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Atmel Takes On the Actual Screen

by Bryon Moyer

April 19, 2012 at 12:49 PM

We’ve talked about Atmel’s touch activities before, both with respect to their controllers and their stylus venture (which also features their controllers). To date, they haven’t been overtly participating in the business of creating actual touchscreens.

But, behind the scenes, they’ve spent the last couple years developing a new projected capacitance (P-CAP) technology called XSense that can be printed onto flexible rolls and used for user interfaces of a much sleeker variety than just your basic flat, brittle screen. In addition to the obvious attractiveness of flexibility, they boast two benefits: linearity and scalability.

Linearity (which also helps scalability) simply means that you can determine where a touch event occurred more accurately. They claim to be able to capture handwriting with a stylus.

Scalability means that they can go to larger screens. This has been an issue with P-CAP technology to some extent. Atmel says that a major limiting factor has been yield, especially cracks in the metal traces. In fact, you’d think that, with a flexible material, cracking might be even more of an issue.

They say they’ve addressed this in a number of ways:

-          They have a proprietary grid pattern (they didn’t say what); apparently this tends to be part of touchscreen secret sauce in general;

-          They have a proprietary manufacturing flow for laying the copper lines that they use (on which they didn’t elaborate, such caginess being part of the “proprietary” thing);

-          And they use redundancy: it’s not that they simply don’t get cracks, but they can tolerate some cracking without it affecting yield.

They currently have requests for sizes up to 32”. They could go bigger – the only limitation is the size of the roll-to-roll machines; they’re not limited by the technology.

One other benefit of the flexible nature of the material is that it can wrap over the edges of the screen, making it possible to create a unit without a bezel (which seems to be something people are always looking for).

You can get more info in their release

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