A new interface allows cleanroom equipment to be controlled through a touchpad device.
La Grange, Ill. Breakthroughs in manufacturing and research have moved at incredible speed, but designers, researchers, and engineers are still using outdated devices to inter- face with cleanroom equipment.
For years, the same controls have been used across several
industries, including medical, pharmaceutical, and electronic
assembly and manufacturing. But new technology offers the
capability to do much more. Through human gestures, touches,
and motions, a host of information can be conveyed more
intuitively with a control device that tells the equipment we use
how to operate.
New touch technology
A new technology has recently emerged for use in a variety of clean-
How the technology works
room environments that can help increase equipment function,
reduce particle contamination, and enhance employee productivity.
By now, everyone is familiar with control devices that allow
users to issue commands to smartphones, tablets, laptops,
GPSs, and MP3 devices through touch and gestures. Bringing
this technology into the world of manufacturing and research,
multi-touch human interface devices (MT-HIDs) are now
being integrated into cleanroom equipment to read fin-
ger gestures and movements just like an iPhone or
touchscreen smartphone does. And because this
technology is completely customizable, it can be
integrated into cleanroom equipment ranging
from monitors to instrumentation.
Combining a gesture recognition software library
with a multi-touch HID, this control technology
tracks finger movements from a device touchpad.
The multi-touch sensor data created from the device
touchpad is then fed to an application or operating sys-
tem (it can integrate with Linux or Windows, plus a vari-
ety of other operating systems, as well
as with customized applications), where
the software translates the tracked data
into a command. The software can be
modified, so the designer and user have
complete control over which gestures
are recognized by the software, and what
commands those movements and ges-
tures will trigger.
Any new interface for cleanroom
software must include the ability to
operate in a virtual three-dimensional (3D) workspace. With
these new systems, commands can be set to operate in 3D
mode to manipulate objects or images. This is accomplished
through what are called the “six degrees of freedom,” meaning
that the software can translate movement from the touchpad
into commands along the X, Y, and Z axes, as well as rotations
around each of these axes.
Depending on how the technology is integrated into cleanroom equipment, the touchpad device and software can be
used to perform a variety of commands, such as menu selection, search, navigation, image viewing, and image rotation
This touchpad/software combination can replace most of
the common equipment control mechanisms found in cleanroom equipment, such as joysticks, touchscreens, trackballs,
keypads, switches, and knobs and dials.
Controls that cut down on particle generation
This technology has applications in imaging and medical devices, industrial equipment, and gaming equipment. But why is it
something to consider in cleanroom equipment and design?
Because not only is the device and software combination
customizable, intuitive, and easy to use and learn, but it’s also
completely sealed. And the only way to control contamination
in your cleanroom is to control the total environment, which
includes equipment controls.
In cleanrooms, destructive particles are generated in two
ways: actively and passively. The right HID touchpad can cut
down on both of these types of particles.
Because the touchpad devices don’t feature any sliding surfaces,
sharp edges, moving parts or pieces, external cables, or components
that rub together, particles aren’t actively produced when using
them to control or manipulate cleanroom equipment.
With a touchpad device, there are no components or parts
that could break off—which could also lead to actively generated particles—like with a joystick, switch, or keypad. This new
technology device is also less likely to shed its own particles,
which reduces passive particle generation.
To prevent contamination, the MT-HID’s surface is smooth,
contains no joints, and isn’t coated with textured paint (all of which
can trap particles and release them later because the surface irregularities can’t be wiped off). It can withstand cleanroom cleaning
agents as well.
It’s also much less likely that cleaning cloths, wipes, gloves,
or gowns will become snagged on these control devices, which
decreases the chances of further contamination. Because the