Touch Toggles work by sensing changes in capacitance, something that can be measured right through glass, plastic, or paper. The water in your body is a pretty good capacitor, which is why it senses your finger. It doesn’t matter if you are pressing down on the surface, other than that the surface may flatten out your finger tip for a slightly better sensing. This sensing is the same as in a smartphone or other touch screen.
Touch Toggles don’t work through conductive materials or composites like masonite. The characteristic that determines what works and what doesn’t is called the “dielectric constant”, a factor that is usually just determined by experimentation. Fortunately there has been lots of testing already done, so look for higher dielectric constants here or here.
Touch Toggles also have a very short time delay in their activation (about 1/3 of a second) to help prevent false triggering. Brushing past an array of Toggles won’t instantly trip them all. “Pecking” at a Touch Toggle won’t trigger it either. Using Touch Toggles for only a few minutes will let you get the feel for an effective press. We call this the “Meaningful Touch”.
Planning Your Panel
Touch Toggles will work through up to 3/8″ (8mm) of glass, or up to 1/4″ (5mm) of plastic.
For most panels, using a picture frame is a low cost easy solution that is pre-finished and available in LOTS of styles, finishes, and sizes. Walking through a local department store, discount store, or craft store can reveal hundreds of options.
Custom sizes can be ordered as frames, or you can build them up yourself. You can choose custom sizes of glass or plastic.
If you are thinking of plastic glazing, we like to recommend polycarbonate (Lexan) over acrylic (Plexiglas) plastic. Polycarbonate is available from plastic supply or sign supply companies. It is stronger and much more scratch resistant. It costs more than acrylic, but can be installed much thinner, which helps reduce the cost to be almost the same. It cuts and drills much more like wood than acrylic material and is much easier to work without chipping or damaging the piece,
Drilling or sawing through a sacrificial piece of plywood or medium density fiberboard (MDF) is recommended for any plastic.