Case Study: Redesign Of An Outdoor Display After Poor Performance

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Often, a company evaluates several display suppliers on price rather than capability and experience. Sometimes it works out for them, but often they end up with design flaws that they could have avoided with the right technology for the application.

One particular customer of ours ran into this situation. Their application is an outdoor security terminal where weather exposure, including UV, rain, ice, snow, and extreme temperatures are all present factors. Their previous supplier led them to believe that resistive touch was the only solution to guarantee water and glove touch. The supplier also provided an LCD that was absent of UV protected layers such as UV resistant polarizers and bonding materials.

After time in the field, they began receiving defective units where the touch was no longer responding adequately, compounded by the fact that the demand for their product increased. For most companies, brand management is paramount, and inferior design or quality can adversely impact that brand.

The customer came to us looking for a proven solution that they could sell to customers while maintaining the top quality that makes their brand known.  At US Micro Products, we do 100’s of display designs a year which helps us foresee issues before they occur.   

We had several discussions about what was important to them and made suggestions based on our many years of experience in the outdoor and marine markets. They also needed this solution to work with their current system with minimal modifications on their end, both mechanically and electrically.

The first thing we did was to switch from resistive to capacitive touch. Although resistive touch works in outdoor spaces, the cost/benefit of capacitive touch is unparalleled. Resistive touch can be susceptible to environmental factors due to its construction. It has a plastic film as the top layer that, over time, is degraded by exposure to UV and water. Capacitive touch, on the other hand, uses a conductive layer below the coverglass. It also works well with water and glove touch with the right know-how and tuning. We demonstrated an example of our water touch and gave suggestions on how to implement their touch zones so that ice and snow accumulation wouldn’t give false touches.

The second item we changed was to apply an optically bonded 3mm coverglass with etched antiglare. The 3mm coverglass and optical bond added much-needed rigidity and ensured it would pass their UL294 ball drop and constant-force test. It also made it stronger against any potential vandalism.

The antiglare was added to reduce any sunlight glare that might occur. We suggested the etched antiglare over an antireflective coating due to the harsh environments it would face. Coatings have a risk of weathering and premature wear, but the antiglare is mechanically etched into the glass, creating a permanent surface treatment. To aid in their decision, we showed both an air gap vs. optical bond demo as well as a standard etched antiglare treatment demo so they could make an informed decision.

The third item that we changed was to introduce outdoor-rated and UV-resistant LCD components, such as bonding materials and polarizers. To us, a display is only as strong as its weakest attribute, and our goal is to limit those weaknesses. 

Marine environments are one of the harshest environments that you can expose a display to, and we have successfully used similar components for boats and jet skis. 

Finally, a fast solution was crucial for them. Our customer was experiencing an abundance of failures and increasing demand. We were able to turn a quick design and get samples to them before any other supplier, made possible due to our strong relationships with our supply chain. Our customer was able to do functional and environmental testing sooner, and have a drop-in ready solution to replace faulty panels.

In the end, our solution was competitively priced compared to their current solution,  allowing them to deliver a higher performing solution. With some careful engineering and knowledge-based experience, we were able to guide our customer and provide a solution that can handle any environment.

At US Micro Products our engineers work closely with our customers to understand the environmental factors at play in the operation of the end product. This is crucial in the selection of materials, manufacturing processes, and testing of the display. Taking shortcuts in the design of your display might seem to yield lower initial cost but may result in long term problems. Such problems can damage your customer satisfaction and reputation. Our engineering team has designed many hundreds of solutions for multiple environments. Their experience can make a huge difference to your product's success.

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