Sharp Laboratories Europe, 26 & 27 January 2010
Touch Panels and Overlays for Displays, 27th January
The 2nd day of the conference focused on touch panels and overlays. Myddrin Jones of Eldico started with an overview of the touch panels market, a market that has become increasingly pervasive in recent years but with the technology actually developed in the 80's. Myddrin highlighted the existence of approximately 170 touch panel manufacturers, a highly competitive field as, there are far less display manufacturers than that to cater for.
Most of the market currently consists of resistive touch panels (80% by volume, 43% by value) and the costlier projected capacitive (about 17% by volume, and 25% by value) touch panels. The grand majority of the manufacturers are based, as expected, in Asia, where the majority of display technology is also based, with about 50 in Japan, 32 in Taiwan, 20 in China and 15 in Korea. About 40 are based in the Americas and the remainder is European suppliers.
The current hot topic in the industry is multi touch capability, and although not many developers have multitouch capability fully developed and available as a product at the moment, windows 7 supports multitouch and eventually, by 2015, 47% of touch panels will be capable of multi-touch (according to Display Search).
After a very interesting market overview, 3M discussed the company's projected capacitive touch technology, with manufacturing based on ITO on glass. Zytronic on the other hand, who also develop protected capacitive technology are using wire embedding using a CAD control system. Both approaches are quite slow in terms of production speeds, but for both companies, larger volumes is not an issue at the moment as they are focusing on niche applications with no need for faster production. When compared to resistive panels, the price of capacitive ones is approximately double.
Chris Brown with Sharp Laboratories described the challenges of creating an integrated optical touch panel, with the efforts there focused on circuits that will lower power consumption and increase IR sensitivity in order to make sense for small mobile devices such as cell phones.
The day ended with presentations from 3M and Light Blue Optics. 3M gave an idea of the kind of approaches used to add overlays on a display without sacrificing reflectivity, while Light Blue Optics described their Holographic Laser Projection trademark technology, which converts any flat surface into a touchscreen. The company's first product, the Light Touch™, was launched just a few weeks ago at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, attracting a lot of interest while the company is trying to define the markets and applications that will hopefully make their first device a success.
For more attend Printed Electronics Europe 2010.
Top image: businessweek.com