Resistive touchscreens are commonly used in commercial devices. From retail point-of-sale (POS) systems to automatic teller machines (ATMs), equipment controls and more, you can find them in a variety of commercial devices. Resistive, in fact, ranks as the second-most popular touchscreen technology, surpassed only by capacitive. While there are different types of resistive touchscreens, however, nearly all of them are etched.

The Basics of Etching

The term “etching” when used in the context of touchscreens or other electronics refers to the creation of conductive traces within a surface. Most resistive touchscreens feature a top layer and a bottom layer. Both of these layers are etched with conductive traces. The conductive traces essentially face each other.

Etching and Touch Commands: What You Should Know

Why are resistive touchscreens etched exactly? It allows them to detect touch commands. As previously mentioned, most resistive touchscreens feature two layers: a top layer and a bottom layer. The two layers are typically separated by air. But if you touch the display interface, you’ll press the top layer into the bottom layer.

The top and bottom layers of a resistive touchscreen are etched with conductive traces. When turned on, the resistive touchscreen will apply a voltage to one of these layers. The other layer will attempt to measure this voltage. Since the two layers are separated by default, the second layer won’t detect the voltage — at least until you perform a touch command.

Performing a touch command will allow the two layers to make contact with each other. The top layer will press into the bottom layer, thus allowing the applied voltage to travel through both of the layers. The second layer will detect the voltage, at which point the controller will calculate the coordinates of the touch command for processing.

How Resistive Compares to Capacitive Technology

Most touchscreens today are powered by either resistive or capacitive technology. They both detect touch commands, and they both consist of layers. Resistive and capacitive, though, differ in several ways.

Resistive touchscreens will work with any object. You can control them with a bare finger, gloved finger, a stylus or any object that’s shaped like a stylus. Capacitive touchscreens typically only work with a bare finger or a special capacitive stylus. They are known as “capacitive touchscreens” because they measure changes in capacitance. A change in capacitive will be registered as a touch command. Only touch commands performed with a conductive object, such as a bare finger or capacitive stylus, will change the device’s capacitance.