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Zytronic’s PCT™-based Touch Sensors Integrated into Ruggedized Panel PC’s

Zytronic’s ZYPOS® customisable touch sensor product, based on the company’s award-winning Projected Capacitive Technology (PCT™), has been selected by Taipei-based human machine interface specialist Aplex, to bring touchscreen functionality to its series of highly ruggedized stainless steel panel PCs.

Designed specifically for tough industrial settings, each of these panel PCs features a high resolution, high brightness TFT display with outputs of 300-450cd/m² coupled with powerful Intel processing embedded within an IP67 enclosure. Due to the harsh environments in which these Panel PCs are likely to be used, such as petrochemical plants and manufacturing assembly lines, they are warranted to operate across a temperature range of 0°C to 50°C, humidity up to 90%, and can be stored between -20°C and 60°C. In addition, they have been designed to handle high levels of shock - withstanding 10G acceleration for 11ms and vibration frequencies up to 640Hz. For the various display formats that make up this series, Aplex is using 15.1-inch and 17.1-inch versions of the 3mm thick ZYPOS touch sensor, mounted behind and operating through a 3mm toughened sacrificial glass, for ultimate performance in the toughest environments.

The proprietary PCT sensing structure incorporated into ZYPOS consists of a matrix of micro-fine capacitor elements, just 10µm in diameter, arranged into a high resolution XY grid. This can accurately sense touch by measuring slight changes in capacitance levels. The matrix is not prone to external damage, as front-facing resistive or capacitive touchscreens tend to be, as it is embedded into a tough, laminated panel, housed behind the display screen. By adjusting the setting in the touch sensor driver, PCT sensor matrices can sense touch through glass that is as much as 20mm thick – a unique feature which has been employed to good effect by Aplex, in order to maximise the extreme durability of their panel PCs.

Furthermore, unlike surface-based optical, infrared and acoustic wave touch technologies, with PCT there is no need for an open bezel around the perimeter of the display screen to house the sensor elements. This prevents the collection of dirt and grease and makes the surface easier to wipe down. An additional advantage, particularly for industrial, medical and outdoor applications, is that PCT can be set up to accurately detect touch even if the user is wearing gloves of any material, even rubber.

According to Lily Chiu, Assistant Project Manager at Aplex, “In order to meet our high specifications, the touchscreen had to be sufficiently rugged to cope with unforgiving surroundings, and be able to operate accurately and reliably in varying temperature extremes as well as in all kinds of ambient lighting conditions. ZYPOS offers us an ultra-durable solution as well as a longer life span and much better light transmission than alternative technologies. The high level of support and technical expertise we received from Zytronic’s local representative, PCT Ltd, was also an important factor in our decision to choose ZYPOS.”

In the opinion of Ian Crosby, Sales and Marketing Director at Zytronic, “User interfaces within the industrial space are rapidly evolving, and becoming increasingly sophisticated. As a result, accurate and responsive touchscreen solutions are much more prevalent in the market, as they are more intuitive to use than keyboard and mouse arrangements, especially for workers wearing heavy-duty gloves, for example. They allow equipment manufacturers to produce compact solutions with greater design flexibility and user-friendly interfaces, which require less training to operate. The unique PCT sensor structure of ZYPOS has yet again proved itself as the touchscreen solution of choice in industrial environments, as it has far greater resilience to harsh conditions than rival technologies.” He adds: “It can ensure that the user interface it is integrated within has a long and trouble-free operating life, without the need for carrying out inconvenient refit or recalibration work.”