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NSWC Crane employee recognized for contributions to the flexible hybrid electronics industry

By NSWC Crane Corporate Communications | April 24, 2019

CRANE, Ind. – A Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) employee was recognized for his contributions to advancing the flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) ecosystem. Craig Herndon, the Program Manager for the DoD Executive Agent for Printed Circuit Board and Interconnect Technology, received the NextFlex 2019 Fellow Award in Monterey, California.

NextFlex is a consortium of companies, academic institutions, non-profits, and state, local, and federal governments that have a shared goal of advancing U.S. manufacturing of FHE. Herndon was one of nine recipients of the Fellow Award for accelerating the development of FHE in emerging technologies, manufacturing, defense, aerospace, and medical applications. The Fellow Award also recognizes efforts made to implement FHE into workforce development initiatives.

“This is a huge honor, especially being included with the group of nine that were selected as 2019 Fellows,” says Herndon. “I’ve been working with the NextFlex Institute since its inception in 2015 to promote the possibilities that FHE brings to Defense. Those capabilities are astounding…FHE enables the replacement of bulky and rigid form factors with flexible and wearable devices attached directly onto substrates for consumers, even human skin.”

Herndon says FHE is a new category of microelectronics that uses novel materials with stretchable, conformable, and flexible form factors.

“When people think of electronics, they might think of the commonly used green, rigid circuit boards,” says Herndon. “This emerging FHE technology enables wearables, medical Internet of Things (IoT) applications, defense applications, and much more. FHE won’t necessarily replace existing technology, but by expanding from electronics based on rigid and fragile circuit boards to flexible electronics components mounted on substrates, such as plastics and textiles, the DoD expects to deliver revolutionary capabilities to future warfighters.”

Herndon says the implications of FHE directly impact the warfighter.

“FHE will enable low-profile and unobtrusive wearable sensors that will monitor cognition, fatigue, hydration, heat stress, cardiorespiratory response, and other factors to provide actionable data to individual warfighters and their commanders. FHE will enable the military to equip aircraft with conformal or integrated antennas that deliver additional communication capabilities without increasing drag.”

Herndon serves on the Technical Council for the NextFlex Consortium. He has been integral in connecting commercial industries, government, and the DoD to advance FHE.

“As part of my role with NextFlex, I’ve connected diverse entities by helping organize a ‘Government Day’ in Washington D.C. by identifying an appropriate audience and selecting experts to speak. Events such as these create opportunities to build critical relationships that allow for innovation across industries while ensuring national security.”

Herndon says NSWC Crane and the Printed Circuit Board Executive Agent, are helping to advance the technology for possible defense system applications.

“We are coordinating projects with NextFlex to address new processes and new ways to produce electronics in areas such as additive manufacturing, advanced radar applications, and antenna printing to drone and aircraft structural panels. NSWC Crane’s involvement with these projects will enable NSWC Crane to lead in this tech area as we start to see it emerge in our defense systems.”

Herndon says it’s important to provide service men and women with the best tools possible.

“I’ve been lucky enough to interface directly with multiple military personnel, including elite warfighters, throughout my career here at NSWC Crane. I am continually impressed at their intelligence, innovation, and dedication. It’s critical for all civilians supporting these warfighters to realize that they depend upon us to provide every possible advantage when it comes to the fight. If there is anything I can do to give them that advantage, I owe that to them. I strive every day to be the best for these warfighters – they are depending on us to provide top-quality, reliable, safe, and capable systems!”

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.