Some of the most advanced electronic products in the world contain flexible circuits. The minute size of this type of circuit board allows for a higher computing power in a smaller, lighter package. At All Flex Flexible Circuits and Heaters, a small manufacturing company based in Northfield, Minnesota, their facility can produce circuit layers that are less than .0001 inches thick.
Uses for this type of tech range from the medical industry, military, aerospace and everything in between. If you need a very small processer in your heart device, All Flex can make it for you. If you have a robot that’s making repairs on a deep sea oil rig, All Flex can provide the circuitry.
“Minnesota is the hub for flex circuitry in America,” explained Processing Engineer Kent Hoover. California does a lot of work in this area of study as well, he said, but export a majority of their large scale manufacturing overseas. All Flex keeps its production in-state, with facilities based in Northfield and Bloomington.
Last summer, Portland Oregon native Victoria Mercer experienced “America’s flex hub” first hand during her SciTech internship at All Flex’s Northfield facility. Now wrapping up her senior year, Mercer originally moved to the Midwest to partake in the University of Minnesota’s chemical engineering program.
“Our school has a reputation for having a difficult program,” Mercer said, “but I’ve found all my classes really interesting.”
At All Flex, Mercer worked in the chemical department building circuit boards. The circuitry she helped assemble is, no surprise, highly flexible and often used in medtech devices inside the human body.
A typical shift began with taking samples and testing the concentration of different additives in the plating tanks. Using the wet room she could test the PH levels of the baths and measure their copper content. Mercer often worked with a process called electroplating in which copper is added to make an electrical connection between layers for multi-layer circuits.
Looking back, Mercer said, “I knew that I was interested in working with electronics and this has been a really interesting experience. I’ve had a good time here and that’s helped to confirm what I want to work on.”
Mercer is now taking additional courses in electrical engineering and biology, which was inspired, she said “by my time at All Flex working with circuitry that can be used in medical devices.”
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