Today we meet Barry Wild, Process Development Manager at FlexEnable.
1. Was science and engineering always your chosen career path?
I have always loved the methodical approach found in science and engineering. With both of my parents being scientists, science was always going to rub off on me. I was also lucky to have inspirational science teachers both in primary and secondary school. One Physics teacher had a huge influence on me and steered me from Biology towards Physics.
I love the practical aspect of Physics and engineering which allows me to plan and carry out experiments, understand the results and learn from them. This feeling is still as strong now as it was as a child.
2. How did you first become interested in organic electronics and what has kept you so engaged in this industry?
Like many individuals in their early career, I didn’t know which field of physics I really wanted to specialise in and ended up in organic electronics through serendipity more than anything: At Loughborough University, I was on a sandwich course with a year placement in industry. I applied for a lot of different areas of Physics.
I eventually chose a placement at Sharp Laboratories of Europe, studying Liquid Crystals. While at Sharp I was also introduced to OLEDs. This interest in OLEDs led me to landing a job at Cambridge Display Technology, developing polymer OLEDs. Now with FlexEnable, I have gone full circle. I started on barrier films for OLEDs but transitioned into developing Liquid Crystal Optics and flexible displays on plastic substrates.
3. What have been the most significant breakthroughs you have seen during your career?
There have been a number of key breakthroughs, but one big change is the move to flexible displays and optics built on plastic. This trend will only continue to grow with more and more applications needing new form factors, light weight and the ability to conform to surfaces. The change from a flat panel display or optics to a flexible curved shape will open the doors to a range of new applications and bring almost any surface to life.
4. Tell us about your current job. What are the biggest challenges and what gives you most satisfaction?
My current role is to lead a strong team of engineers to take a lab-based concept through to mass production. Fundamentally, we develop processes that are scalable and fit existing production lines. This pipeline of development starts with trials on our pilot line in Cambridge, developing prototypes and then transferring the technology to manufacturing partners’ existing production lines.
We collaborate closely with material suppliers and OEMs to develop concepts and processes before teaming up closely with the fab partners to move the technology / product to mass production for the OEMs. There are new challenges every day and this is what makes the job so interesting. Whenever you solve a problem or see the progress the technology has made, you get great satisfaction. Personally, I enjoy the process of knocking down hurdles to move the technology forward.
5. What advice would you give to a student of a STEM subject who wanted to pursue a career in flexible organic electronics?
Go for it. Any STEM subjects and career paths are going to be interesting. Flexible organic electronics is a key area that leads to some exciting opportunities. It is also open for a range of different skill bases from chemists, physicists, electrical engineers, material engineers, the list goes on. The mind-set to solve problems and to keep on learning every day will always get you far and plastic electronics is an exciting field to thrive in.