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Corporate–academic partnership pools resources . . . UMass Lowell electrical engineering graduate students Kyle Homan (left) and Elicia Harper work in one of the labs at the Elisia Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center. The $80 million facility is home to the Printed Electronics Research Collaborative. educational programs for Raytheon employees as well as for Raytheon customers. Raytheon provides many opportunities for advanced education for its employees, and the partnership makes it possible to craft educational programs specific to company needs. The obvious advantage to UMass Lowell is that Raytheon’s investment has provided funding to the university to build an entire floor of our new research building that is dedicated to printed electronics research. In addition, RURI’s focus on Raytheon’s technology needs has created directed research that is more applied than many university programs. For our students, RURI provides an environment that is very connected with significant commercial applications. In addition, our students gain an advantage on employment opportunities within Raytheon. What are some of the main barriers to scaling up technologies beyond the lab and into the commercial setting? The field of printed electronics is in early stages of development and commercialization. Materials and manufacturing equipment are in a nascent phase compared with current electronics technology using subtractive processes on rigid substrates. In fact, I would say that the printed electronics technology is at a stage of maturity similar to the early days of silicon integrated chip manufacturing. On the materials side, functional inks (e.g., conductive, dielectric, and semiconductor inks) need to be developed to build the level of electronic functionality required for most applications. These inks are more complicated—requiring components such as nanoparticles, surfactants, and dispersants— than clean-room materials that have been developed to manufacture integrated circuits and printed circuit boards. Therefore, the properties of these functional inks need to be Credit: Joson Images for UMass Lowell optimized to establish material standards. The same holds true for manufacturing equipment. For instance, there is no single printer that can handle all material constraints—such as ink viscosities and particle sizes—and dimensional requirements of many electronic subsystems. Further, these printers are not designed for large-scale, high-rate manufacturing. It will be some time before we see printed electronics technology emerge in cost and production scales that are equivalent to current electronics technology. However, RURI has unique strengths to help advance this developing area of technology. At RURI, we have total capabilities—we have assembled state-of-the-art tools in every aspect of building prototype subsystems, from advanced modeling tools to materials development, to printing technology and advanced measurement and characterization. The facility provides centralized resources to design, fabricate, and test developments in a matter of days. In addition, RURI is unique because of the local expertise of UMass Lowell’s plastics engineering department, one of the few in the country, which allows us to tailor properties of flexible plastic substrates and filaments for 3-D printing. What unique challenges do a university–industry partnership introduce? There are many challenges involved with putting a commercial entity on a university campus. As with most university– industry collaborations, there are the usual issues involving intellectual property, which we have successfully worked out. However, the RURI partnership introduces additional challenges because of the Department of Defense nature of our research. The RURI facility has to be able to conduct International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)-related research, which creates infrastructure and personnel challenges. For instance, the facility entrance and all RURI labs require card access—only students and faculty with approval can access the labs. We have the additional requirement that our students and faculty must be United States citizens or green-card holders. Given the international makeup of most graduate programs, this can significantly constrain the population of available students. As a result, we actively work with undergraduate students to encourage them to continue their graduate educations. More than 13 undergraduates worked on senior projects in the facility over our first year. These projects included valuable work to the RURI mission, including design and construction of an anechoic chamber for antenna characterization, development of a robotic arm for printing conducting traces on 3-D objects, and an rfID inventory system. We have been successful in recruiting new graduate students from our undergraduate population through support of these senior projects. What success or failures has RURI logged so far? We have successfully established strong connectivity with Raytheon engineers and scientists through day-to-day interactions. In just one year, we have built an entire floor (~8,000 ft2) infrastructure that includes five labs focused on advanced design and simulation (mechanical, electromagnetic, and thermal), materials development, printing 34 www.ceramics.org | American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 95, No. 3


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