When researching the different types of touchscreen technologies, you’ll probably come across resistive. Along with capacitive, it’s one of the most popular touchscreen technologies. From retail point-of-sale (POS) systems to human machine interfaces (HMIs) and tablet computers, countless touchscreens are powered by resistive technology. But what exactly is a resistive touchscreen?

Resistive Touchscreens Defined

A resistive touchscreen is a type of touch-controlled electronic device that’s characterized by the use of two electrically resistive layers. The bottom of the top layer, as well as the top of the bottom layer, feature a conductive coating. When the two layers touch, the voltage changes, thereby allowing the resistive touchscreen to identify the exact point of contact.

How Resistive Touchscreens Work

To better understand how resistive touchscreens work, you should look at their construction. As previously mentioned, resistive touchscreens have two layers made of electrically resistive material. The two layers are separated by air or inert gas. An electrical charge is also applied to one of these layers.

When you perform a touch command, you’ll press the top layer into the bottom layer. Because the layers have a conductive coating, this allows the electrical charge to move from one layer to the other at the point of contact. As a result, the resistive touchscreen can determine the exact location of your touch command.

Advantages of Resistive Touchscreens

While not as popular capacitive — capacitive touchscreens account for over 90% of all newly manufactured touchscreens — resistive touchscreens still offer several advantages. They are often used in restaurants and manufacturing facilities, for example, because they are naturally protected against moisture and liquid contaminants.

You can also use a stylus to control a resistive touchscreen. Capacitive touchscreens typically only support touch commands performed with a bare finger. Pressing or tapping the display of a capacitive touchscreen with a stylus won’t work because they require conductivity. Resistive touchscreens, on the other hand, will work with any object, including a stylus.

Resistive touchscreens are highly responsive. Although they require greater pressure to trigger touch commands than capacitive touchscreens, they will respond almost immediately. Resistive touchscreens are widely recognized for their fast response times.

Furthermore, there are several types of resistive touchscreens from which to choose, including four wire, five wire and Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW). SAW touchscreens are unique because they leverage the properties of sound waves to detect touch commands.