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Custom Capacitive Interface Panels

17 January 2013

Breakthrough capacitive switch design enhances appliance brand value and user experience in two Class-A energy efficient washing machine models

Molex Incorporated has partnered with a multinational manufacturer of major appliances to develop capacitive touchpad panels for two high-end Class-A energy saving washing machines. Molex capacitive switches and panels use capacitive-field-sensing technology to enable user interfaces with no moving parts in a range of consumer and home appliance product applications.

"Capacitive switch technology offers a proven upgrade to mechanical controls in electronic user interfaces,” states Steve Fulton, engineering manager, Molex.  "The washing machine user panels encapsulate imaginative ideas and robust engineering for enhanced functionality, with exceptional product reliability and energy savings.”

The capacitive switch panel designs incorporate solid-state circuitry in a robust interface that is highly resistant to multiple key presses, water, dirt, contaminants and EMI. Molex capacitive overlays and panels allow easy appliance cleaning and are available in a variety of cosmetic options, including in-mould decoration (IMD), glass or virtually any non-conductive material.

Both washing machine models feature multiple wash cycles, requiring numerous tightly spaced capacitive key sensors and icons. A single 44-pin microcontroller handles all panel functionality. Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter communication for sensor reporting and lighting control ensures consistent responsiveness and panel lighting levels in the user-controlled bright and dim modes. The power button has been integrated into the Molex capacitive panels to provide additional power savings when the appliance is not in use; a dead front appearance hides the icons until the power button is activated.

"Consumers trust leading brand appliances and count on the reputation and quality of high-end products.  As a design-to-launch partner, Molex leveraged our global network to deliver innovative and cost-effective panel designs and options that matched our customer’s creative concepts, timeline and budget,” adds Fulton.

Key Points

Molex Capacitive Interface Panel Model A

  • Enhanced 17 user touchpad panel keys, plus touch sensing wheel input with 16 user selections
  • Attractive custom LED lighted display with 13 digits and 29 icons
  • Lighting and capacitive sensing from rear of IMD bezel, with 42 additional backlights implemented via light guides and side-fire LEDs
  • Bright and dim mode for every lighting element

Molex Capacitive Interface Panel Model B

  • Tempered glass panel with second surface printing provides a mirror-like touchpad appearance
  • Appealing 16 user touchpad panel keys, plus touch sensing wheel input with 10 user selections
  • Attractive custom LED display with 16 digits and 17 icons
  • Lighting and capacitive sensing from rear of the glass, with 31 additional backlights implemented via light guides and side-fire LEDs
  • Convenient fading feature to achieve gradual brightness changes 

 
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