Hosted by IDTechEx
Printed Electronics World
Posted on December 16, 2009 by  & 

Printed buttons with feeling - haptic touch

The technical term is haptic touch. It refers to printed buttons that regain the interactive feeling of the old fashioned keyboard. It gives the difference between key entry without looking and the slower, more troublesome key entry where you have to look all the time. It is becoming a given for the next generation of portable electronics.
In May 2009, Dr. Jun Souk, Samsung Electronics pointed out that, "Touch is a commodity until it can be customized; then it is a feature". This is particularly relevant to the touchscreens that are increasingly replacing buttons and knobs. Haptic metal dome switches in separate keyboards are being replaced with screens that have haptic touch controls integrated into them. This saves cost and weight while permitting larger screen sizes.


Where keyboards are still needed Pelikon of Cambridge UK offers haptic touch with its advanced printed keyboard based on ac electroluminescent light displays that reconfigure keys according to which way round you hold them. See the new Toshiba Biblio e-reader mobile phone for example here.
This contrasts with the poor haptic response of piezoelectric actuators in some mobile phones and the slightly better linear resonant actuators.
Pelikon haptic touch through a printed ac electroluminescent display is shown above.


This month, NXT announced in Cambridge UK a haptic touch capability in its laminar loudspeaker technology. These loudspeakers, some of which consist of transparent plastic film, are used in hifis, car sound systems and even large talking gift cards.

Artificial Muscle

Not to be outdone, this month, Artificial Muscle of the USA has announced waterproof, integrated haptic touch as well.
The announcement was made at the world's largest event on printed electronics - the IDTechEx "Printed Electronics USA" in San Jose.
Artificial Muscle makes electroactive devices. These consist of flexible electrodes printed on either side of a plastic film that distorts under an electric field. Roll to roll printing of these devices is planned.
Marcus Rosenthal of Artificial Muscle pointed out that there has been explosive growth in touchscreen display market and the market will increase from 350M to 820M units by 2013. 50% of smartphones will have touchscreens by 2012 driven by new demand for devices and applications.
The introduction of touchscreen printers, refrigerators, sewing machines, washer/dryers, and automotive consoles underscores this trend. However, adding Touch has not simplified devices because:
  • Users are required to navigate complex screens and menus
  • Mobile devices are replacing PCs for Internet browsing
  • Multifunctional capabilities increase operation complexity
  • Range of options continues to grow
The Artificial Muscle solution involves Electroactive Polymer Artificial Muscle (EPAM).
Benefits of Benefits of EPAM include:
• Versatile
• Fast response
• Energy efficient
• Real time effects
• Small, lightweight & quiet
• Cost parity to existing solutions
X mode, Z mode and diaphragm actuators are available based on this technology.
Z mode actuator by Artificial Muscle
Similar technology causes device shaking in video games etc.
In summary, the effects that are made possible include:
  • Button click confirmation
  • Button edges
  • Vibration - i.e. call notification
  • Textures - velocity dependent effects
  • Other complex effects
The design options include:
  • Shake/vibrate entire device
  • Move touch screen only
• In-plane
• Out of plane
For more see:

Authored By:


Posted on: December 16, 2009

More IDTechEx Journals