Smartphones, tablets, ATMs, info terminals – we now use touchscreens throughout our daily lives without thinking much about it. However, the potential of touch panels is enormous in the industrial environment: They not only make operating plants much faster and easier; they also increase the number of control options. The elimination of buttons and controllers on PLCs also makes it possible to install considerably larger screens. All of the many mechanical elements of a control system are always visible at the same time – whereas with touch panels, the user only sees the control elements that are necessary or useful for the relevant situation, or for the currently selected process or dialog box.
However, in harsh industrial environments touch panels are confronted with additional requirements. Panels for industrial use have to be especially robust, scratch-resistant, and anti-reflective. It is also important that they can be operated while wearing gloves. Dust, shavings, dirt, and lubricants must not impair either operability or service life. Finally, the gestures needed for operation must, wherever possible, offer all of the functions that are already established in the consumer sector, such as swiping and scrolling using fingers.