The Future of Touch Screens & Membrane Switches

The Future of Touch Screens & Membrane Switches

A customer of mine has seen the future of user interface, and he loves it! People are shocked when they hear that the price of a touch screen has dropped below $2 in some situations.

In case you don’t know, a touch screen is a control panel that offers users pin point input accuracy and pen recognition. With an LCD behind it the control panel becomes customizable, vivid, and very user friendly in a simple to use format. Most people think a touch screen requires an LCD, but for a manufacturer like RSP, Inc. ( we can print legends directly on the glass essentially making it into a flat membrane switch. The standard control panel (user interface) technology is a membrane switch with printed legends. A membrane switch is a piece of printed plastic with 1 or 2 circuit layers buried inside. It can be mounted to a flat or flexible surface. Membrane switches have been around for over 25 years now. Millions of membrane switches can be found on microwaves, coffee makers, far away controls, and many other household items. While membrane switches have become a low price commodity, slowly but surely the cost of touch screens have continued to drop. Are touch screen the next commodity?

The popularity of the iPhone has made everyone very familiar with touch technology. Consumer products are now featuring them. Everyone has seen a touch screen kiosk in the mall and at the ATM machine but have you seen one on a television? The future of touch screens is big, bright, and bendable! Yes. Touch screens, long criticized for their thickness and rigidity, can now bend, twist, and already lightly fold. Why shouldn’t your laptop have a touch interface? Next year they will if the products being shown at consumer electronic shows reach the marketplace.

Another historical draw back to touch screens has been that they without tactile response. A membrane switch typically has a tactile metal dome inside that gives the user feedback and a ‘break’ feel. In the past 2 years, touch screens have been designed with user feedback so that the user does not miss out on the ‘break’.

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