Interactive touch screens have become such an integral part of everyday life that they’re almost as likely to be found in the playroom of a preschool-age child as on the factory floor or in the field. And as touch screens become increasingly integrated with consumer and industrial IoT, their demand continues to grow across every market sector.
At Pivot International, we are the global one-source partner helping companies worldwide successfully design, engineer, manufacture, distribute, and deploy the latest in consumer and industrial touch screen technologies and IoT innovations. With more than 50 years of experience, in-house DFM expertise that spans fourteen industries, and 320,000 square feet of tricontinental manufacturing capability (including domestic options), we deliver a smooth, seamless, highly collaborative approach to NPD and successful product launch.
Types of Touch Screen Technologies
There are five types of touch screen technologies: resistive, capacitative, near-field imaging, infrared, and ultrasound. Each is differentially suited for various consumer and industrial applications. Let’s take a look at each.
Resistive Touch Screens
Resistive touch screens are the most common industrial touch screen technology. They are constructed of two interfacing glass sheets or specialized films that respond to direct pressure. Traditionally, the glass sheets or films used in this type of touch screen are coated with indium tin oxide (ITO), a transparent conductive material. But this material is increasingly being replaced with more advanced materials, including copper microwires, silver metal mesh, silver nanowires, and graphene.
The switch from ITO to these other materials results from the need to integrate touch functions into the LCD panel rather than manufacturing a transparent touch screen overlay. This makes for a thinner, lighter device with enhanced optical benefits. Because resistive touch screens respond to pressure, they are more reliably responsive to touch than the capacitative versions we’ll discuss below. However, resistive touch screens offer lower resolution image quality than their capacitative counterparts. They are also slower to respond to touch and can register only one pressure point at a time, therefore precluding multi-touch functionality.
Capacitive Touch Screens
Capacitive touch screens were first invented in the 1960s but didn’t appear in the consumer market until the advent of the iPhone. The strength of capacitative technology lies in its instant responsiveness and superior image quality. Capacitive touch screens function on electrical conductivity that alters the screen’s electrical field. Multi-touch functions (think “pinch-to-zoom”) are made possible by triangulating electrical alterations to calculate paired coordinates that “read” the touch location. Unlike resistive touch screens, capacitive touch screens are unresponsive to touch that does not emit an electrical charge. (Which is why it’s almost impossible to use an iPhone while wearing a glove.)
Some capacitive touch screens include a protective layer that protects the display from moisture, extreme temperature, impacts, and solvents, making it suitable for industrial and outdoor applications. For example, our teams at Pivot created a control system for dairy farms with IoT data reporting and touch screen technology that controls milk tank temperatures and wash cycles.
Near-Field Imaging (NFI) Touch Screens
Like capacitative touch screens, near-field imaging touch screens read touch commands by measuring an electrostatic field. The difference is that NFI touch screens feature a corner-configured electrostatic charge, making them more responsive to touch from almost any source. (Even if you’re wearing a glove, NFI devices will instantly register and respond.) A primary advantage of NFI touch screens is that they can withstand extreme field conditions. This makes them a perfect fit for the industrial and security and defense applications that Pivot brings specialized experience in.
Infrared Touch Screens
Infrared touch screens rely on a grid of LEDs and light-detector photocells placed at opposing positions. The LEDs beam an infrared matrix across the screen that, when “broken” by touch, provides the basis for the device to detect the input location. Infrared touch screens require dozens of components and precision manufacturing. Despite being more expensive to produce, they are often the ideal product solution for applications that include ticketing kiosks, ATMs, office automation, medtech, and even beverage dispensers like the one Pivot created with an integrated processor and customizable I/O system.
Surface Acoustic Wave Technology (SAW or Ultrasound) Touch Screens
Ultrasound technology has enjoyed cross-industry applications for more than a century. But today’s surface acoustic wave touch screens are light years beyond their earlier incarnations and make it possible to make almost any surface responsive to touch. SAW touch screens work by projecting ultrasound waves across the surface of a screen. As the soundwaves are absorbed by whatever comes in contact with the surface, the screen’s controller chip can instantly identify, read, and accurately respond to commands.
Looking for a Proven Partner With Advanced Expertise in Touch Screen Technologies?
Pivot is the partner you’ve been looking for. If you’d like to learn more about how we will work closely with your team to take your product conception to fully-fledged innovation, contact us today.