Nitto Denko develops novel optical touch-screen technology for “smart” stationery
Japan’s leading diversified materials manufacturer Nitto Denko Corporation (Nitto Denko) has successfully developed a new concept of optical waveguide-based touch-screen technology. A proof-of-concept prototype made its debut at the 22nd International Stationery & Office Products Fair Tokyo (ISOT)* on 6th – 8th July, 2011.
The prototype took the form of a seemingly-empty frame, the inside of which is filled with radiation which serves as an optical sensor. Users can simply place the frame on top of paper and write or draw anything inside the frame, by using their choice of pen, brush or any other ordinary stationery. Any movement within the frame will be automatically sensed and transmitted wirelessly to a designated device, such as a personal computer or tablet device to be saved digitally (refer to diagram 1 below). This way, users can preserve their handwriting – the analogue information, in a digital format without hastle.
Diagram 1: A proof-of-concept prototype
Targeting to further leverage this novel concept in digital stationaries, Nitto Denko is now looking for partnership opportunities from stationery manufacturers to pursue joint development. There were two types of prototypes demonstrated at the ISOT. One of them was miniature-sized, assuming usage on datebook or small notebooks. The other was A5-sized, assuming application to regular paper, during occasions such as meetings or conferences.
(*) About ISOT: ISOT is the world's leading trade fair for stationery and office products held at Tokyo Big Sight, Japan. For more information, visit www.isot-fair.jp/en/Home/.
Background of the development
While development of broad bandwidth, high-speed networks is gaining momentum, optical transmision systems are expected to be applied to not only conventional network servicers' trunk cables, but also home LAN and electronics devices interiors. Under such circumstances, there is a growing demand for low-cost, highly reliable optical waveguide material to transmit optical signals efficiently.
In 2005, Nitto Denko developed a new photo-sensitive epoxy material that can be used for optical waveguides, based on our longtime-cultured transparent polymer design and photo-sensitive process technologies. In our pursuit of increasingly diversified business opportunities, we have worked on determination of various application possibilities of this progressive material.
The proof-of-concept prototype this time features said material, which underpinned fine-pitched circuit patterns elaborated by the precision processing. The concept is ideal for optical touch-screen input devices, which require highly precise sensing capability. Conventional digital stationery with sensor-functionality feature various input technologies such as acousto-optics or image-scanning sensing, which require special pens or paper. On the other hand, this frame-shaped optical touch-screen device does not burden user's choice of stationery and hence more natural analogue-digital conversion can be achieved.
Special features of the prototype
1.Doesn’t require special pens or paper for the input. Users can use the device without having to alter their ordinary writing habits.
2.Lightweight and portable, thanks to its frame-only simple structure.
3.Designed to be stored inside a personal organizer or notebook for convenience.
4.Multiple users can transmit their input data simultaneously into one designated receiving device, such as a computer.
Concept of the optical waveguide touch-screen sensor
Inside the optical waveguide-based touch-screen sensor, illuminants are spaced out on two of four sides of the frame (refer to diagram 2). The illuminants transmit radiation to their counterparts on the diagonal sides, where photo-sensitive elements are put in order. Movement inside the frame is captured by the light waves stretched across the entire in-frame region in a checker-pattern.
Nitto Denko’s properiatry epoxy material for optical waveguides is highly transparent in the near-infrared range, and flexible, so that optical circuits can be created by patterning using ultra-violet exposure.