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updated 17-Feb-2002

Homemade Screen Protectors

Jan 5, 2000  by Dale Coffing

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Editors Note: If you don't want to mess around with homemade versions the absolute best to buy commercially is called the WriteShield and you can get it for 10% off here.  Do not confuse them with Fellowes WriteRights at your local retail stores which I  do NOT recommend since the WriteRights work only slightly better than the homemade version BUT they cost $25/dozen. The WriteShield seems expensive but if you are going to spend the money this is the one to go with since it applies totally bubble free and lasts for at least 6 months (it may be longer but I haven't had to replace mine yet :)

These instructions were written for my Casio however they are adaptable to any PDA. The downloadable template has screen sizes for the Compaq iPAQ thanks to  Earl Sarain, Casio E-1xx, Casio E-10, Hewlett Packard HP-54x series Pocket PC, Philips Nino thanks to Don B., HandSpring Visor and PalmIII thanks to Kent O'Driscoll. The handheld market benefits the most I think since they have no available screen protectors available commercially and these sheets will fit them great. New template by Jason Barkes for the iPAQ Pocket PC.


I have been wanting to find a satisfactory solution to protecting the screen on my Casio E-105 since the first day I noticed scratches starting to develop. I originally ordered Casio brand screen protectors and they worked alright but they did have a tendency to slide around slightly and dirt would get under the protector. [UPDATE: Casioluvver Protect-O-matic Page If you prefer this non-adhesive style Casioluvver sent me a great template and instructions that improves on the Casio design. If you want a non-adhesive template for your iPAQ  click on this link to read all about iPAQluvver version.] I then tried some old WriteRIGHTS from Concept Kitchen which didn't slide around so no dirt gets underneath but they go for $25/dozen... I don't think so. The cost of these commercially available products plus the fact I am a projects kind of guy encouraged me to start looking for other solutions. By the way, if you need information on fixing scratches see this link then put on protectors. Of course the ULTIMATE fix is to replace the touch panel that sits on top of the LCD screen; for the Casio E1xx or iPAQ or a Palm.

Materials Needed: I then got some advice from Gino on The BrightSpot to use a product called LaminateIt! by GBC. I found some at my local Office Depot for $7.99 that has ten 8-1/2 by 11 inch sheets available  online at OfficeDepot Item# 953053.Material Required
 Use any of the alternative materials listed below in lieu of LaminateIt! based on your preference of adhesion properties, stylus feel and availability of material. An email from Boat gave me a tip on Avery Self-Adhesive Laminating Sheets you see in the picture which I have found to be excellent. For additional info see. . .

Alternative Materials


You can make nine Casio protectors out of one sheet which means the price per protector runs about $0.09 each. Not bad! They don't distort the screen at all and the strong adhesive doesn't remain on the screen when it is time to replace it. A side benefit is it has a nice glossy finish to it so when the unit is off you can actually use it as a mirror. They last about two weeks for me since I use Calligrapher. Your use will vary based on how much scribbling you do. You will also need some scissors for this project.  My wife does some simple craft work and she had bought a Fiskars Paper Trimmer from Wal-Mart. It works fantastic for making perfectly straight and perpendicular cuts on the laminate sheets. Much faster and far better than scissors. 


TemplateStep 1: To help me in marking the laminate sheets for cutting I designed a simple Screen Protector Template in MSWord. It's available for you to download by right clicking the file name and "Save Target As" to download to your local drive. I tried printing directly to the backing of the laminate sheet but it is "waxy" and the ink-jet ink would not dry. [UPDATE Tip: If you use the Window Decal as your material of choice you can print directly on the sheet.] Printing out the document will reveal 9 pre-measured Casio sized screens. Lay the Template over the top of a sheet of the laminate.
 

Marking the Sheet
By looking at the photo you can see I aligned the template so that the top and left edge of the laminate is matching up on the lines. This will minimize the amount of cutting needed and will take advantage of existing straight edges of the sheet. I used a simple pushpin to punch through the template page and into the laminate at each of the corner boxes. You can then use a straight edge to "connect the dots" and cut with an Utility knife or draw lines to cut with scissors. Since I have the Paper Trimmer I didn't have to punch pin holes but instead just simply marking the laminate with an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie at each of the box corners would work. You can actually place the Template under the LaminateIt and barely see-through where to place your marks. 

 Paper Trimmer in Use

Step 2: When using the Paper Trimmer I found it very helpful to have the backing side down . It seem to make a much cleaner cut when I tried it that way. It only takes a couple minutes to completely trim a sheet  into all 9 screen protectors. You can test the exactness of your final cuts by simply placing them on top of the Casio screen. They should fit fully inside the screen without any overlap onto the Casio case. 


Cutting leading edgePull back the clear laminate and cut about 1/2 inch off the top edge of the screen protector backing. This will help you position the protector properly without to much trouble of it adhering prematurely. LaminateIt! instructions suggest you simply fold back the 1/2 inch. This is a good time to cut a tiny notch out of one of the corners to allow for easier removal later. [UPDATE Tip: Holding the corner of the sheet between your thumb and forefinger as seen in the picture allows this corner to pull up easier for later removal due to fingerprint oils or bending up a portion of the corner will leave a tiny "pull tab" for later removal too. Thanks JonN for the tip.] It is important to have clean hands and LCD screen before putting on the protector. Any fingerprints or dirt that is trapped underneath will show. According to the Casio Hardware Manual never use thinner, benzene, cosmetics, or other volatile agents to clean the CASSIOPEIA. Use a soft cloth moistened with a weak solution of water and mild neutral detergent. 


Aligning left edge and Squeegee


Animated Application
Step 3: Do not touch the adhesive under the laminate or your fingerprint will remain. Carefully align the protector by positioning it along the left edge of the screen then allow it to make contact along the top. [UPDATE Tip: Thanks to Adam for a tip on alignment. Try putting down the bottom edge first making sure its straight then slowly put down the protector from the back to the front allowing the adhesive to make contact last.] Lift up the sheet and begin to peel off the backing slowly as you simultaneously use the credit card as a make shift squeegee. This is the real key to making a good application. Do this in one constant motion by slowly pressing the laminate sheet onto the screen using the credit card to apply the laminate. If the laminate sheet makes contact with the screen before the credit card has a chance to press it on the screen you will have air bubbles. If you start, stop, start, stop when you are applying instead of one constant fluid motion you may see light lines across the screen where you stopped. It is a lot easier than it sounds but it does take some practice to get the knack of it. Don't worry about a lot of these minor imperfections when applying because either they go away with use or you don't even notice it when the screen is turned on. After only one try I was able to make a perfect application without any bubbles and with correct alignment. After the protector is in place use the edge of the credit card to seal around the screen. [UPDATE Tip: If you see a slight mottled appearance after application click here to read John's comment #5 below.]

Comments: The whole project takes only minutes and it is so easy to do. It's well worth the time as it protects your hard earned investment to keep your screen looking as new as the day you got it! Thanks to all of you who have sent me email with thanks, observations and suggestions. It has been encouraging to know that I have been able to be of some help to many of you. I have included an email by John Hannum below in particular because it covers so many of the questions that have been sent in and his observations and suggestions are very insightful and helpful.

UPDATE TIP -This was sent in by David Keystone: 

Thank you for your instructions as to making screen protectors. I bought a Palm Vx a couple of weeks ago and, after incurring the first couple of small scratches, knew that I needed to get some type of screen protection. I purchased the WriteRight screen protectors (Concept Kitchen), but found them, among other things, to be expensive and, when applied to my Palm, extremely difficult to look through.

Today, I purchased the Avery self-adhesive laminating sheets you suggested. I easily made a template from the WriteRight that I took off the screen, and made my first set of homemade screen protectors. After a couple of tries, I discovered that by using a thin lens cleaning cloth (purchased at the local camera store) folded over the "squegee" edge of my creditcard, I was able to remove most every imperfection (airbubbles, etc.) under the protector. It resulted in a level of clarity that was substantially better than using just the creditcard alone to apply the protector.

Thanks again for a great idea. It really works well, and is easy (and really cheap) to do.

UPDATE TIP - Thanks to BÁrt and Troyzzz for posting this reminder tip: If your screen ever stops responding to touches, check to see if there is any dirt or a stuck screen protector between the housing and the screen on the edges. This will cause the screen to be permanently touched in this area so it won't respond to actions of the stylus pen.  Editor's note: Use a stiff piece of transparency or card to slide under and around the frame to remove any dirt that has accumulated as part of your screen cleaning before installing the protector. A 50/50 mix of vinegar and water on a cloth will remove left over adhesive residue with a little patience. Do not use any ammonia based cleaner like Windex Thanks to Ryan Clayton for this update!

If you have any comments or questions I would be happy to respond. Let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions to help others with this. 

Good luck and have fun!
email: Dale Coffing

Compatibility with Palm and other PDA's

I have received positive feedback from owners of the Casio E-10, HandHeldPC NEC780, HP690,  HandSpring Visor, Palm III, PalmV users that the Avery Self-Adhesive Laminating Sheets Product works and is compatible with their screens. However, on the Palm devices due to the low backlighting level of the screen the LaminateIt! provides a much better looking protector since it applies with better clarity. This problem doesn't really exist for Casio's due to the very high brightness levels of the screen that wash out the relatively light imperfections in the adhesive application. I would recommend the LaminateIt product for Palm for this reason. I have a Palm template but it really is not as good as the one by Kent O. below. You can download my template file by right clicking on Screen Protector Template and "Save Target As" to download to your local drive. Joe Ponkey who is a HandSpring Visor owner says "I thought you'd like to know ...  the 2.38”W by 3.15”H template is perfect for the Handspring Visor."

 

 

Alternative Materials
 to LaminateIt
!

Thanks to Casioluvver who sent in a tip for a product by Xerox called InkJet Window Decals. This product has a mild adhesive that's easily removable. It is available at Staples Item #852378 ($7.99 per 5 sheets or $0.18 per protector). The local Office Depot doesn't carry the Xerox product but I got Avery Window Decals Item #7278203276 ($8.99 for 6 sheets or $0.17 per protector) instead. Thanks to MarkK for sending me a sample of the Xerox material. It appears that the Xerox and the Avery decal products are identical in every way which probably means they really are made by the same supplier, it is just being marketed by the different companies. Another plus to this material is you can use my E-10x Screen Template below and print directly on the sheet for your cutting guides if desired. I used my inkjet printer and printed on the decal backing but I needed to allow it to dry overnight. I have tried the Avery Window Decal now for a couple days and I have found the surface is not as glossy nor as soft as LaminateIt! It's not bad and I like it. The good news is you are able to reposition or remove the sheet very easily since the adhesive is very light. I wouldn't recommend repositioning however once applied due to increased air bubble formation. The plastic itself is stiffer and appears to be much more scratch resistant than LaminateIt!. The not so good news is it is a little tricky to apply a bubble free application due to the light adhesive and stiff plastic. It took a couple tries for me to get a nice looking job and even then it had a couple bubbles that I ended up smoothing out with the credit card and stylus. All these bubbles virtually disappear when the screen is on. Casioluvver has a tip that he thought using a blow dryer on the protector before application helped with minimizing the air bubbles. I am very impressed thus far with the scratch resistance performance. The couple extra minutes application time to get it right with this product rewards you with a longer lasting protector than LaminateIt!. However - Thanks to PaulR for this heads up - Please note a potential problem with using window decals if it comes in contact with moisture. There is a thin water soluble coating on the printing surface side of the plastic that allows for ink jet ink to adhere to. Any moisture will smear this coating which in effect distorts the screen. This includes snow flakes, huh Paul? :)
Looks like Julio M Davila has a solution for this problem. He posted this for the HP screen protector but it will work for these Ink Jet Decals too; "
This might sound crazy but worked for me. Today I was preparing breakfast and was boiling some water. I exposed the screen protector to the water hot vapor and after that cleaned it with a piece of cloth. Eureka, apparently that really cleaned the protector and now its surface is very very smooth and works great." Bruce emailed me to let me know that using hot water was much easier for him than using steam. Read his full tip in the discussion thread.

 Avery Materials

I received an email from Boat who wanted to use Avery so I also picked up some Avery Self-Adhesive Laminating Sheets Item #7771173602 ($1.39 for two 9"x12" sheets or $0.06 per protector) to compare to LaminateIt!. You can find the larger ten pack online at OfficeDepot using SKU#467142. I think that LaminateIt! has definitely found its match. I found it equal in all respects with a slightly softer feel to it when stylus writing. The adhesive on the sheets I bought provided a bubble free application with a milder adhesive quality when compared to LaminateIt. It is more difficult to apply than LaminateIt because of the softer material but I finally did get satisfactory results after a few tries. The protector removed without many problems of residue being left behind. If any adhesive stays behind A 50/50 mix of vinegar and water on a cloth will remove left over adhesive residue. Do not use any ammonia based cleaner like Windex which can harm plastic over time. Thanks to Ryan Clayton for this update! I also appreciated the convenient package size of only 2 sheets. The sheet size is larger so you can actually fit 11 protectors on one sheet to provide the lower cost of $0.06 per protector. Here's a tip to remember about the Avery sheets; on the backing there is a small 1/2" pre-cut strip labeled "Peel Off Here". Don't use this end of the sheet because the pre-cut score line showed through on my protector. Even though you eliminate this 1/2" strip you still have enough material to make 11 protectors. The plastic is not as hard as the Decal product so I don't think it will last as long but then again we are talking pennies here.  Avery gets a big thumbs-up from me! Thanks Boat for the tip.

 Thanks to Peter T. for another source for Laminating Sheets online from Wal-Mart.
I haven't tried these yet but what value.
 
$3.97
Clear Heavyweight Laminating Sheets
Set of 10 clear, heavyweight laminating 
9x12 inch sheets
Vendor Stock # : 43190  UPC: 0008961243190

K&MLaminationSheets.jpg (47375 bytes)6/25/00
 Kok Hoong emailed in this; I found a new alternative material; K&M Laminating Sheets. It only cost me $ 0.24 per sheet and I am able to make 8 protectors out of one. Thus each protector cost $ 0.03. I got it from Office Depot Item Number 7771173605.

 

Editor's Note: I haven't tried the JM product or K&M products yet so I don't know their qualities compared to the others. Please email me with any details good or bad about any products you try so I can post it for others to know.


Non-Adhesive Style Sheet Protector Instructions

Casioluvver has produced a very well made screen protector template for the Casio that is in Acrobat PDF format that he calls Protect-O-Matic. I have created a zip file that includes the template and instructions together. This template is designed to be used for non-adhesive applications of transparency plastic type of material. To download this template for your use, right click on the file link above and "Save Target As" to your local machine. If you click on the Protect-O-matic picture above you can see online what the PDF files will look like. Great job Casioluvver on the template and thanks for sharing it for all! Vik Patel found a super alternative material to use that lasts much longer than standard transparencies. He uses exposed XRay film. Read his full tip in the discussion thread.

Due to popular demand, I have also made non-adhesive protectors that will slide under the Casio frame using Avery Sheet Protectors STM-5 #74300 ($1.99 per 5 page or $0.02 per protector) and PV119 Heavyweight Sheet Protectors that are 4mils. Avery Trading Card Pages Item #TCP76016 ($1.99 per 10 pack or $0.01 per protector) are identical in material as the Heavyweight Sheet Protector the exception being they have manufacturer seams for holding 9 sets of collection cards. This material has better qualities than overhead transparencies because it is more pliable and will allow you to bend it as needed to slip it under the frame without causing a kink in the plastic. Page two of my template above is used for as a cutting guide on the plastic material which will make a 66mm x 86mm square. Cut away only one of the corners removing a 1mm triangle. Slowly insert the protector starting on the opposite corner of the triangle bending up the side and slipping in the next corner. It helped me if I had a moist fingers to pinch, push and work the material into place. Slowly work in the all the sides and corners until just the notched corner is left. The notch allows the material to slip under the frame without kinking at the end. I found this type of protector still moves slightly with writing but at least the dirt wasn't as able to work its' way under the protector.

Jim Hom emailed in a material he likes. It is an Avery Super Heavyweight (5.0 mils) Sheet Protector, number PVH119, 74129, Diamond Clear.  It is as easy to cut as its thinner brother, 3.3 mils.  However, it seems to hold up better and longer.  In fact, it seems to have the same scratch-resistance qualities of the Casio screen protectors.  I purchased the 15 sheet pack for $4.99 at Office Max in Dallas.  Since I am able to get 18 E-115 screen protectors from each sheet, it comes out to less than 2 cents each.

My personal preference is still with the adhesive style because it simply stays still when I write and there is no chance of dirt getting underneath the protector. But I must admit the Protect-o-matic by Casioluvver is simply excellent and I use it just as much as my adhesive style.

 

Anybody else tried material other than LaminateIt! that they are happy or unhappy with? Other material tips include clear vinyl storm window sheeting and clear plastic film used for shipping pallet freight. Let me know as we continue the search for the ultimate screen protector.


2/2/00  It has been brought to my attention that when you are removing the LaminateIt! product from the screen the adhesive is strong enough such that you can actually pull with enough force to distort the top screen layer. This observation is valid and the question is "Does this actually harm the screen?"  I have NOT experienced any problems nor has anyone reported actual damage to me. The simple answer - I don't know and right now it is only conjecture. I will immediately post any information when available. IF this is a concern for you I would recommend you use one of the alternative Window Decal materials listed above, Avery's Laminating Sheets have a milder yet still firm adhesive or try the non-adhesive technique described above.

 


From John Hannum
January 15, 2000
Subject: E-10x Screen Protector

Dale,

 
    I received your e-mail with the screen protector template. Thank you again. I made a copy, bought a supply of LaminateIt sheets from a local Staples, and set to work.
 
    Unfortunately, it took me considerably more than one try to get an acceptable protector installation. I am sending along a list of the problems I ran into and some suggested solutions. You may want to add these to your web site.
 
1. Static Electricity
When you separate the backing from the laminate material in a relatively dry environment, a static charge builds up on both the backing and the transparent plastic laminate. The charge on the backing doesn't matter, but the charge on the transparent laminate attracts all sorts of dust particles out of the air. Murphy's law being what it is, most of these particles land on the sticky side where they can't be removed. The only thing I found that helped this problem was to dampen the front and the back of the prospective screen protector before removing the backing with the same solution of soap and water used to clean the E-100/105's screen. The dampness helps to dissipate the static charge. I suppose that one would have less trouble in this regard if the installation were done in a humid summer environment. Access to a dust-free environment would also help.
Editors note: If you look closely at my picture I am actually holding back the LaminateIt with my finger and thumb. LaminateIt instructions suggest you simply fold back the backing which would also work but I think is tougher. - Dale
 2. Curling
In the instructions on your web site you state, "Pull back the clear laminate and cut about 1/2 inch off the top edge of the screen protector backing." to help position the protector properly. You also show the backing being trimmed with a scissors. I ran into trouble here because the separated laminate tended to curl right back around to the backing. If the scissors were positioned to trim the backing, the laminate stuck to them. Again, the opposite static charges on the backing and the laminate may have had something to do with this. My solution to this one was to peel almost an inch of the backing away from the laminate and bend it out sharply from the sticky laminate surface. The sharp bend prevented the laminate from curling around to stick to the backing, and I was able to trim the backing. Then, I carefully pressed the backing back down on the laminate being careful not to get my fingers on the exposed sticky part.
 3. The credit card/squeegee
Apparently, the credit cards around today are made from 2 different types of plastic, one hard and one soft. I would guess that you used a hard one because you didn't seem to have any trouble using it to smooth out the protector. I, unfortunately, got hold of a soft one. When I attempted to use it as a squeegee, the edge disintegrated into little, tiny, plastic shavings, which, of course, immediately worked their way under the protector and stuck in the glue. I recommend testing the edge of any prospective squeegee by rubbing it on something hard and smooth. If the edge disintegrates, don't use it. Also, somewhere I have seen a device called, I believe, an artist's palette spatula. It looks like a short-bladed putty knife and is made out of hard plastic. Perhaps something like this would be more suitable.
 4. Creasing
Whatever you do, don't let the laminate develop a crease during installation. A crease is almost impossible to remove and the laminate near the crease will not seat down tight against the E-100/105 screen.
 5. Adhesive irregularities 
This isn't really a problem, just an observation. But it could be interpreted as a problem by the unwary. Even when applied properly a screen protector can give the E-100/105 screen a finely mottled appearance. This mottling is caused by dozens of tiny voids and irregularities in the adhesive coating on the laminate sheet. These voids and irregularities are essentially tiny air bubbles trapped in and around the adhesive, but no amount of reasonable pressure on the screen of the unit will eliminate them. Fortunately, this mottled appearance disappears when the screen lights up. In normal use, the license, certificate, etc. to be laminated is place between a pair of these laminating sheets and the whole shebang is run through a laminating press, which applies enough pressure to squeeze all these voids and irregularities flat and to squeeze out any trapped air. I certainly wouldn't recommend applying that level of pressure to the screen of the E-100/105.
Editors Note: It appears that some of LaminateIt! product is shipping with this "problem" symptom. Although I haven't purchased any this way myself a sample was sent to me by Mark K. and this has absolutely been confirmed with the irregularities in the adhesive layer. I couldn't tell from looking at the sheet it had a problem until I actually applied it. However, as Jon reports the mottling is only apparent with the unit off.  - Dale
 
In closing I would like to make an observation. If one can judge by the postings at a number of web discussion boards, there is a considerable level of concern about scratching and other damage to the screens of palm computers in general. Yet a quick perusal of various on-line shopping sites reveals that many do not carry screen protectors and at most of those that do availability is limited to stock on hand. For this reason, I believe that your web site is performing an invaluable service. Thank you again, and I hope that I may have been of some assistance.
 
John Hannum

Thanks John for taking the time to respond with your suggestions!

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