Medical Device Developments discussed the future of medical device technology with Touch International.
Medical touchscreen manufacturers often have to rein in the capabilities of the latest interface technology to take into account the practical implications of use within a hospital or clinic setting. Medical Device Developments talks to Shaun Detmer, director of marketing at Touch International, about how the company is integrating the latest sensor and display innovations from the operating room to the MRI scanner without stinting on quality.
MDD: Could you talk about your latest innovations or developments within wearable medical devices and/or the home care devices market?
Shaun Detmer: Our latest innovation – called IMT Technology, which stands for In-Mold Touch – was rolled out late last year. Basically, we’ve progressed from making a touch sensor that is precision-fit into a lens or bezel to actually merging the in-mold decoration and lens-making with touch-sensor integration. This was actually driven by demand in the medical and aerospace sectors for products that were lighter in weight and easier to clean. With our process, there is no seam for chemical and dirt build-up, or dirt and moisture ingress, and the result is a one-piece cover lens.
What are the challenges of creating touchscreens that meet the demand for curved and flexible parts?
For curved and flexible projects, the challenge is in engineering the display. For example, flexible OLED displays retain a much higher cost than their TFT counterparts, and with so few of them on the market, display companies can set high minimum order quantities that just aren’t possible for some products. For the touch panel, we can mold, bend, shape, cut out or do whatever it takes to a touchscreen to get the product you need by using the latest advancements in films, coatings, and nanotechnology.
“We understand that budgets and price points must be met; therefore, we always communicate associated challenges and work through the development process with dedicated project managers.”
How do you balance the trend towards miniaturization with the need to have a screen that is clear, usable and easy to read?
As with flexible and curved applications, the majority of challenges come from the display. Smaller displays typically don’t meet industrial requirements and, like any consumer-grade components, they can have volatile life cycles. We prefer to work with industrial-grade displays whenever possible, within realistic parameters. We understand that budgets and price points must be met; therefore, we always communicate associated challenges and work through the development process with dedicated project managers.
“Small mistakes or missteps can cause headaches, cost money and, in some cases, even stop a product from ever making it to market. The earlier we get involved in development, the better.”
How do you solve the problem of electromagnetic interference (EMI) when designing products associated with medical environments, such as an MRI scanner?
While traditional EMI shielding has been effective at controlling interference from resistive touchscreens, demand for projected capacitive continues to soar and present new challenges. Traditionally, you laminate a conductive-coated layer that then becomes a grounding plane to keep the noise in and, in some cases, out. Resistive touch panels are closed circuits, so if you shield the display behind the touchscreen you are fine.
With capacitive, a grounding plane behind the screen will block out any harmful interference or keep in any display noise, but the touch panel itself is above the plane. We’ve solved this issue by precision-tuning the touch microcontroller, which means that we can fine-tune signal-to-noise ratios and tone down any emissions that may interfere with other devices.
What processes and safeguards do you have in place to ensure your interfaces not only are robust but also perform consistently?
Our manufacturing facility carries ISO:9001, ISO13485, and AS9100 certifications and Class 10,000 clean rooms. We use linear manufacturing with rigorous quality checks, from receiving raw materials through the whole manufacturing process. Some of the top medical device manufacturers trust us to develop and manufacture touch display-enabled products. From small handheld devices to large operating room equipment, we have continued to provide solutions to complex technical problems.
So you provide full OEM and manufacturing services, and are often involved in the development of cutting-edge products in collaboration with ODMs and OEMs. How do you achieve this in today’s manufacturing climate?
Many engineers are faced with developing touch display-enabled products, and not every team is ready for that. Small mistakes or missteps can cause headaches, cost money and, in some cases, even stop a product from ever making it to market. The earlier we get involved in development, the better.
We provide as much or as little design and development input that customers want. Our team of engineers can help to ensure that all the necessary components are designed to meet or exceed performance and durability requirements. We’ve developed countless touch and display products and have overcome myriad challenges to create award-winning solutions. We love solving problems and want to put that expertise to work for our customers.
For more information on Touch International medical touch display solutions click here.
About Touch International
Touch International, headquartered in Austin, Texas, was founded in 2002 by Michael Woolstrum and long-time touch screen veteran, Gary Barrett, the company’s CTO. TI has become a world leader in professional grade touch screen display manufacturing. The company operates its corporate headquarters and R&D center in Austin, Texas, and its high volume vertically integrated production facility in Shenzhen, China.