Flex’s 2,500 product designers have created a library of 130 component designs that can help companies cobble together devices more quickly. Some of its engineers have built a tiny sensor that scans your retina, useful for products that need to log in users without keyboards. Another group focuses on bendable circuit boards that will be used in electronic tattoos to track vital signs, or in sneaker-mounted wireless chargers that draw power from a wearer’s movement, says Joan Vrtis, who heads that team. “We are trying to be very much in front of what our customers want,” she says.
To help customers make use of its components or create new ones, Sargent has opened 23 R&D labs across the country where they can work with designers and use 3D printers and industrial manufacturing equipment to make prototypes. Flex is developing smart shelves with Intel and crop-monitoring sensors with Farm2050, a food production consortium started with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Sargent with Flex’s smart jacket. More than 60 sensors and components are built in. Background: Startups working at Flex’s accelerator.