijin Films.  More entrepreneurial organizations include PARC (a Xerox Company), MC 10, Soligie, American Semiconductor, Brewer Science and UES.  They are joined by the Air Force Research Laboratory and university leaders such as Cornell University, University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing, University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, UC San Diego, University of Cincinnati, Binghamton University, Johns Hopkins University, Northeastern University NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for High-rate Nano-manufacturing, and Arizona State University.

The NBMC solicitation was posted July 10, 2013 on this page,


Request for Proposals Issued: July 10th, 2013

Proposals Due Date: August 9th, 2013 – 5:00 PM PDT

You can find the 9pp RFP here.

I’ve decided to include this description of the thinking that underlies the consortium, from the NBMC Nano-Bio Manufacturing webpage,

The field of nano-biotechnology is advancing rapidly, with many important discoveries and potential applications being identified.  Much of this work is taking place in academia and advanced research labs around the globe.  Once an application is identified, however, the road is still long to making it available to the markets in need.  One of the final steps on that road is understanding how to manufacture in high volume and the lowest cost.  Often this is the defining decision on whether the product even gets to that market.

With new nano-bio technology solutions, the challenges to produce in volume at low-cost are entirely new to many in the field.  New materials, new substrates, new equipment, and unknown properties are just a few of the hurdles that no one organization has been able to overcome.

To address these challenges, FlexTech Alliance, in collaboration with a nationwide group of partners, has formed a Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC) for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The mission of this partnership is to bring together leading scientists, engineers, and business development professionals from industry and universities in order to work collaboratively in a consortium, and to mature an integrated suite of nano-bio manufacturing technologies to transition to industrial manufacturing.

Initial activities focus on AFRL/ DoD priorities, e.g., physiological readiness and human performance monitoring. Specifically, NBMC matures nano-bio manufacturing technologies to create an integrated suite of reconfigurable and digitized fabrication methods that are compatible with biological and nanoparticle materials and to transition thin film, mechanically compliant device concepts through a foundry-like manufacturing flow.

The long-term vision is that NBMC operates at the confluence of four core emerging disciplines: nanotechnology, biotechnology, advanced (additive) manufacturing, and flexible electronics. The convergence of these disparate fields enables advanced sensor architectures for real-time, remote physiological and health/medical monitoring.

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It seems to me that human beings are increasingly being viewed as just another piece of equipment.

E-readers: musings on publishing and the word (part 1 of 3)

There’ve been a lot of online articles about e-readers in the last few weeks in particular as debate rages as to whether or not this technology will be viable. It got me to thinking about e-literature, e-readers, e-books, e-paper, e-ink, e-publishing, literacy and on and on. I’ve divided my musings (or attempts to distinguish some sort of pattern within all these contradictory developments) into three parts.This first part is more concerned with the technology/business end of things.

Samsung just announced that it was moving out of the e-reader business. From an article (Aug. 25 2010) by Kit Eaton in Fast Company,

Need any evidence that the dedicated e-reader is destined to become a mere niche-appeal device? Here you go: Tech giant Samsung is ditching its clever e-paper business after years of clever successes and a ton of research into what may be the future for the technology.

Back in 2009 at CES Samsung teased its good-looking Kindle-challenging e-reader, the Papyrus, which used Samsung’s own proprietary electronic ink system for the display. At CES this year it followed up with its “E6” device, with a rumored cost of $400. Samsung had been shaking the e-paper world since late in 2008 with numerous e-paper announcements, including revealing a color 14-inch flexible e-paper display as long ago as October 2008, which used carbon nanotube tech to achieve its sharp image quality.

Now it seems that revolutions in the e-reader market (namely that odd race-to-the-bottom in pricing over quality of service) combined with revolutions in the tablet PC market (which means the iPad, which can do a million more things than the Papyrus or E6 could) and pricing that neatly undercuts Samsung’s planned price points has resulted in Samsung killing its e-paper research and development.

According to Eaton, Samsung hasn’t entirely withdrawn from the e-reader business; the company will be concentrating on its LCD-based systems instead. Samsung is also releasing its own tablet, Galaxy Tab as competition to Apple’s iPad,  in mid-September 2010 (Sept. 2, 2010 news item at Financial Post website).

Dan Nosowitz also writing for Fast Company presents an opinion (Aug. 12, 2010 posting) which sheds light on why Samsung is focusing on LCD -based readers over e-ink-based readers such as Kindle and Nook,

E-ink is one of the more unusual technologies to spring up in recent years. It’s both more expensive and less versatile than LCD, a long-established product seen in everything from iPods to TVs. It’s incredibly specific, but also incredibly good at its one job: reading text.

E-ink e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook offer, in the opinion of myself and many others, the best digital book-reading experience available. …

E-ink will die mostly because it fundamentally can’t compete with tablets. That’s why announcements like today’s, in which E-Ink (it’s a company as well as that company’s main–or only?–product) claimed it will release both a color and a touchscreen version by early 2011, is so confusing. But color and interface are hardly the only obstacles e-ink has to overcome to compete with tablets: Its refresh rates make video largely impossible, it can’t cram in enough pixels to make still photos look any more crisp than a day-old McDonald’s french fry, and, most damnably, it’s still extremely expensive.

Amazon showed that the way to make e-book readers sell like blazes is to lower the price to near-impulse-item territory. Its new $140 Kindle sold out of pre-orders almost immediately, and there’s been more buzz around the next version than can be explained through hardware upgrades alone. It’s a great reader, don’t get me wrong, but its incredible sales numbers are due in large part to the price cut.

That comment about the price cut for the e-reader as being key to its current success can certainly be borne out by this article E-reader faceoff: Kindle or Nook? Here’s a comparison by Mark W. Smith on physorg.com

There’s a titanic battle brewing in the e-reader market. The Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook are leaving competitors in the dust this summer and are locked in a war that has dropped prices by more than half in just a year.

and with this article E-readers gain steam with lower prices and new models by Christine Matthias on Salon.com,

The Wall Street Journal and Tech News Daily have a few things you should consider before wading into the increasingly crowded e-book market, as well as new research that reveals folks with an e-reader tend to read a whole lot more than ever before. The Barnes and Noble Nook is trying to wrestle some market share away from the big boys, and Sharper Image just announced a new e-reader called the Literati that hopes to, maybe, nail down more male readers? It’s got a color screen, in any event.

Or you could get a library card. It’s free.

Addy Dugdale at the Fast Company site in her article, Borders Cuts E-Reader Prices as Kindle Goes to Staples, has this to say,

Borders has slashed the prices of E-Readers Kobo and Aluratek by $20, illustrating just how meh they’ve become in the tech world. The price drop is nothing new–both the Kindle and Nook, Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s market leaders, have seen their prices slashed recently, and they’re thought to be the most exciting brands in the sector. But who does the news bode worst for?

But most of all, this news proves that, as my colleague Kit Eaton pointed out a few months back, this is about as good as it gets for the e-Reader. It’s not quite dead, but it’s looking a bit peaky, like. The reason is, of course, the tablet.

There are efforts that may revive e-readers/e-books/e-paper such as this, a new development in the e-paper/e-reader market was announced in a news item on Azonano (Aug.27, 2010),

The FlexTech Alliance, focused on developing the electronic display and the flexible, printed electronics industry supply chain, today announced a contract award to Nyx Illuminated Clothing Company to develop a foldable display constructed from a panel of multiple e-paper screens.

Applications for this type of product are numerous. For consumer electronics, a foldable display can increase the size of e-reader screens without increasing the device foot-print. In military applications, maps may be read and stored more easily in the field. Medical devices can be enhanced with more accessible and convenient patient charts.

“To enable this unique technology to work, our engineers will develop circuitry to simultaneously drive six separate e-paper screens as one single display,” described John Bell, project manager for Nyx. “The screen panels will be able to be folded up into the area of a single panel or unfolded to the full six panel area on demand.”

Convenience is always important and a flexible screen that I could fold up and fits easily into a purse or a pocket offers  a big advantage over an e-book or an iPad (or other tablet device). I’d be especially interested if there’s a sizing option, e.g., being able to view in 1-screen, 2-screen, 3-screen and up to 6-screen options.

As for the debate about tablets vs e-readers such as Kindle, Nook, and their brethren, I really don’t know. E-readers apparently offer superior reading experiences but that presupposes interest in reading will be maintained. Something like Mongoliad (as described in my Sept. 7, 2010 posting), for example, would seem ideally suited to a tablet environment where the reader becomes a listener and/or a participant in the story environment.

Tomorrow: Part 2 where I look at the reading and writing experience in this digital world.