Everything That You Want to Know About Digitizer

A digitizer is a hardware device that, by definition, converts analog signals into digital signals. The converted signals (from analog to digital) are stored in files on computing systems. This process altogether is called digitization. If we were to put it in everyday language, we could say that it is an electronic device that converts information such as text, sound, or image to a digital format to be stored. The digitizer is also known as the touchscreen, the layer of glass that we commonly see on mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and machinery. It senses the touch of the finger and sends the analog signals to the processing unit — a glass layer placed typically over the liquid-crystal display (LCD). If, at some point, your device fails to respond to touch, it is time for a new digitizer. 

History

Back in the 1800s, Elisha Gray introduced the first electronic handwriting device called Telautograph. This device was used for quite a long while until the first handheld device was introduced in 1957. It closely resembled the modern-day tablet and was named the Stylator. With emerging technology, the RAND tablet, also known as Grafacon, was launched in 1964, which was an invention commonly misstated as the first digitizer tablet. These devices became increasingly popular in the mid-1970s and early 1980s with the Bit pad manufactured by Summagraphics Corps. Initially, the Bit pad was sold under the company name while also being privately labeled for large scale electronics manufacturing industries such as HP, Tektronix, Evans, and Sutherland. Summagraphics also came up with a new OEM version of its previous model, the Bitpad, which was then sold by the multimillion-dollar company Apple, as the apple graphics tablet accessory to their Apple II. Then, there was the introduction of the KoalaPad as the first home computer graphic tablet, which, although initially designed for Apple, broadened itself to almost all home computer systems with graphic support. In 1981, Todd Rundgren also invented and licensed the first color graphics tablet software for personal computers to Apple. The leading digital age we know of today started in 2002 when all information was digitized, and it has been evolving ever since. 

Usage 

Digitizers are commonly used in all sorts of computerized electrical devices so the computer can understand the commands and information put into it. They convert analog signals or gestures into digital signals, which is the language understood by the computer. And embedded into all electrical devices is the digitizer, without which, the device would not be able to function. The most common issue faced by everyone around the world using computers, tablets, and phones is that they face difficulty in performing complex tasks by using the touch screen. Hence, a digitizer helps to increase touch accuracy. In some cases, there is an embedded stylus used in navigating and specifying locations more accurately.

There are three different types of digitizers:

  • Passive 
  • Active
  • Dual 

Passive digitizer: 

A stylus resembling a pen used in writing on paper is an example of a passive stylus. A passive stylus is a thin pen-like device with a rubber tip made to have contact with the touch screen. This stylus helps to increase accuracy and perform very detailed tasks that require precision, which cannot be achieved with a finger. The screen detects capacitive stylus, and we can carry out any task required. There is no direct link between the stylus and the screen, as it is solely used in place of the finger for accuracy.

Active digitizer:

An active digitizer is a type of screen that is enabled to detect when a special kind of pen that is designed especially for the purpose is near or touching the screen. The pen may have buttons on it, which may resemble the buttons on a traditional mouse that helps with additional control on the input and output.

Dual digitizer:

These contain characteristics of both passive and active, which means they can sense both the finger and the stylus, which makes it user friendly because both options are available. For simple tasks on the device, users can use the finger. However, if accuracy is required, the stylus is appropriate. The graphical user interface (GUI) requires the use of the finger while the stylus pen can be useful in drawing and making lines. The dual type allows the user to switch between both options seamlessly.

Advantages and disadvantages of digitizers:

Advantages: 

  • Applicable to all 2D and 3D surfaces.
  • Rapid 3D data collection.
  • Very effective due to large volumes of data collected at a predictable precision.
  • Ideal for all 3D modeling and visualization purposes. 
  • 3D position can be generated and seen as an image.
  • They are a rapidly developing technology.
  • Extensive worldwide research is going on.

Disadvantages:

  • Some of the systems do not work in the rain or the sun.
  • Large 3D data sets require post-processing to produce a suitable outcome.
  • Output requires manipulation to receive acceptable quality.
  • No standard data exchange network is currently available or in use.
  • Staying up to date has been proven difficult.
  • The hardware is costly and fragile. 

Importance a digitizer

The importance of a digitizer is hidden in its name. "Digital" is the technology of the new evolving modern world. Without it, we are stuck with vast complications, also known as the "Analog." Analog signals are those that mean nothing to the computers used in this modern-day. They must be converted into a digital signal that can then be read by the computer to initiate the task it is required to perform. This conversion is all possible due to the thin sheet of glass that covers the LCD and helps us to interact with the inner software that initiates the response required by the user within seconds.  The digitizer is not only used in our everyday life, but it is also used by Doctors when using modern-day diagnostic machinery and by engineers to construct models and plans. Without them, we would not be as developed as we are now, and we would not be operating any of these machines so easily. 

Complications

A digitizer, although very practical in use, can bring about many complications as well. Some of the difficulties that may arise are the screen may crack or shatter because of how fragile it is, and once the screen is cracked or broken, you can no longer use it. They are also susceptible to loss of sensitivity, which also causes the screen to freeze or no longer detect the touch of a finger or the stylus. In some cases, the screens are unable to be used in sunlight as they don't detect signals, and also heavy rain may trigger the problems as well. The devices that use good quality digitizers are expensive as, if you break your device, the replacement hardware is costly to replace. The software used to interpret the data is very expensive as well. With a broken digitizer, the touch mechanism of the device will cease to work.

Symptoms that indicate that the digitizer needs replacement:

  • There is no response from the screen when tapped on or when touched.
  • There may be a lengthy response.
  • Different areas on the screen may respond very erratically.

General Specifications

Many companies are manufacturing digitizers around the world, and the competition in the market is high. The top 5 companies are:

  •  Samsung
  •  LG
  • Tianma
  • Japan Display Inc
  • AU Optronics

Samsung has gained the most popularity and has been in the market since 2002. They created screens for laptops, phones, home appliances, tv, and more. Apple is one of the leading buyers from Samsung as till now. Samsung was also the first in its league to manufacture OLED and AMOLED displays, predicted to be the leader of the market in the next couple of years.

LG was founded in 1958 and began to deal with electronics in 1987. By 2001, they began to work with Phillips and came into the LCD industry, manufacturing AMOLED. Still, they were nowhere near comparable to Samsung, and their shares were reasonably low in comparison. Yet, they have been in the market and are highly popular due to their curved OLED screens used in the manufacturing of SONY phones and televisions.

Tianma has been on the market since 1983. They are Chinese manufacturers and only manufactured for the domestic market until recently. Currently, Tianma only deals with LCD manufacturing.

Japan Display Inc. is a Japanese company that emerged in 2011, manufacturing high-quality displays for phones and tablets. Apple has frequently bought their products and have used them in their most popular and best-selling iPhone models.

AU Optronics is a Taiwanese company that was founded in 2001 and is quite popular with a focus on developing flexible and frameless screens.

Conclusion

The invention of digitizers was crucial to technology as, without it, technology would not have evolved and be as modern as it is today. Digitizers formed the main bridge between analog and digital language. They helped technology become easy and efficient to use as well as user-friendly. It is a need in the medical sciences, as the production of accurate devices helps the medical field. Digitizer gave the option to use bare fingers to perform tasks fast and allow the use of a stylus to draw and complete tasks with maximum accuracy. Devices like these have made life more comfortable and accessible to almost everyone, as with just one touch, the world is at your fingertips.

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