As we saw in our previous blog post, designing a touch sensor is not an easy task. There are many decisions to be made, and many factors to consider, as new components are added along the way.
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 the device selection, based on the desired functionality. Then, there is a feasibility study, to see if a sensor with the required specs can, indeed, be designed. Once all that is out of the way, the actual design begins.
The design can be 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), the desired stack-up of materials and a controller. Then the controller-sensor system is tested (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 considered satisfactory and works well when connected 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 deemed satisfactory, it is moved 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?