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“Hey Touch Guy, why can’t the military use projected capacitive?” – Ready, aim, fire!

Whoa, simple question – complex answer.

First, the “military” does use projected capacitive (p-cap for short), and purchases a huge number of iPads and iPhones. But I think your question is, “Can the military use p-cap in a battlefield environment.” Yes, there are problems that have slowed the introduction of p-cap. Here are a few that need to be addressed, and are being overcome.

Most of the armed forces are very careful about generating EMI that could be detected by the bad-guys. P-cap, you will recall, works by having a human drain capacitance from the touch screen at the touch point. For multi-touch, that means lots of small fields are created on the TouchGuy_Basicsurface of the touch screen. The fields are quite small, and inconsequential compared to the EMI from radios that are in most devices, but they are still there. TI has been able to tune the frequency to meet

EMI is a general problem, but it’s not alone in the obstacles p-cap must overcome. The Navy and Coast Guard, not surprisingly, want rain and sea-water immunity. Solutions have been developed in the electronics to compensate for tap and rain water. But sea water, because it is more conductive, is a more difficult matter because it spreads a conductive film across the touch area, and when a finger is touched to the screen the capacitance is drained from lots of points which confused the touch electronics. TI has developed a new total immunity sensor that works both mechanically and electrically to provide immunity to sea water.

Both the Army and Air Force require gloved finger operation. For most flight applications, the gloves are thin-enough that p-cap is a great choice. However, for some Army applications, the gloves are bigger and thicker and an accurate touch is more difficult…Touch Guy does not think this is a real issue because if the gloves are so big and bulky, how can you touch a small point anyway?

Impact, and the resulting breakage, is another issue, as most p-cap touch screens are made from glass. There is also a weight issue in using glass. The obvious solution is to make the p-cap sensor completely out of plastic or some form of acrylic substrate, however, plastic can scratch in some environments. Technology to the rescue, there are new transparent hard-coats for plastics that can approach the scratch resistance of glass.

In conclusion, Touch Guy believes the real roadblock preventing the introduction of p-cap into the battlefield isn’t the touch sensors themselves, but the lack of new programs that would make use of the latest and greatest touch technology has to offer.

Remember, I come in peace! – Touch Guy

Q&A Session with Mil/Aero Sales Engineer James Hunt

What excites you most about diving into touch screen manufacturing?Mil/Aero Sales Engineer James Hunt
The touch screen industry itself is exciting because one can relate to the various applications in everyday life. Almost everywhere we go we encounter touch screens – supermarket, bank, doctor’s office, casinos, airport – the list is virtually endless.

In terms of touch screen manufacturing, it is interesting because every solution is different and comes with unique considerations and challenges. For the military, the important touch screen attributes are generally high optical performance and high reliability. Other segments require high volume and low cost. We encounter a wide array of needs and requirements that often vary by industry or application.

Another exciting aspect of Touch International right now is our improvement plan to the Austin facility. We have undertaken facility upgrades which include a new clean room, and are implementing processes to transfer our company into a lean organization which will ultimately better serve our customers.

What role do you see Touch International playing within the Mil/Aero market space?
Our role is not only to provide products to this market but also to help our customers find solutions throughout the concept, development, prototype and volume production stages. This process is even more important for the military/aerospace segment because of higher standards invoked on products from a reliability, performance, and traceability perspective. We see ourselves as a key custom solution supplier for these market segments.

Where do you think military electronics are headed in 2012 and beyond?
In terms of traditional military platforms, we expect to see some contraction in the electronics market. Having said this, Touch International does see opportunities in the existing platforms as well as new technologies being implemented in the same sector.

I do anticipate seeing a rise in the deployment of touch technology in military applications. Touch technology has proven itself to be highly versatile, and applications for touch screen devices are virtually countless. Although touch screen electronics have been in the mainstream for quite some time, military devices take a little bit longer to develop.

While there are many military applications for touch technology, one of the most obvious is the ability to communicate through mobile phones and touchpads. In recent weeks, US government agencies and contractors have publicized the development of secure software run on Android-based touch screen devices to be deployed to soldiers in the field. By providing soldiers with this kind of touch-enabled device, classified information containing the location of infantry or potentially dangerous areas can be sent directly to the soldier on a digital map.

This breakthrough is just one example of how touch screens are becoming a requirement in military electronics and provide key advantages in the field. Whether it is a large-format touch screen being used to view maps at a regional command post, or one of the thousands of hand-held devices used in the field for communication, or part of the control panel inside of an MRAP vehicle, the possibilities for touch technology in military electronics are virtually endless and will enjoy growth across the board.

What is Touch International working on right now in terms of military solutions?
The military is always seeking to have the best-trained soldiers, using the best equipment and the latest technologies to accomplish its mission. To that end, our goal is to provide award-winning touch screen and LCD enhancement solutions that meet these needs. In 2012 Touch International is focused on building sunlight readable displays with EMI shielding and a full bond to LCD solution; this solution provides optimal visibility in changing light conditions, noise suppression to remain undetected, and a ruggedized display to ensure accuracy even during challenging environments.