Touchscreens have revolutionized the way in which control electronic devices. From laptops and monitors to tablets, smartphones and even human machine interfaces (HMI), you can find touchscreens in countless electronic devices. As you may know, they allow you to control these devices by performing touch-based commands. Rather than using a keyboard and a mouse, you can use your finger.

While there are different types of touchscreens, however, they all contain both input and output components. Capacitive and resistive touchscreens rely on these components to perform their intended operations. What are input and output components exactly, and how do they differ?

What Are Input Components?

Input components are those that are designed to detect touch commands. They are known as “input components” because they provide a means of user-based input. The touch panel, for instance, is an input component. It’s the top layer of a touchscreen that’s designed to recognize and detect touch commands.

In capacitive touchscreens, the touch panel consists of glass that’s coated with a transparent and conductive material, the most common being indium tin oxide (ITO). As electricity flows through the touch panel, it’s able to detect touch commands. A touch command will absorb some of the touch panel’s electrostatic charge, which the capacitive touchscreen will register as a touch command.

Resistive touchscreens have multiple layers, which they use to detect touch commands. They contain two layers that are coated with a conductive material. Performing a touch command will force the layers to make contact, thus allowing the device to register the command. These layers are considered input components because they are designed to detect touch commands.

What Are Output Components?

Output components, on the other hand, are those that, in some way, respond to touch commands. Most touchscreens have an integrated display. The images produced by the display are determined by touch commands, so displays are considered an output component.

Most touchscreens, including both capacitive and resistive touchscreens, use a liquid-crystal display (LCD). LCDs are displays that consist of liquid pixels and backlighting. When you perform a touch command, the device will respond by displaying the appropriate image or images on the display. Displays are considered an output component because they respond to touch commands.

Differences Between Input and Output Components

Touchscreens need both input and output components to provide a functional, positive user experience. Input components like touch panels are responsible for detecting touch commands, whereas output components like displays and their embedded backlighting are responsible for responding to touch commands.