A hand holds a smartphone near the touchscreen of a Canon imageRUNNER office machine.

Safe to touch

Are you one of the millions of people who watched last year’s viral blacklight experiment video? Truly frightening, wasn’t it? A single pair of hands was ‘infected’ with a coating of a fluorescing fluid and then that person went into a room with nine others for a half-hour buffet lunch. Afterwards, a blacklight was taken in to show participants how far the fluid had travelled – and it was quite something. The experiment, conceived by Japanese broadcaster NHK, was designed to show just how quickly and effectively Covid 19 could travel through touch. 

The past year has made us all incredibly conscious of picking up and transferring invisible and dangerous hitchhikers with our hands. The carrying of hand sanitising gels, increased handwashing and elbow-bump greetings are now commonplace. We also expect the things we come into regular contact with to be routinely and thoroughly cleaned, but some surfaces are so high touch that they may interact with hundreds, if not thousands of hands a day. So how do we deal with that? Manufacturers have been looking at ways to make touchable surfaces a cleaner experience for a while now, but efforts have truly ramped up as it becomes not only a matter of hygiene, but one of safety.

Antimicrobial agents are nothing new – bleach, for example, is a cheap and widely available household essential. However, the practice of embedding them into other materials has largely been the preserve of medical environments, where they are absolutely essential in the prevention of transmissible infections. Healthcare professionals wear scrubs that are treated with antimicrobials and floors, ceilings and walls are decorated using paints that inhibit the growth of pathogens. Machines in hospitals have either in-built or applied antimicrobial surfaces. These kinds of specialist solutions in particular are now finding their way to surfaces near you, as hotels, airports, train stations and even your office adopts coatings such as anti-virus protection films on ticket machines, check-in terminals and printing devices.

A person stands to the right of the shot, wearing a grey top. They have a hand raised as though to touch the screen between them and the viewer.
How much do you touch in a day? Antimicrobials are just one way that we can make our interactions with touchscreens and other high-contact surfaces safer.

How do protective films work?

If they haven’t already specified it when they order a new machine, Canon customers can choose to have a service engineer fit the most common touch points on their machines with PUREZONE® antimicrobial protective films, which are a PVC enriched with silver ions. Throughout history, silver has been used medically, for treating wounds and infections, and as a germicide and disinfectant. Even the writings of Hippocrates mention silver in a medical context. However, in its basic elemental form, silver (‘Ag’ on the periodic table of elements) would be as much danger to bacteria as waving at it. But introducing a positive charge to silver nanoparticles produces silver ions (making them ‘Ag+’) and it’s these that do the damage. When silver ions meet bacteria, they penetrate its cell membrane and bind to it from the inside, preventing it from performing its most basic functions – replicating and producing energy. In our protective film, this forms the basis of an antimicrobial agent that is mixed into a solution and coated onto a liner. This is then heated to 200°C to create a high transparency, flexible and antimicrobial PVC. 

Other ways to stay touch-free 

Of course, while it’s a really important step in reducing the transmission of viruses, adding antimicrobial surfaces is just one way to stay safe – and protected surfaces still require regular cleaning. As we begin to return to our workplaces, there are other easy steps that can be taken to minimise the amount of device interaction. 

Canon PRINT Business App | uniFLOW Online App 

Both apps allow you to release print jobs with your mobile without having to touch the device, even those stored in your secure output queue or in the cloud. 

uniFLOW Online Authentication 

Release users print jobs securely through the presentation of their individual ID card. Simply authenticate it at the machine, collect your prints and there’s no need to put your hands anywhere near the device touchscreen. 

Motion Sensors 

Many offices already have taps that turn on when you put your hands under them and doors that open with a contactless ID card. Many Canon devices are triggered by motion, automatically ‘waking up’ when someone walks in front of them, removing the need to physically touch the device to do so. 

Our shared offices should be welcoming, comfortable and productive, so while every extra precaution helps us to stay safe, they are also reassuring and help us to feel safe and confident too. It’s these clever but barely noticeable touches that will be instrumental in transitioning us back to our desks and colleagues without unnecessary worry. 

Find out more about how Canon can help to protect you as you return to the workplace

Written by Deepa Parbhoo

Related Articles