What’s one of the things that most touchscreen devices have in common? That thick, ugly bezel framing it on every side. Whether it’s a capacitive touchscreen from Lenovo’s latest all-in-ones or the bezel-happy Apple iPad, all these gadgets could make do with a little slimming around the edges.
3M thinks that they can change all of that thanks to a new manufacturing process. Current (haha, current) capacitive touchscreens work via layers of transparent, conductive mesh sunk into the surface. It then hooks into all of the processing circuitry that resides within the bezel.
The new method uses one material – namely, a silver compound instead of indium tin oxide – to create both the invisibly conductive mesh as well as the bezel circuitry to which it’s tied.
Craig Sykora, 3M’s product dev manager on the project, says that the new technology can cut the size on those circuits by a power of ten. That shrinkage means extra room, letting manufacturers push the screens much closer to the bezel’s edge.
In addition to creating smaller circuits, the new method is faster than the alternative. Where ITO gives response times on the order of 60ms, the silver delivers response times of just 6ms. That could bring whole new uses to touchscreens, like music generation or UI experiences, that depend directly upon fast response times.