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Zytronic’s Large Form Factor, Rugged Touch Sensors Show Star Quality

Enhancing the ‘big screen’ entertainment experience through a new generation of information systems for cinemas

Touch sensor specialist Zytronic has, thanks to its patented Projected Capacitive Touch Sensor Technology (PCT™), been contracted to participate in yet another interactive digital signage project where long term operation must be assured. The Tyneside-based company has collaborated with Harp Visual Communications on the development of a series of very large format touch-operated display units for use in cinema foyers.

The dynamic interactive units produced by Harp will run the latest film trailers and advertisements, replacing conventional posters and cardboard promotional materials with a far more exciting, visually-pleasing alternative. Built-in proximity sensors trigger each unit to start showing highlights from upcoming blockbusters via high definition graphic imagery as cinema goers walk past. Each eye-catching 55-inch diagonal, touch-enabled LCD can be used to enter competitions, sign up for newsletters, or even play games related to upcoming releases. The units are already seeing widespread uptake, with 30 recently installed at Cineworld complexes around the UK plus further installations planned at Vue and Odeon venues in the coming months.

The size and public siting of the units, demanded a very particular touchscreen solution that was both scalable to very large sizes, customisable in lower volumes and capable of dealing with potentially rough treatment on a daily basis - as a result Harp worked closely with Zytronic, who designed a bespoke, screen-printed 55-inch ZYTOUCH® laminated sensor to ensure the highest levels of impact resistance and form the interactive front face for the units. This was complemented by the use of Zytronic’s ZXY100 128-channel high performance touch controller, which allows pinpoint accuracy and rapid responsiveness to be achieved, as well as offering provision for gesture recognition if needed – so that the swipes, flicks, zooms, which users of smartphones and tablet PCs will be familiar with can be supported.

The proprietary PCT sensing structure utilises an XY grid of micro-fine copper capacitors (just 10 µm thick) directly deposited and embedded within a laminated substrate. This substrate can be made of thick toughened glass itself or placed behind a further protective overlay (of either glass or polycarbonate) with total front face thicknesses of over 10 mm possible - resulting in very strong levels of impact resistance. As the touch sensing array is totally isolated from the external environment it has far greater longevity than conventional touch sensor technologies, such as resistive and surface capacitive which rely on relatively weak conductive front coatings. Furthermore, PCT sensors eliminate the need for bezels or frames surrounding the active area of the touchscreen, and if combined with optional screen-printed glass substrates can enable the sleek, edge-to-edge glass fronted designs of the latest handheld consumer devices to be brought to hard working self-service display installations.

“The almost continuous use that these units are expected to receive over their operational lifespan means they need to exhibit resilience to many different forms of mechanical stress,” states Adrian Gould, Director at Harp Visual Communications. “The key differentiator for us was the robustness that Zytronic’s touch sensing technology could offer. We have worked with the company of several projects over the last few years and have seen first-hand how much more resistant to damage its touch sensors are compared to competing products and how this translates into lower system maintenance costs.”

“Harp required these 55-inch interactive display/touchscreen assemblies to combine high levels of sensitivity with a rugged and attractive all-glass front design. It was a very challenging brief, which would have been beyond the capabilities of other touch technologies.” Ian Crosby, Sales & Marketing Director for Zytronic, states. “PCT has proven its value by enabling designers of self-service systems to bring interactivity to the most demanding environments for over a decade. I’m delighted that Harp has specified this technology in order to enhance movie fans’ enjoyment.”