Cambridge and Silicon Valley Cooperate on new touchscreen

 Cambridge and Silicon Valley join to launch flexible touchscreen technology worldwide


For now a fully flexible mobile device is not on the cards, but grand new features could be with the Cambridge-born FLT technology, courtesy of Atmel.

A new world-leading flexible touchscreen technology based on reel-to-reel inkjet printing techniques developed in Cambridge has been launched by Silicon Valley firm, Atmel.

After years of work, the fine line technology (FLT) honed by Conductive Inkjet Technology (CIT) and licensed to Atmel by CIT’s parent company Carclo under an exclusive $10m, 10 year deal, has now seen its worldwide release.

According to Carclo, Atmel is currently engaged on multiple product programmes with a broad range of customers while volume production of touch sensors from both the CIT pilot line and Atmel’s own full scale production line is expected to commence in the second half of this year.

Atmel says the technology is thinner and lighter than current touch screen technology on the high street and that by allowing edgeless and curved devices, it will enable an entirely new era of capacitive touchscreen designs.

With Samsung’s confirmation that its own touchscreen technology will also hit the market at some point this year and Nanoco’s rapidly advancing work, it looks like 2012 could be the year flexible display technologies finally come of age and move beyond being just a cool conference demo. However, with the commercial launch of XSense it’s Atmel who has struck first blood.

There are numerous potential applications and markets for the technology – indeed XSense is being launched across the electronics industry – and while mobile phones and tablets could see many new functions with FLT’s ability to provide touch capabilities beyond the edge of what has traditionally been the main screen for instance, it will still take a major leap forward for a fully flexible mobile phone as the rest of the device including the processors and battery, are still rigid.

Mobile device manufacturers may still be drawn to the technology however, both by the extra functionality and perhaps more crucially, its lower power consumption.

CIT was formed in 2002 as a 50/50 joint venture between Yorkshire-based Carclo and Xennia, the inkjet firm spun out of Domino Printing Sciences, the hugely successful Cambridge Consultants’ spin-out. In 2008, Carclo became the single owner of CIT and began working with Atmel on touch sensor devices the following year.

Atmel’s satisfaction with the partnership work led the company to sign a further contract at the end of 2010 giving it 10 years of exclusivity on the CIT technology in return for significant up-front payments and demanding volume and revenue targets.

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