How Do You Turn Any Screen Into A Touchscreen? A Simple Guide For Beginners

Can you remember the last time you saw a smartphone that wasn’t a touchscreen device? It’s almost impossible! Touchscreens have become the standard for pretty much every device display, and it;s easy to see why. 

With smartphones taking the display technology to a whole new level, pretty much every other device has followed suit. Device manufacturers are also doing their best to capitalize on this and are using touchscreens for pretty much anything they create. 

But, what about those screens that don’t have touch capabilities? Is there a way for you to transform them? In this article, we’ll look at the different strategies and possible approaches for how to turn any screen into a touch screen easily. 

Touchscreens & Interactive Overlays: A Quick Summary

There is no doubt about the fascinating nature of touchscreens as a display option. When they came on the scene, they had everyone hooked – the ability to simply press an icon on the screen and have it act, instead of using buttons for navigation, completely changed the game. And, the world has never looked back. 

Today, pretty much every device manufacturer is looking into how to make touchscreen technology even better. Touchscreens are more interactive, and they provide a more seamless way to engage people. This is the interface of the future. 

What Is Touchscreen Technology & How Does It Work?

We all know how touchscreens work – you approach a screen, press on an icon, and your input is acted upon. Today, pretty much every device works as a touchscreen or has a touchscreen feature – your phone, your friend’s tablet, computers, and even things like ATMs and kiosks where information is displayed. 

That said, there’s a lot that goes into touchscreen technology to make it work. Generally, these screens come with different components, all working together to make your interaction with the screens as seamless as possible. Here’s a quick breakdown to help you understand them better:

The Sensor Panel 

Before anything, the sensor panel is what users interact with when they approach a screen. It can be made of high-quality plastic or glass, although some manufacturers can choose a synthetic blend that is both durable and pleasing to the eyes. 

As you would imagine, this panel’s job is to detect your touch. Some of these screens can have different layers, with each of them serving a particular purpose overall. 

The Screen Controller

The next component is the touchscreen controller. This here is an integrated circuit that’s built right into the screen and helps to convert the data from your touch to the panel. When you turn on the touchscreen, this data is communicated via digital signals, and the controller chooses the touch coordinates based on what it has read. 

There’s A Driver Too 

A device driver is pretty much a piece of software that acts as a connector between the touchscreen controller and the operating system of the device in question. Whenever you put in a command, the driver translates what it means to the operating system, explaining it in terms that the latter is better able to understand. 

Your Physical Connectors 

Touchscreen components also require physical cables and connectors that link them together. With these components, you can essentially connect the touchscreen controller with the touch sensor panel and the processor for your device. All in all, connectors ensure that every piece of data is accurately translated, and that you don’t get a separate output when you press in a specific input. 

Types of Touchscreen Technologies

It’s easy to see touchscreens and just believe that they’re the same – after all, you just press a screen and it records your input. But, this isn’t necessarily true. Touchscreens come in different types, and while you might not be able to recognize them physically, understanding the differences between them should help you get better clarity. 

Resistive Touchscreens:

First, we have the resistive touchscreens. These screens come with different layers – usually two – that have small gaps between them. In most cases, your outer layer is built with a conductive material, while the inner is a bit more resistive.

When you press a resistive touchscreen, both the outer and the inner layers make contact. This contact causes a shift in electrical current, and the touch controller is immediately activated to find the location where you pressed the screen. From there, the signals are picked, and the device’s operating system swings into action. 

Capacitive Touchscreens 

In a capacitive touchscreen, you have a glass panel that is covered with a transparent conductor – in most cases, manufacturers tend to use indium tin oxide. 

As we all know, the human body conducts electricity rather well. So, when you place your finger on a capacitive touchscreen, the process creates what is known as capacitive coupling. This coupling activates and changes the electrostatic field that is located at the touch point, and it immediately triggers the controller to determine where you touched it. 

Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) Touchscreens

To work, a SAW touch screen comes with two transducers. For those who might not be aware, a transducer is an electronic device that helps to conduct energy between different forms. In this case, one transducer is placed along the X-axis of the screen, while the other is placed along its Y-axis.

There are also reflectors on the screen that help to bounce ultrasonic waves across the surface. The moment you touch the screen, it absorbs the waves, and one of the transducers detects any switches in acoustic waves. From there, the controller calculates the location of the touch based on the delay between the time you sent the acoustic waves and the time you received them.

Infrared Touchscreens 

Here, you have infrared LEDs that are placed on the screen’s side. And on the opposite side, you have photodetectors. 

Already, the screen’s surface is filled with infrared beams. So, when your finger touches the screens, the beams are disrupted, and the photodetectors spring into action. They send data about the disruption’s location to the controller, and it easily identifies the location on its own. 

Optical Touchscreens:

An optical touchscreen works with cameras or image sensors that are placed along the edges of the screen. This way, when you touch the screen, the sensors or camera capture the shadow that your fingers create. From there, it’s pretty easy for the touch controller to perform a quick analysis of the data to determine where you touched the screen. 

Projected Capacitive Touchscreens (PCT)

These are quite similar to the capacitive touchscreens we discussed above. However, the major difference is that PCTs come with different electrodes that are also placed within the screen. 

In these screens, the controllers continue to monitor the screen’s electrostatic field. When your finger touches the screen, the field is essentially disrupted, and this disruption allows the controller to determine where the screen was touched. 

Many manufacturers consider a lot of factors when choosing the right touchscreen technology. But, the most important things are accuracy, the technology’s ability to last, and the intended use. 

For most phones and tablets, manufacturers tend to use capacitive touchscreens – they’re fast, and they also offer multi-touch functionalities. But, for most industrial applications, resistive touchscreens lend a higher level of durability that is just perfect.

How Do I Change My Screen To Touch?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that we understand what touchscreens are and the components that help them to operate, let’s take a quick look at the major question – if your screen isn’t a touchscreen, how do you transform it into one? 

Generally, there are several strategies you can use to achieve this. All of these will vary based on what you’re looking to achieve, but you can check them below: 

Install A Capacitive Overlay 

The first step for most people in how to make any screen touch screen is usually to get a capacitive overlay. Essentially, this is a touch-sensitive layer that instantly takes a non-touch display and transforms it into a touchscreen. 

With their transparent look, capacitive overlays don’t even interfere with the aesthetic appeal of your display. They incorporate capacitive touch technology, easily detecting when you touch a screen and transmitting your input to the system of the device. 

Installing a capacitive overlay is a relatively simple process. All you have to do is: 

Clean Your Non-Touch Screen: 

Get the screen ready for its transformation by cleaning it first. Smudges and particles can affect the placement, so this is critical.

Place The Overlay: 

Put the capacitive overlay on the display and make sure that the alignment is as perfect as possible.  

You Might Need An Adhesive: 

To ensure that the positioning is firm, the overlay might come with an adhesive. This application will need to be done carefully, so you don’t end up messing with the overlay and its connection to the screen. 

Some Overlays Have Brackets Too 

You might notice that your overlay kit will come with a mounting bracket. If this is the case, then put them on the overlay’s edges and position it properly so it  doesn’t fall off. 

Connect The Components

This step is pretty easy. Just get the cables with the overlay and place them in your screen display- it could be a USB or an HDMI. 

Test & Power Up 

Turn the display on and check to see that everything is in top shape. You can make adjustments if the need arises, and once you ascertain that everything’s good to go, just secure the cables and start using your new touchscreen display. 

Use An Infrared Light Frame 

The next strategy for how to make any screen touch screen will have to be the use of an infrared light frame. 

These here are components that help to also convert standard displays into touchscreens, and they use infrared LEDs that are placed along the edges of your screen’s frame – as well as the other sensors placed on the opposite edge of the screen. With this frame, you get an emission of infrared light, which detects the shadow of anything that touches the screen and allows for a precise touch input. 

You can get an infrared light frame and install it using the following workflow: 

Set Your Screen & Get It Ready 

Unplug your device and make sure that it is clear of any debris or dust. 

Put The Light Frame On 

The next step will be to mount the infrared light frame properly around the display’s edges. Like the first step, you might need to use an adhesive or mounting brackets for the frame – such as if you want to turn TV into touchscreen. 

Connect & Finalize The Installation 

Get your cables from the light frame and connect the frame to the display. Remember that the connection needs to be as solid and as secure as possible. 

Fire It Up & See What You Have 

Turn the display on and calibrate your system based on the specifications. If the installation was done right, you should be able to start with your touchscreen display. 

Use Touch Gloves & Touch Pens To Transform Your Display

They might not necessarily be the most popular options, but touch gloves and touch pens are pretty solid products if you’re looking for how to make your screen touch screen. Theirjob is to enable touch points on your screen, especially in situations where it might be a challenge to get direct skin contact. 

The Magic Of Touch Gloves

A touch glove is a specialized glove that is built with conductive materials. These materials are especially placed in the fingertips of the gloves, allowing you to interact with a display more conveniently. 

With these fingertips, you have conductive threads or materials that allow you to emulate the electrical conductivity available in the human skin – remember, we humans conduct electricity quite well. The innovation allows you to interact with your touchscreen device, navigating it easily. 

How A Touch Pen Works 

The next step in how to make any screen touch screen is the development of the touch pen. Also known to some as a stylus, the touch pen is exactly what you think it is – a pen. The difference, however, is that the pens are conductive – especially their tips, which directly interact with your display. 

A touch pen’s tip is built to mimic the human finger and its conductive characteristics. So, when it makes contact with the screen, the device immediately sees it and recognizes it as a touch input. 

Use 3M Microtouch Screens 

The final step for how to turn any screen into a touchscreen is the magic of 3M microtouch screens. The Microtouch technology is known for its impressive suite of products, including and especially its capacity touch technology. The screens are built to be reliable and responsive in their touch input, and they work in a broad range of settings and environments. It’s kind of like a DIY touchscreen monitor. 

To use these screens, you can follow this workflow: 

Set Your Workplace

Per usual, the first thing you need to do is to clear your display and make sure that there is no debris or dust on it. Your environment needs to be clean too, so you don’t have to deal with impurities. 

Place The Screen Next

If you’re working with an external overlay or a touch panel, then you can just mount it directly on your display to activate the touch sensitivity. 

But, it’s also possible that you’re working with an integrated touch screen. In this case, you might need to mount the display unit entirely. 

Complete The Connection 

Per usual, get your cables and connect them from the Microtouch screen to the display you’re working with. This should be simple enough, of course. With the right connection, your DIY touchscreen monitor should come on easily.  

You Might Need New Drivers

This isn’t a given, but some operating systems will require specific drivers with your 3M Microtouch screen. Most times, you’ll get a driver coming with your screen, so you will need to have it installed first. 

Start It Up 

Run final calibrations and checks to ensure that you’re not missing out on anything, and you’re pretty much good to go!  Turn on the touchscreen technology and see how it works.

Major Challenges & Considerations With Turning Your Screen Into A Touchscreen

The steps we’ve outlined above will go a long way in helping you figure out how to make any screen touch screen. However, while this process is generally possible thanks to the use of kits and technology, it is also important to keep a few possible limitations and considerations in mind as you go. 

Your Components Need To Be Compatible

When it comes to display technology, compatibility is one of the biggest considerations. Whether you want a DIY touch screen monitor or you’re looking into how to convert TV to touch screen, you need to make sure that your screen and your touchscreen technology are as compatible as possible. 

If they’re not, then you might need to change touchscreen technologies altogether or maybe look for another solution. 

Always Select The Right Tech 

Next on the list is the selection itself. Generally, you have different touchscreen technologies, each with its level of accuracy and suitability that will be based on what you’re trying to do. 

We all noted the different types of touchscreen technologies already. But, it is worth noting that each of these types comes with its strengths and weaknesses. So, to avoid having to change touchscreen technologies from time to time, you will need to choose which to use based on your needs. 

Problems With The Calibration 

You need to have proper calibration if you want your touch input to be as accurate as possible. If calibration isn’t proper enough, then you could end up with a misalignment of your screen – which, in turn, will only make it slower and less effective. 

To that end, it’s important to ensure that the entire calibration process is done right. 

The Process Can Be Expensive

Overall, there’s a tendency for touchscreen conversion to be a bit expensive. Costs tend to vary, but when you consider the fact that you have to get an overlay kit as well as things like additional components, you might find the cost profile a bit high. 

So, do a thorough accounting to be sure you can afford this before proceeding. 

Does The Touchscreen Last? 

This is one of the biggest questions overall. Over time, there’s a propensity for touchscreens to wear and tear – especially as they get used more. So, you need to ensure that the overlay kit or whatever touchscreen technology you’re using is strong and durable enough to support your needs. 

You Have To Plan For Power

As you would imagine, a touchscreen display will use more power compared to a traditional one. So, as you look to turn TV into touch screen, you need to also consider its impact on your utility bills. 

Your Screen Will Need Maintenance

Generally, touchscreens need proper maintenance and cleaning. Your fingers will be touching them a lot, and this raises the risk of smudges and other potential issues. So, ensure that you have a maintenance schedule and keep to it if you hope to optimize the working life of the screen as much as possible.  

You Need To Keep Upgrading

Technology is an evolving landscape. And as you can imagine, there will be things like upgrades and changes to your touchscreen device. It’s not just enough to understand how to turn on touch screen options – you also need to be aware of possible upgrades and how they could affect you overall.

Conclusion

Everyone’s looking to use touchscreens today. They’re convenient, easy to work with, and generally more aesthetically pleasing. That said, not every screen is a touch screen – and for that to be changed, it is worth considering how to make touch screen technology work. 

Our guide shows a detailed workflow for how to get this done. And, if you need any additional help, we at NSE LED Cloud will be more than happy to assist you. 

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