Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Where will touchscreen technology be in 2018







Touch screens are a major part of our lives either at home or at work. But how important will they be in 2018? All technologies are growing at a rapid rate and that’s no different when it comes to touchscreens. In fact, in 2018 it shows no sign of stopping, and the market for touchscreen modules is expected to double from $16 billion in 2012 to $31.9 billion in 2018. This shows the rapid growth in this market.


Why has there been such a growth in touchscreen technology?

Touchscreens are helping to make things faster and easy to use. Mouse and keyboards are now being replaced by touchscreens which are allowing users to navigate systems faster and easier. Ensuring a faster input means greater efficiency in the transfer of information between the man and machine. Companies now realise that touchscreens bring major benefits and this will only increase in 2018.


As reported in the American Chemical Society journal “Langmuir” British scientists at the University of Sussex have invented a cheap flexible touchscreen made of silver and graphene. Combining graphene - a material made from a single layer of carbon atoms - with silver nanowires, to create a film which will outperform regular screens but using a fraction of the amount of silver. The screen will also be more responsive and use less power. Although a volume manufactured version of this may be several years away it proves that the future of touchscreens will be incredibly exciting.


SCHURTER is always monitoring the latest touchscreen technology and how we can implement them into our manufacturing processes. 



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What is the future of Touchscreen Technology?


















In 1967 E.A Johnson invented the first capacitive touchscreen console and over the last 50 years, the technology has evolved to become the primary interface on most devices, most notably PCAP touch technology that is used on our smartphones. But where does the human interface go from here?
Today we can perform numerous tasks on our smartphone from online banking, checking our health and even changing the temperature in our home whilst several thousand miles away. However, the biggest issue and most difficult thing we can’t do productively on our smartphone would be writing. Any letter, in-depth composition or data entry develops into a nightmare of clumsily pecking at the virtual keys. Typing this way is unnatural and the touchscreen has a long way to go to enable life improving efficiency.

The key to fluent typing consists of 3 elements, touch input, orientation and confirmation - a traditional keyboard has all three to satisfy these criteria. Touchscreens allow you to input information but they do not give you a sense of confirmation or direct your finger by the physicality of the keys. Missing these elements makes it difficult to get into any creative flow but two new technologies are now emerging.


Haptics, which is a means of simulating touch sensations by creating a vibration that activates sensors in your fingertips to notify your brain, once you have pressed a button and secondly Microfluidics, this technology creates dynamic transparent tactile surfaces by pushing a solution through a material to define keyboard formations that can rise and recede thereby giving a physicality of the keys. The addition of these two technologies provides the orientation and confirmation needed to enable full typing productivity.

We are already seeing mobile devices use Haptic and Microfluidics in defined positions. The next generation will allow the user to program a combination of these technologies, keyboards could be adjusted in size and location and provide haptic feedback in any position and the microfluidics technology used to create a personalized keyboard for each user. For example changing the size of the icon to relate to their finger size and typing style. Moving further forward we will see haptics and microfluidics evolve together to include tactility and vibrations for more than just keyboards and buttons. Mapping and navigation are examples where you could see the varying contours with the haptic giving various feedback on what you are doing by increasing the length and strength of the vibration. Users who are visually impaired could choose a braille option when manoeuvring around their touchscreen device or when writing without having to purchase a separate product.


From the minute we are born a connection through touch is acquired, this connection with each other spreads to our personalized technology and current developments will soon enable touchscreens to react in the same way by responding to every individual’s personal touch.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Save time and money with SCHURTER's tailor made solutions

The competition from the Far East does not sleep. Through numerous distributors, it offers a range of cost-effective standard touch panels. The ease of a standard item and low cost are attractive, but is this right option for an industrial or medical machine application?
Input systems for industrial and medical machines are often subject of an extended lifecycle expectancy, the service life of these products could be 10 to 15 years. A touch panel for these would consist of a selection of components such as touch sensor, display, controller and electronics. The majority of these components are subject to rapid technical advancements, for the displays this is 2 to 3 years. But the touch sensors and the corresponding controllers also change very quickly due to technological advancements.














In a standard touch panel, this will mean every few years the item will be discontinued and a new item will replace it. What does this mean for the machine manufacturer? It will be down to the machine manufacturer to check the new items compatibility, as the panel could have changed size, controller software, cable positions etc. For a machine manufacturer, this will mean valuable engineering time will be required every few years to check compatibility, to re-validate the panel or ever to re-certify. How much will all of this “extra” work cost over the lifetime of a machine?   


SCHURTER offers its customers complete solutions. This means we assume responsibility for the whole input system. We are also responsible for the availability of the products and components throughout the entire cycle. SCHURTER guarantees a product with full compatibility, form and function throughout the entire service life. During the development phase, customers are made aware of the complexity of the product design with the relevant parameters. Aspects such as the availability of components and long-term availability, exchange possibilities and qualification also play an important role in product design. These aspects are often forgotten and/or pushed to the side for cost reasons.















The longer the lifecycle of the product, the more important it is to have an experienced system provider who can optimally advise the customer on the choice of the individual components. A system supplier with the appropriate competencies and manufacturing facilities can also significantly reduce the time required to develop a product. This gives the customer peace of mind that their product is in the right hands.  

If you’re looking into an HMI/touchscreen solution for an industrial or medical machine with the lowest cost to you over the lifetime of your product then look no further than SCHURTER 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Why a High Quality Prototype can make a Huge Difference

A prototype is paramount when it comes to product development. This is true in any industry and any company that plans to start a line of production. The customer wants to receive the highest quality product and service, this is why the prototype is key. The prototype is the chance to prove and showcase that you can produce the highest quality product.








                                                                                                                                                
Benefits
The process of creating a prototype comes with great benefits, not only does it produce a physical example of how the product will look and feel but It can also iron out any design issues and improve functions along the duration. Pre-production will be able to produce a highly accurate assessment of the time and cost involved in the production, this then means manufacturing costs can be reduced by resolving any problems which were underlined in pre-production.  


Quality
Remember the prototype model is the company’s reputation don't chance it by saving money it can take a long time to build up a corporate reputation and a short time to knock it down if you don't meet the expectations of your customer or potential customer. So it’s then very important that you make sure the prototype is the highest quality. The customer needs to see the end product that will be close to how it will appear in production. 


SCHURTER’s high-end equipment and in-house touchscreen sensor production ensure rapid prototyping that significantly reduces the time-to-market of your product. To further reduce the development time. Although still producing a high-quality prototype that meets all the customers’ requirements. If you need a prototype then contact us at SCHURTER.



Monday, September 25, 2017

SCHURTER's Management Meeting 2017

Management Meeting 2017

The SCHURTER International Management Meeting was this year held in the UK from the 7th to 11th September 2017, with 25 CEO’s from group companies travelling to the UK from worldwide locations.
On Friday the 8th of September the company invited the CEO’s to visit the factory in Aylesbury. The guests were given a welcome presentation by the UK CEO, Andy Birch and his management team. This was followed by a tour of the factory and a chance to show off our site. The tour took guests around each department in order to demonstrate the capabilities of the facility and the effective day to day running of the site.





Once the tours were complete a BBQ took place in the gardens of the Broad Leys pub and restaurant for both the visitors and the staff of SCHURTER. Thanks to a let up in the weather, the evening was a huge success with great BBQ food and also fish & chips to add a British touch, great ambience and even cupcakes emblazoned with the SCHURTER logo to finish!








On Saturday 9th September the agenda continued at the base for the management meeting, Sopwell House, St Albans, Hertfordshire. The theme of the day was strategic planning and this was followed in the evening by a meal at the award-winning local restaurant, Thompson.
On the afternoon of Sunday the 10th, the CEO’s took a well-earned break from proceedings to make a trip to the Luton Hoo Estate in Bedfordshire. Here they participated in various country pursuits such as Archery, Lawn Croquet and Falconry whilst experiencing first hand some truly bracing British weather! A welcome afternoon tea interval gave them all chance to warm up before enjoying a guided tour of the Luton Hoo Hotel. The evening drew to a close in The Sitting Room at the Mansion House with a 3-course dinner. 


























On Monday 11th, with all presentations made and future planning proposals set, the agenda was concluded and the CEO's departed, having experienced a diverse range of local hospitality which spanned across three neighbouring counties.


The management meeting really outlines what SCHURTER stand for as a company. SCHURTER unites together across multiple countries and cultures to work as one. SCHURTER shows professionalism and a passion for what they do. Being part of a global group allows SCHURTER to utilise the strengths of each company within the group and offer complete solutions and a product lifecycle management system globally. This shows that SCHURTER is a one-stop shop and are the best choice for the complete solutions, whether this is a customised component or a fully integrated touch screen solution.


SCHURTER in the UK are able to offer products from both divisions; Input Systems and Components. The manufacturing site based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire specialises in human-machine interfaces, membrane keypads and Touchscreens. This means that SCHURTER is able to design a complete solution to meet our customer’s needs.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Intuitive use of machines makes all the difference

Machines simplify our everyday life in many different ways. But for this to work smoothly and for the machines not to be so complicated that they present us with insurmountable obstacles, the human-machine interface must be kept as simple as possible.

Interface between man and machine

Information is communicated via a human machine interface. It represents the link. There is a dialog between the two system partners, which creates an (inter-) action. The interface is therefore responsible for translating and communicating the information between the two linked systems of man and machine.

Forms of communication

On the human side, various technologies are used as input systems. For instance, the language input. Human communication comes closest and will undoubtedly prevail in the future. But others are more well-known and above all (still) more reliable. For example, the keyboard. Over time, this has been extended to include the mouse due to the development of graphical user interfaces. In addition to the mouse, especially for mobile applications, touchpads and Apple's trackpad have also been added. The features of a mouse have been basically substituted on a touch-sensitive surface. So-called gesture control was added to known features (e.g. scrolling): Swipe, zoom and rotate. 

The touchscreen represents the latest level in this evolution. In principle, this does not offer much more in the way of features than the mouse and keyboard. But it does greatly simplify the use of numerous applications. Here, the finger replaces the cursor. You can now tap directly on the action you want to perform. The user does not need to go back to the trackpad. The control is implemented instantly. On the downside, it is unavoidable for the display to become smudged as a result of the screen being constantly touched.. The machine communicates differently. It usually gives feedback in an audio form or via the display. It acknowledges the input more or provides options for further, more detailed input by the user.

In practice

When it comes to actual use, the machine or developer of the device must of course consider many different points. For example, the interface requires the following characteristics:

  • Fast design-in process
  • Input and display system in one on the smallest of spaces
  • Standardized interface
  • Low cost and suitability for mass production
  • Customer-specific adjustments in the design, technology and production

Conclusion

Devices are successful when they are accepted by the users. Once more, the smartphone is the perfect example in this respect. Despite the high complexity of the device, it has become the norm within a short period of time thanks to its easy, intuitive usability. This is what we should all strive for. Usability makes all the difference.

Visit our website for more information
Download the whitepaper

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How Optical Bonding can transform your touchscreen

Touchscreens are designed to be easy to use, along with a superb display and visuals. But what happens when you lose those visuals due to glare and reflection from direct sunlight or bright lights. In most displays, there will be an air gap between the LCD and the glass panel. This air gap causes reflections by light refraction at the surfaces of the display and the touchscreen.


So how do you avoid bright light affecting the display and making the visuals stand out even more? 


It is achieved by a process called Optical Bonding. This is a protective highly transparent adhesive in the gap between the touchscreen and LCD. The main purpose of optical bonding is to improve the displays visuals and clarity. This method eliminates the air gap between the cover glass and the display meaning the contrast and brightness of the colours are increased.  

Other benefits from the use of Optical Bonding include,

  •       Increased durability as the touchscreens strength is improved which makes it more resistant to glass breakage.
  •       Improved heat dissipation by filling the insulating air gap between the components, heat can be derived to the outside.
  •     No condensation moisture can occur and no dust or dirt particles can enter by filling the insulating air gap.

SCHURTER can offer Optical bonding for your touchscreen solution so contact us to find out more – we’re happy to help. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Why your business can benefit from touchscreen technology

Picture

Touch technology is a big part of our everyday life, but why can they be a great investment for businesses? Let’s take a look at our top 3 benefits of touch screens.

1: Cost Reduction
You may think investing in touchscreen will cost you instead of reducing costs, however once implemented into your business a touchscreen interface increases accuracy and reduces time to get used to the equipment. This will improve efficiency and will eventually keep costs down. This also will mean more work can be completed. This to will apply when it comes to training users. It simplifies processes and requires minimal training and instructing for users.

2: Speed
In today’s world, speed is everything and it’s no different when it comes to business and touchscreens. Touchscreens help us operate any device faster, Touchscreens allow users to select icons directly and efficiently. All users can use touchscreens that allow them to operate the device directly, instead of through a tool. This means a touchscreen interface can allow any member of the company the chance to use and benefit from a touchscreen at a much faster pace.

3: Ease of use
Touchscreens, when compared with other input methods such as a keyboard and mouse, come out on top for ease of use. It makes it simple for users to navigate the system, selecting the right button or menu item on a screen has never been easier. While the usual combination of keyboard and mouse is familiar to most users, the action of touch comes even more natural, even to people without any computer literacy. This then reduces training time, with less time training there is more time for employees to work and add to the growth of the company.

We hope that these points have informed you enough to know that touch screen technology can add to your business. If you want to find out more, then please contact us at SCHURTER. http://www.schurter.com/en/Input-Systems/Locations/SCHURTER-Electronics-Ltd

Monday, August 7, 2017

Better to Check than Retrofit

Switched mode circuits are being used increasingly in electronic equipment. Because of the rapid switching the probability of high frequency interferences is also increasing. At the same time the legislator is tightening the EMC regulations. The outcome: The leeway for retrofits with filters and chokes is growing smaller. Therefore, SCHURTER has set up a mobile service for wired EMC measurements. It allows a regular check of new machines and equipment during the development process.

The use of CE-compliant assemblies can mislead many a device designer to dispense with the EMC testing. Yet the task of squaring of the circle which guides the assembly of CE tested components, leading in the end to a device that is compatible with the standard, is becoming more and more difficult. The mode of operation, the wiring and the assembly of the components have such a great effect on the emissions that it is advisable to measure them first. 

As a supplier of installation filters and chokes, SCHURTER is also involved in the development processes of its customers. The outcome is recognition that the EMC problems for the manufacturers are associated with increased risks. 

If attention is paid too little or too late to the EMC requirements, there is a threat of delays in obtaining marketing authorization; with all the potential negative consequences for a company. A subsequent re-engineering leads to rising costs; the roadmap leading to series production must be revised and, in the worst case scenario, supplier loyalty is at stake. 

Therefore SCHURTER decided many years ago to add a mobile EMC measurement service to its range of EMC products. At present, about 1000 companies in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and northern Italy are being served. In other European countries, Asia and North America SCHURTER offers the service through its global network of partners.

The measurements in the actual environment give a more accurate indication of the susceptibility to interference than the laboratory environment can simulate. In addition, the wired measurements of electromagnetic compatibility on site bring the customers four key advantages:

1) Logistical simplification: many businesses avoid ongoing EMC checks during the development processes for reasons of cost. The machines or equipment must be disassembled, packaged, loaded and taken to the laboratory. The SCHURTER measurement service eliminates this expense. The staff sets up its testing equipment on site, right where the customer requires it. 

2) Integrated consultation: if an EMC limit value exceeds the authorized level, the SCHURTER measuring engineers provide immediate assistance. They either adjust the filters to the system requirements or they offer recommendations about optimizing the equipment design, wiring or power supply.

3) Conclusions with regard to wireless measurements: remote measurements of electromagnetic radiation required for a CE authorization cannot be replaced by a cable measurement. However, it provides valuable indications and reduces the risk of experiencing unpleasant surprises during measurements in the laboratory. 

4) Flexibility: in a testing laboratory the measuring environment can be controlled. That is impossible during a measurement in the field. Close to an industrial production, for example, electromagnetic background noises can dominate because of the high network load. In order not to disrupt the operational flows SCHURTER measurement technicians are also available during off-peak hours or at night.

In general, ongoing EMC checks during the engineering processes represent a useful addition to operational quality and risk management. With regard to the entry into force of the new European EMC directives, however, they acquire quite a special significance. 

Directive 2014/30/EU requires manufactures to expand substantially the technical documents for recently introduced devices. Beginning mid-2016 they must contain a "suitable risk analysis and assessment". 

Smaller devices can also be measured in one of the company’s own EMC laboratories. With its own development and production SCHURTER has acquired a wealth of sound EMC knowhow.

Download the whitepaper

Monday, July 31, 2017

Membrane or Touchscreen?

Membrane switches have for many years been the dominant choice as the method of machine control in a multitude of industries. However, in the last decade, touch screens have been slowly transferring their prominent position in consumer products into the Human Machine Interface (HMI) market. With the advent of Industry 4.0 and the IOT, which direction will machine manufacturers take for their next input system?  

Membrane switches were invented more than 40 years ago. They first appeared in the late 1970’s as a low-cost method of inputting data into toys and keyboards. The very first switches consisted of two thin layers of plastic, these were printed with a conductive ink and separated by a spacer layer of adhesive, a decorative screen printed top film then adhered to the switching layer. When a key was pressed the two conductive layers would touch, allowing a voltage to flow.

The first switches were initially labelled as unreliable, with brittle materials that would crack or turn yellow after time. These switches also lacked any tactile feedback and were prone to inconsistent contacts. However, some enterprising individuals saw the potential in this new technology and formed companies in order to focus on manufacturing these new input devices.
Within only a few years these companies had developed new materials and processes that had eliminated all of the early problems and a new generation of membrane switches emerged. The new switches were reliable, had a customisable tactile feel, embossed or domed graphic overlays and resistance to harsh environments. Over the next 30 years a host of options and variations were added, such as a range of finishes, integrated LED, large area backlighting and anti-microbial coatings all of which increased the range of potential applications even further. The offer of a fully customisable product with a low cost and fast turnaround was difficult to resist and the membrane switch quickly became the technology of choice for HMI devices across a multitude of industries.      


However, by the 1990’s a change was on the horizon and touchscreen technology was arriving in HMI devices. Touchscreens are not new, in fact, they are older than membrane switches! The first finger driven touchscreen was invented by E.A. Johnson at the Royal Radar Establishment in Malvern, UK in 1965 and touchscreens were in use in some machine terminals by the 1970’s. The first touch screens were made with resistive technology. Resistive touchscreens have 2 layers of a clear flexible material coated in a clear conductive material which when pressed together by a finger would allow a voltage to pass, the resistance of this voltage could be measured to indicate the position of the finger on the screen.

The 1990’s saw the first widespread use of resistive touchscreens, these were in the first personal digital assistant or PDA and tended to use a stylus instead of a finger to push the conductive layers together. The first of these consumer touch applications suffered from slow software and poor display attributes, however, resistive technology was now firmly on the radar of the HMI market and the first resistive products started to appear that controlled machines.


The 2000’s saw the introduction of a new capacitive touch technology, this worked not by applying pressure to the screen to make a contact, but by sensing changes in the capacitance of its surface. As no switching pressure was required, this meant the top surface no longer had to be flexible but could be hard and flat, making glass a perfect choice as a top surface. No switching pressure also meant that no moving parts were required so long life and reliability were guaranteed. Public awareness of this new technology was captivated by the apple iPhone. Using capacitive technology, it revolutionised input systems for mobile phones by replacing numerous silicon keys with just one capacitive touch screen.            

For the HMI market, forward thinking companies who had already embraced resistive touch screens began to adapt capacitive technology into the larger sized screens that would be required to control machines. The new technology offered many advantages over resistive screens such as multi-touch and the ability to swipe across the screen. 


Today the change from membrane technology to capacitive technology for machine control is rapidly gathering pace. The onset of the IOT and industry 4.0 requires the machines of the future, whether they are controlling a production line in a factory or controlling a life critical function of a patient in a hospital, will have to be “smart”. They will empower machine operators with not only live information but also predictions enabling them to take crucial decisions to produce optimal outcomes. These decisions and information exchanges will often be carried out in a live networked environment.

A customised touch screen is the perfect solution to control tomorrow’s machines. A large display with an interactive capacitive touch allows a symbiotic relationship between machine and human, this grants both the ability to transfer and receive information quickly and accurately. As the future unfolds and new needs and requirements become necessary, the information and controls can be easily changed by a software update, therefore, making the input system completely future proof.


Membrane switches will always have their place, but the machine control of the future is a touch screen.

Andy Stevens is the commercial manager for SCHURTER Electronics Ltd in the UK and has worked in the HMI industry for more than 25 years.

SCHURTER Electronics was a founding member of membrane switch technology and one of the first manufacturers of resistive touchscreen technology. Today it is leading the way in the capacitive touch systems of the future and offers its customers the solutions they require to grow in their markets.