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6 October, 2021 - 17:05 By Tony Quested

Photofab helps meet demand for virtual touch technology

St Neots-based chemical etching company Photofab has helped create a touch of haptics history. It was contacted by hand tracking and mid-air haptic technology company Ultraleap to manufacture a solution to protect one of its products from damage.

Ultraleap has united the world’s most advanced hand tracking with the only haptic technology that creates the sensation of touch in mid-air. With a team of over 150 working across the world, the company is located in Bristol, UK and Silicon Valley in the US.

Ultraleap manufactures the STRATOS Inspire product, a bolt-on module that adds touchless interaction to existing installations. The technology is based on using ultrasound to create the sensation of touch in mid-air, meaning no physical contact has to be made to interact with the device. 

Providers of systems such as advertising displays and entertainment systems now have the ability to offer users a virtual touch interaction experience with the devices.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still in flow, this technology has become highly sought after as it eliminates the need for physical touch, which risks the spread of germs. 

Ultraleap required some material to be manufactured to protect the device from damage, while also minimising the attenuation of the sound pressure waves that generate the haptics.

It contacted Photofab, requesting a manufacturing solution to protect the interior of the STRATOS Inspire. Photofab created a perforated grille to protect the STRATOS Inspire device and ensure it works at optimum levels.

The grille required exact precision upon production as the intricacies of the grille are incredibly small: a challenge that Photofab could easily handle.

Photofab tested several options for the coating of the fascia. This was done to ensure that the product would be visually alluring, but also durable and appealing to a mass market audience.

The grille was fitted to the STRATOS Inspire device to protect an array of ultrasound transducers from damage and provide a splashproof cover for the device.

Tooling costs were kept to a minimum without compromising on quality, so Ultraleap saved money throughout the process and ended up with an intricate, high quality product with help from Photofab.

Working with haptic technology for many years, Photofab’s chemical etching technique once again proved to be the most effective method for producing intricately shaped components for the communications sector, just one of many industries the company operates in.

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