Touchscreen copes with coal dust, grit, moisture

Paul Boughton
Zytronic’s Projected Capacitive Technology (PCT) has received another endorsement with the company’s highly durable touch sensors being chosen by leading Australian kiosk manufacturer FM Scanu for inclusion in systems deployed with mining giant BHP Billiton.
Designed to aid  the management of mine personnel, the ruggedized kiosks, which each integrate a 17-inch (431.8mm) ZYPOS touch sensor, will be used by BHP Billiton miners to supply occupational health and safety information in a busy mine environment. It was absolutely crucial in such a demanding environment that the touchscreen was capable of reliable operation in areas where it would be constantly exposed to coal dust, grit, moisture and heavy use. It also needed to be able to function when touched by gloved or dirty hands, without risk of damage or impaired performance.
The proprietary PCT touch sensing mechanism developed by Zytronic comprises a matrix of micro-fine copper capacitors embedded within a laminated substrate and detects the lightest touch through a proprietary form of projected capacitive touch sensing based on frequency modulation. As a result of this high level of sensitivity, the sensor can be constructed from very thick glass or even placed safely behind and operated through a thick protective overlay of glass, plastic or other non-conductive material. This means the sensor and its operation is effectively impervious to extreme climatic conditions, liquids, severe scratches, vibration, or the build up of dirt - factors likely to stifle the performance of almost all other touch sensing technologies, such as resistive or surface capacitive. Also, unlike infrared, optical or acoustic touch sensor techniques, PCT is not prone to drift over time and can be completely sealed into IP67 enclosures, making it highly optimised for demanding industrial, outdoor and/ or public-use touch interactivity. ZYPOS is part of Zytronic’s range of standard off-the-shelf projected capacitive touch sensors available in sizes between 7-inches and 20.1-inches.
“Nothing of this kind has been possible to use at mining sites in the past, as the conditions that the kiosks would have to contend with were simply too difficult. This left a big void that needed to be filled” states Leo Scanu, CEO of FM Scanu. “We looked at many other touchscreens, but with the close support of Zytronic’s local distributor, JEA Technologies, we decided upon ZYPOS as it offered the best combination of cost and performance. Its rugged specifications and the ease with which it could be incorporated into our design meant that we can finally address this need. We are already planning further deployments of this kind.”
As Ian Crosby, Sales & Marketing Director at Zytronic affirms, “This highly demanding application demonstrates the incredible durability exhibited by our unique  projected capacitive technology, showing how it is capable of outperforming other touchscreen solutions on the market and tackling applications were deploying touch interactivity was previously thought impossible.” 
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