Understanding the Demands of the Outdoors

When choosing touchscreen technology for use in outdoor environments, there are key factors that must be considered and prepared for. Failing to understand any of these elements can lead to a damaged touchscreen and a non-functioning product.

Topics

  • Rain
  • Sunlight
  • Heat
  • Cold
  • Damage

1. Rain:

The first and most pressing risk for any outdoor technology is rain. Waterproofing is now common in almost all commercial applications – but for touch panels being ‘proof’ against water is not enough. They must also function when wet, which can be a challenge for many forms of capacitive touch panels popular in consumer electronics. Because they rely on electricity, typically from the skin of a user’s finger, water can disrupt the performance of the screen.

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2. Sunlight:

Direct sunlight causes glare on any screen, which can distract or dissuade users from interacting with your product. While the display you place under a touch panel is the main factor in promoting good sunlight readability, an uncoated touchscreen will cause harsh reflection that prevents even the brightest display from offering good readability.

Designers must therefore consider the glass they use in touchscreens. Chemically-etched anti-glare glass that diffuses light, allowing a user to concentrate on the screen as opposed to reflection. In addition, coated anti-reflective glass allows light reflection to be reduced by around 75% – making displays easier to read in direct light.

3. Heat

Heat from sunlight, as well as causing glare, can also heat up the sensor in a touchscreen and cause issues. An infra-red film can be fitted to the rear of the sensor to reduce the transmission of IR energy, providing designers with a useful tool for cooling.

In extremely hot environments, cooling can also be provided with an active cooling system – which is an additional “force-fed” fan system that pulls in cool air and forces out warm air, creating circulation of air directly over hot components to cool them. However, a problem with this method is when the ambient temperature is too hot, the air being pulled into the system is not sufficiently cold enough to provide any cooling effect. In extremely hot environments, thermoelectric conditioning units would be more effective. These air conditioning units pull warm air over compressed gas to produce a cooling effect.

4. Cold:

Temperature tolerance is important in cold environments for a number of reasons. Freezing temperatures can damage glass touch panels – so any glass specified for use in the cold must be incredibly robust. Zytronic’s glass can withstand temperatures down to -35°C.

Cold also means users are likely to wear gloves. On some touchscreens that rely solely on electricity, gloves create a barrier between skin and screen and therefore prevent a user’s touch from being detected. Any touchscreen produced for use in the cold must therefore function even when a user is wearing gloves.

Snow and ice, like rain, carry the same moisture issues. However, due to the heat of the display below the touch panel, neither is likely to impact performance as they will melt.

5. Damage

  • Vulnerability: One of the main considerations of touchscreens placed outdoors is their vulnerability to damage and vandalism.
  • Mitigating Risks: Whether your product is exposed to accidental scrapes as part of its service life or is exposed to intentional damage, tampering, or theft, a touchscreen used outdoors should be able to mitigate risks as efficiently as possible.
  • Glass Strength: To protect against damage, the glass that houses a touch panel must be tough enough to withstand direct impact and to not compromise performance.
  • Strengthening Methods:
  1. Chemical Toughening: Glass is submerged into a heated, potassium salt bath, replacing sodium ions with larger potassium ions, creating compression on the surface and traction stresses in the core. This process creates glass up to 8 times stronger than float glass. However, when broken, the glass will shatter into large splinters, posing a risk of injury to nearby users.
  2. Thermal Toughening: Glass is heated to near melting point and then rapidly cooled, creating tension within the glass and compression on its exterior. When it breaks, it will instead break into small granular pieces rather than dangerous shards.
  • Impact and Scratching: Impacts and scratching are both issues faced by outdoor touchscreens. They can be mitigated by selecting the right glass. Thick, toughened glass touch panels such as the Zytronic ZyBrid multi-touch sensor can withstand impacts and abrasions that would cause damage in thinner glass.
  • Edge Sealing: Touchscreens can be sealed in different styles at their edges to further protect against breakage.

Selecting the best solution for your requirements can be a challenging process; talk to our team of experts to assist and guide you through this challenge.

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Eurocoin has developed great expertise as a procurement & supply chain specialist in its field, purchasing technical products and components from world-class producers around the world, then assembling, configuring, warehousing and supplying parts and finished solutions from its European operations. This has enabled competitive pricing, shortened lead-times and efficient distribution – great news for Eurocoin’s growing European client base.

Our products include the widest range of TFT display & touch-screens, currency validation, ticketing and roll-printer solutions, and a catalogue of consumables and after-sales products to support our markets.

Our client base mainly comprises of manufacturers and operators of payment terminals, kiosks, public-access and industrial terminals, retail and ticketing solutions, gaming and amusement machines, vending machines, as well as  ‘smart’ devices across diverse industrial sectors.