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The story of Zytronic

11 July 2018

While many of our customers will know us for developing and manufacturing cutting edge touch sensing products, there may not be too many people who know that Zytronic (in one form or another), has been manufacturing since April 1943! Here we’re going to let you in on “the story” of Zytronic.

The (very) early days

The North-East of England, where Zytronic is based, has a long history of producing decorative glass to order. As far as 674AD, glass was being manufactured in the area for use in the local monasteries, this continued and turned into a thriving business for the area.  In fact, during the 17th and 19th century, approximately 2 fifths, of all English glass was made in Tyneside. During the 1820’s there were over 40 glassworks within a half miles radius of Newcastle city centre, and there would be annual celebrations, cumulating with processions through the city, where up to 7,000 glassmakers would parade their skills with exhibits of glass top-hats, glass walking sticks, swords and pistols. So, it’s no wonder that customising our touch sensors, is so important to us. Whether its thermally toughening, bending and shaping, printing, grinding and polishing, we want to make sure the product we supply meets our customers exact requirements and standards. Zytronic has produced high quality laminated glass products for well over 35 years, but we haven’t always manufactured touchscreens. In the early days our main products were used to protect cathode ray tubes and optical filters, used to enhance the readability of all types of electronic displays by controlling light transmission, reflection and absorption, these glass and plastic laminates were used in a wide variety of industries, from military to early ATM’s. In addition, we used our unique expertise in glass bending and lamination to create transparent composite curved visors used in ballistic visors for bomb disposal and specialised police helmets. Another specialised glass laminate product that we’ve made for decades and still  manufacture today are radio frequency interference and electromagnetic interference (RFI/EMI) shielding windows, these panels are deployed in  in applications were it is important to be able to see through the screen, but still block RFI/EMI. Uses include sensitive medical equipment, telecommunications systems and military displays. While some of these products have been discontinued, our long experience of, and capabilities in glass processing and lamination, still mark us out as being unique in the touchscreen industry. At our heart, we’re glass experts, priding ourselves on our ability to fully customise our touchscreens; from the electronics to the glass, we can adapt and modify our touch sensors to make sure they meet the high standards of our customers.

Floating on the AIM, and launching touch

In December 1999, Zytronic’s management team took a strategic decision to concentrate much of its resources on the development and manufacture of interactive touch sensing products based upon a unique projected capacitive technology (PCT™) . The company also underwent an Initial Public Offering and was admitted to the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in July 2000 followed by significant investment in its fledgling touch technology. Since then we haven’t looked back! It’s interesting to note, that at the time we embarked upon our new direction, projected capacitive touch sensing was regarded as a niche technology – it wasn’t until Apple launched its first iPod Touch around 6 years later, did the rest of the world realise the benefits of this method of touch sensing. To begin with, we used our glass laminating know-how, to create Zytouch®. Launched in 2003, the highly vandal-resistant Zytouch featured tough, multi-layer, polyurethane interlayer bonded glass and paved the way for interactive technology to be used in outside, unattended, and industrial applications. Zytouch is so widely respected for the unmatched levels of impact resistance it can provide, that 15 years later we’re still manufacturing new designs for the most extreme industrial and unattended touchscreen applications. As our capabilities grew and we listened to what our customers were asking for, we developed and then launched two families of PCT touch sensors, based on a new dry laminated, single layer glass design,  named, Zypos® and Zybrid®. Zypos, our entry product offers, moderate impact resistance, single touch performance and is designed to be used in attended areas, or in conjunction with sacrificial glass and is available from stock in sizes from 7-20”. Zybrid, our most adaptable touch sensor, really makes use of our glass expertise. The range is fully customisable, up to ~90” in size, and available with both single and more recently, full multi-touch (MPCT™) capabilities.

Electronics experts

We realised early on in our “touch journey”, that we would need to stand out from the crowd and offer services and features, above and beyond what other touch manufactures were offering, so in the mid ‘noughties’ we took another crucial strategic decision to design and create our own touch controller electronics, designed to be used exclusively with our touch sensing technologies. Supporting sizes from 5 to ~90” our controllers offer Single (PCT™) or full Multi-touch functionality (MPCT™), and benefits including smart, plug & play Operating System support, and “palm rejection” capability, “force” sensing and object recognition, and our firmware can be customised by our in-house team of talented engineers to meet precise customer requirements. We have, and are constantly working to make sure we are leading the way in touch performance, and this can be seen in our newest touch controller, the ZXY500. Our most advanced controller, the ZXY500 is based around our unique, proprietary ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit), developed at a cost of over £1m and featuring 80 touch point functionality with improved palm rejection, higher noise immunity, faster speed of operation and the ability to offer industry leading, ultra-narrow non-active borders for Zytronic multi-touch sensors. If you’d like to know more about Zytronic please contact us.