How does a resistive touchscreen work?

Take a look at the touch screen market, and you’ll find more than half-dozen touchscreen technologies that can be used even in the most demanding environments.

While business owners can choose from many different types of touch screens, two types prevail in both consumer and industrial settings – resistive and capacitive touch screens. Manufacturers provide a great variety of touchscreen devices such as smartphones, tablets, human-machine interfaces (HMIs) that contain either the resistive or capacitive touchscreen technology.

If you’re not familiar with resistive touch screens, this article is for you. Read on to find out what a resistive touch screen is, how it works, what its key benefits are, and its most common applications today.


Resistive touch screens – the basics

What is the structure of a resistive touch screen? In this type of touch screen, you will find two sheets (also called layers) that are made of electrically resistive material.

The two sheets are separated from each other by a layer of air or inert gas. When the user taps the surface of a resistive touchscreen, the two layers come into contact. This is how resistive touchscreens can identify where exactly they touched the screen.

But that’s now everything. The two layers in a resistive touchscreen include electrodes that can come in different configurations. No matter how they are arranged, once these electrodes make contact, a touch command is triggered.

Here are the two most common ones:

  • Matrix configuration (also called digital configuration) – in this type of configuration, the manufacturer arranges the electrodes a striped formation on the opposite sides of the two layers. The touch screen works by applying pressure to the screen. It can be operated by pressing a stylus, a finger, or even a fingernail onto its surface.
  • Analog configuration – in this case, the electrodes are located on the opposite sides of the layers and without any specific pattern. Note that this touch screen is designed for pen recognition applications and can offer higher resolutions.

Where are resistive touch screens used?

Resistive touch screens are very durable. That’s why they’re used primarily in manufacturing, ATMs, and kiosks, or medical devices. Note that in many industrial settings users of touch screens need to wear gloves when touching the screens. That’s why resistive touch screens are such a good match for this requirement – contrary to another popular technology – capacitive touch screens – they don’t require contact with exposed human skin or a stylus with capacitive capabilities to work.

Benefits of resistive touch screens

●      Good resistance and durability – but note that since the material used to build resistive touch screens are synthetic, their surface is more susceptible to wear or scratches (for example, in comparison to capacitive touch screens).

●      Cost-effectiveness – a resistive touch screen is usually much less expensive than the other popular option on the market, a capacitive touch screen.

●      Versatility – you can use resistive touch screens using your fingers (exposed or gloved), or a fine point of contact like a stylus. These touch screens have more sensors per inch than capacitive touch screens.

●      Lower sensitivity – since a resistive touch screen is less sensitive to touch, it’s a great match for environments where accidental stimuli like liquid spills and splatters may cause the touch screen to react unintentionally. This is why resistive touch screens are broadly used in industrial contexts.

Disadvantages of resistive touch screens

●       Low sensitivity – operating resistive touch screens with light touch might not be successful since they require greater physical force to trigger touch commands,

●       Less clarity – the thick top layer of the screen offers less clarity for the display.

How do resistive touch screens compare to capacitive touch screens?

Capacitive touchscreens are more common today, but mostly in consumer products such as smartphones or tablets. Still, there are several reasons to choose a resistive touch screen. Only resistive touchscreens can register a touch command from a user who is using a regular stylus. Most conventional styluses aren’t conductive, so they don’t work with capacitive touch screens where users need to use an exposed finger or a special capacitive stylus.

Resistive touchscreens usually cost less than capacitive touchscreens. If you’re looking to purchase multiple touchscreens for your company, you may want to stick with resistive touch screens to meet your budget needs. For consumer applications, the capacitive touch screens are definitely worth the investment.

To learn more about the differences between resistive and capacitive touch screens, please read this article on our blog.

If you need more expert advice, please get in touch with our team. We assist our clients in choosing the best touch screen technology for their application, including demanding environments and industrial settings.


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