Mechanical surface characterization of smartphone displays

Smartphones are used many times a day and while being manipulated they are in contact with many types of objects. To avoid damage, a smartphone has to be very scratch resistant. This application report shows how Anton Paar instruments can contribute to the development of high-quality touchscreens.

Smartphones are mobile phones with many advanced functions in addition to basic calling and sending text messages. Smartphones are our everyday tools with many applications: internet browsing, photography, health monitoring, online shopping, remote control of devices, etc. Even though the first smartphone had been designed back in 1992, the major revolution happened in 2007 when the phone got a large touch screen. This revolutionized the phone industry: the small keypad was replaced by touch sensitive screen. The smartphone displays have been considerably improved over the years. Today’s phones offer high definition resolution and excellent image quality. The number of smartphones continues to grow and there were around 6.3 billion smartphone users worldwide in 2021 (1). The users spend a considerable amount of time with their mobile phone, from a few minutes to several hours each day, and most of them keep their phone at hand all the time.

Smartphones must be very resistant to mechanical stresses that occur during their use. They can be subjected to shocks or scratching every time users manipulate them, for example when taking the phone out of a pocket or a bag or putting on a table. The smartphone manufacturers are struggling to achieve the best scratch resistance of the display, its frame and also of the smartphone casing. Various methods are used to quantify the scratch resistance – the two most suitable ones are the scratch test technique and nanoindentation. This application report will show the use of these two methods for characterization of scratch resistance and hardness of smartphone displays.

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