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Clemson part of consortium getting manufacturing grant

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Staff Report
gsanews@scbiznews.com
Published Sept. 17, 2015

Clemson University is part of a San Jose, Calif.-based consortium of industries and universities that received a five-year, $75 million federal grant through the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

The consortium, called FlexTech Alliance, was organized to research and develop advanced technologies and processes to put the U.S. on the cutting edge of next-generation manufacturing, a statement said.

Charles ‘Chip’ Tonkin (left), Steve Foulger and Liam O’Hara, examine flexible hybrid electronics produced on a Clemson press. (Photo provided by Clemson University)
Charles ‘Chip’ Tonkin (left), Steve Foulger and Liam O’Hara, examine flexible hybrid electronics produced on a Clemson press. (Photo provided by Clemson University)
 
“This is the first time Clemson has been part of an NNMI grant, and the implications to the university and the area could be huge,” said Charles “Chip” Tonkin, director of the College of Business and Behavioral Science’s Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics, graphic communications chairman and a founding member of the flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing proposal for the grant.

Collaborating with Tonkin on the grant application were professor Steve Foulger, founding member of Clemson’s Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies; the departments of materials science and engineering and bioengineering; and Liam O’Hara, associate professor of graphic communications at Clemson.

“The significance of the Sonoco Institute’s role in this is difficult to overstate,” said Foulger. “Right now, one can’t even imagine the limitless uses for flexible hybrid technologies, and Clemson University is at the forefront of developing some of those uses.”

Flexible hybrid technology has the capability to result in bandages that detect infections, flexible paper light bulbs that screw into a light socket or food containers that notify you of an allergen inside — all of which could be created on a printing press.

“Traditionally, when people think about what printing presses produce for the packaging industry, it’s about creating eye-catching wrapping for consumer goods,” said O’Hara. “But beyond color, we can also print conductive and functional inks to create electronic devices far more inexpensively than traditional manufacturing processes.”

The Sonoco Institute has already produced flexible hybrid devices such as capacitors, circuitry and diodes on its presses through grants from the FlexTech Alliance.

The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation provides a manufacturing research infrastructure where U.S. industry and academia collaborate to solve industry-relevant problems.

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