In our previous blog post, we discussed why touch sensor design is not an easy task. Designers have to make a lot of decisions, and consider many factors. New components find their way into the design along the way, so ensuring that they all work together is key.

What does the design process look like when creating a new touch sensor product?

In the following graph, you can see a simple representation of the design process and cycles when creating a new touch sensor product.

The first steps are to specify the system’s specs and requirements and select the device. These choices depend on the desired functionality. Then, there is a feasibility study, to see if a sensor with the required specs is, indeed, feasible. Once all that is out of the way, the actual design begins.

The design is split in 2 parts: the mechanical design of the sensor, and the controller programming and  tuning. The designer chooses a sensor pattern (e.g. Double Diamond),  stack-up materials and a controller. Then follows the controller-sensor system testing (with prototyping or simulation), to make sure they are working well together. If they are not compatible, the designer might have to go back to the previous stage and change the sensor pattern or its parameters, or tweak the configuration of the controller.

Once the touch sensor design is satisfactory and works well with the controller, physical prototypes of the whole system are constructed and the controller- sensor is integrated with the rest of the system. Then, comes the testing and validation stage. If the system performance is satisfactory, it is moves along to production.

How can I minimize the number of design cycles?

In order to minimize the cycles, a designer needs to follow a “fail early, fail often” approach: experimenting quickly and extensively during the first steps of the process, thus minimizing the need to build multiple prototypes. That is why simulation is an extremely powerful tool at this point. By creating virtual prototypes and testing as many of those as desired digitally, instead of physically, you can make sure that only your best performing designs will reach the prototyping stage.

Faster and cheaper process, higher chance of success. How cool is that?