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Hello Touch Guy! My name is Jeffery. I have a new product that I would like to finish the prototype for, but…I cannot find a flexible, yet durable touch film (no glass) I can use. The size needs to be approximately 12″ x 12″ (+/- 1 or 2″) but I am willing to look at other options. I am talking to the TV show, Shark Tank, and counting on a few other companies to bring this product to market. The problem I am facing is manufacturing’s willingness to deal with me. I’m not asking for something for free and am willing to pay for a sample unit, but the supplier must be able to supply 1,000 units at a time. Do you have any suggestions for companies that can provide a flexible touch film? – Jeffrey Gelman, FootMouse TouchPad Team

Hey Jeffery….relax, Touch Guy is here to help.

I hear this story a lot, unfortunately most often from my American competitors. And, a Google search of “touch screens” lists the company most likely to help you–Touch International-on page 12, even though they are the second largest US manufacturer of touch products. (Hear that Bing?)

But let’s get to your….hmmmm, opportunity. First, any company should listen to what you are doing. We like to think of ourselves as experts and will try and fit one of the touch technologies to your needs, instead of the other way around….sometimes it even means sending you to one of our competitors. Secondly, if this is your first touch-based product, to save you time and money, we will suggest one of our inexpensive demo kits or off-the-shelf products.

If you truly need a custom part or electronic controller, there will be a non-recurring engineering charge (NRE). NRE typically starts at $2,500 and can be much higher depending upon your application requirements, etc. The NRE covers an engineer to design your part and a CAD designer to make the approval documents. Once approved, the NRE also will cover the manufacturing drawings and then the “artwork” to make the various silk-screens and decoration masks. Then the machines are programmed to your specific part, as specified in the “proto-build package” of workstation instructions. By this time, the materials will have been obtained and used to make the prototypes. Touch International has a prototype line, identical to their production lines, so that we can make new parts and not be preempted by revenue production. Best yet, Touch International is an equal opportunity company, so anybody willing to pay NRE is never kicked out of line once their project has started. Just so you know, it is rare that Touch Guy sees any profit from a prototype.

The only problem Touch Guy is having is your desire to build 1,000 parts on a first run. If you are asking for mature touch screen technology, 5-wire or 4-wire resistive, then we may not try to talk you out of it. But, no matter how hard we all try, there is usually something that needs to be changed or tweaked after the prototypes are produced and nobody wants 999 almost-worked-perfectly sensors.

So, talk to Touch Guy, we will see what we can get to meet your needs…and good luck selling the concept to the ba-zillion-aires. Oh, and yes, we make flexible touch film in your size.

– Touch Guy

It was with great excitement that I received my projective capacitive multi-touch kit from Touch International. My guidelines for our vendor were to find a touchscreen with multi-touch support and support for security glass. I’ve seen that there is no driver for this touch screen to support multi-touch. And on the other hand we tried to put a glass layer in front of the touch panel and it didn’t work. Another problem we are facing is that if the touch-panel comes near the lcd-panel the touch coordinates are wrong. What gives?

– Daniel Amesberger

Well, TouchGuy hangs his head in shame for letting you down. While the real world performance is fantastic, It turns out that this new-fangled projective capacitive (p-cap) touch is not quite so plug-and-play as the plain-old-resistive-touch. All touch technologies have their idiosyncrasy—resistive touch needs to be calibrated to the display, IR requires that the beams and receptors are aligned, SAW has special bezel mounting requirements, and DST even requires “certified installers”. In its exuberance to ship the p-cap samples to customers, my guys and ladies did not provide much of (read, practically nothing) in the way of a manual. Touch is working hard to prepare the support you need to do your evaluation. For now, here are some things to consider:

1. Although the sensing layer is sealed inside the glass or plastic (which is why it never wears out), there is a front and back. You really cannot tell which is which, so we will be marking the front side..

2. Most of our sensors come complete, so if you want to put your own cover glass on the sample, you will need to make sure you are putting it on the front, and you will need to reset the controller so it can reset the values for the new glass. Normally, cover glass cannot be more than 3mm thick. If you need the cover glass to be thicker, you need a special version of the controller.

3. If you change the cover glass, you may need to use our new wiz-bang GUI control program to reset the sensitivity. This utility will be available next week.

4. When p-cap electronics start-up, a quickie calibration occurs. Normally the sensor will be attached to the display, but if it is not, sometimes picking the sensor up and moving it will affect the sensitivity; note that this only applies when the sensor is moved without being attached to the LCD.

5. In some rare instances, there is a big ‘ol metal plate under the desk or table. A big metal plate will negatively affect the sensitivity.

6. We have multiple controllers—single touch, multi-touch, all-points-addressable, proximity sensing—lots more actually, so you need to make sure you have the one you want.

7. Demonstrating multi-touch requires a multi-touch driver, so you need to install it or you will just get a single touch. When Windows 7 is released, no driver will be needed for USB operation.

Until next time,
Touch Guy