Although touchscreens might all look the same, they differ in their structure and design. And even if you’re unfamiliar with the technology itself, we’re guessing you’ve probably used it at some point recently. From smartphones and tablets to retail kiosks and video game consoles, touchscreen tech crops up in our lives more than we may realise.
Generally, most touchscreens are powered by two main types of technology: infrared (IR) and projected capacitive (PCAP). But how exactly do these display types differ?
Here, we’ll explore the differences between IR and PCAP, and take a look at how they may be better suited to the needs of certain industries based on factors like cost and practical applications.
Infrared Touch Technology
Infrared, IR touch technology or IR is the most widely used touch technology in commercial interactive displays, and for good reason. It boasts a high degree of accuracy and is lower in cost compared to other available technologies.
How does IR work?
IR uses a collection of infrared light emitters and receivers which are hidden along the edges of the display using the technology. These emitters send infrared light across the surface of the display, above the glass, to the receivers, in order to form an invisible grid.
When a finger, pen or other object touches the surface of the display, the receivers will detect an interruption in the light being received. Because of the grid pattern, the display is then able to determine the location of the finger, pen or object on the surface, registering it as a touch point.
While IR can recognise up to 40 touch points, many current large interactive flat panels that use infrared technology are configured to recognise up to 20 touch points. This allows several people to interact with the display at the same time.
The advantages of IR
- Since it allows multiple people to interact simultaneously without interference, the technology is well suited to classroom environments and collaborative work contexts.
- Unlike other touch technology, IR can be scaled up inexpensively. So, it can be used in interactive flat panels up to 98″ or even larger.
- Since IR relies on the disruption of light to register a touch point, it’s possible to use a stylus, gloved finger or any object for interaction purposes and the touch will still be detected. With other touch technologies, this simply isn’t possible.
- Compared to other technologies, IR tends to be the more cost-effective option.
This disadvantages of infrared
- Since IR uses emitters and receivers along the edges of the surface, the displays always require wide, deep bezels to house them. This tends to mean they look slightly bulkier than other touch technologies.
- Sunlight can interfere with infrared touch technology, so it would be advisable to install interactive flat panels away from areas of direct sunlight in order to avoid issues with interactivity and tracking.
When would infrared be best suited for?
As long as they aren’t placed outside, IR displays can provide state-of-the-art performance and an incredible image display for businesses on a budget. However, they lack water and liquid resistance, so we wouldn’t recommend installing them in places such as restaurants and kitchens where spillages are likely to occur.
Projected Capacitive Technology
Also known as PCAP, most would be familiar with projected capacitive technology without even realising it thanks to its ubiquity in things like smartphones and tablet devices. It’s less common, however, in interactive flat panels, which tend to be the preserve of higher end tech.
How does PCAP work?
PCAP uses a conductive grid between a glass protective cover and an LCD panel. When a finger touches the panel – which has an electrostatic charge applied across it – it causes a change to the grid’s electromagnetic field, which the display then recognises as a touch point.
Capacitive touch is highly accurate, and by recognising up to 100 touch points, it allows more people to interact with the technology at the same time.
The advantages of PCAP
- Although IR is accurate, capacitive touch is more sensitive and accurate in comparison, allowing for greater touch-point detection and faster response times.
- Since it forgoes the use of IR emitters and receivers, PCAP doesn’t require the large bezels of IR displays, allowing them to be slimmer and sleeker in appearance.
- The glass cover of capacitive screens is highly durable and resistant to scratches, keeping maintenance and repair to a minimum.
The disadvantages of PCAP
- PCAP is pricier than other touch technologies, especially when used in interactive flat panels.
- Since PCAP uses an electrostatic charge to recognise touch points, it’s only functional with bare fingers or styluses. Although thin surgical gloves can work in some cases, gloved fingers, especially thicker gloves, will not be detected.
When would PCAP best be suited for?
If cost isn’t an issue, then PCAP’s strong functionality makes it suitable for a range of different businesses.
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