Minnesota tech giant 3M is exiting the touch systems business – announcing it is end-of-lifing the range of Surface Capacitive (SCT), Projected Capacitive (PCAP) touchscreens and display products now in production.
They’ll stop taking orders on them by the end of October, and last shipments will be no later than the end of Q1 2021.
There is nothing about this that’s readily apparent on the 3M website – which has MANY pages. Word comes via a partner – Crystal Display Systems in the UK.
The company relayed word to customers, ensuring them that there are alternatives. Crystal’s Chris Bartram said first word came via the Chinese factory that does sourcing for them. He then got it confirmed directly from a 3M contact.
Here is the letter to customers, in PDF.
I don’t follow the touch systems business anywhere near close enough to say whether this is a seismic event or a shrug. I do know 3M has had touch products for some three decades, so they didn’t exactly just dip in and out of it. The tech gets used on things like ATMs and POS terminals.
If you search on business products for 3M, on its site, you get more than 23,000 items. So this is not exactly cutting off an arm. The company does between $7 and $8 billion in sales annually.
Here is some edited perspective from contacts …
“The quality of product offered by other component manufacturers across the market space has improved considerably over the past few years. With improvements in quality and availability has also come significant cost pressure on 3M.”
“Very broadly paraphrasing, 3M brings to market technology that they believe has high barriers to entry and can be sold for a premium with little of no other competition. Once competition for like or similar products reaches the market, they typically exit the OEM market. 3M also licenses their technology to the extent they can, once they appear to be losing market dominance. Once the licensing stream runs out, they exit the market space entirely.”
“Many suppliers capable of providing product, ranging wildly in price and quality, have been flooding the p-cap component market for about three years.”
“In the US market, there are several more niche touch solution providers that rely solely on 3M for their p-cap components. We know this because they often purchase from us when they have a lead time issue with 3M. I expect the impact in large format p-cap touch is that you will see social media flooded with the likes of Displax, Zytronics, and several Asian manufacturers offering their product as the alternate to 3M.”
“What it means to the OEM component suppliers: they will have reduced competition. What it means to the OEMs of touch solutions will vary widely. If 3M was your sole component supplier, you will either scramble to find a new supplier, or you will exit the market. Like all changes in the market space, some will win … some will lose.”
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.