Finding yourself in need of a smartphone projector can be a tough situation to be in. While there are commercially available projectors, many of them are of poor quality, and a lasting one can be $50 or more. If you’re looking for a quick fix for a spontaneous hang-out or need to entertain kids in a hurry, a DIY smartphone projector might be just what you’re looking for.
The beauty of a do it yourself projector is that the materials are usually readily available. While not designed to be long-term solutions (the housing really is just a shoe box), this keeps the cost next to nothing, and it functions the same as a $20 smartphone projector you could find off of Amazon. There are two main kinds of DIY projectors, one which requires a magnifying glass, and one which requires a simple mirror (like a makeup mirror) and, if you have it, a re-purposed lens tube and lens housing from an old slide projector.
Magnifying Glass Smartphone Projector
For most people, a magnifying glass projector will be the easiest one to make. You will need:
- A shoe box
- A magnifying glass
- Black tape (like duct tape)
- A piece of cardboard the width of your shoe box
- 2 rubber bands
- A smartphone
First, cut a hole on one of the narrow ends of the shoe box, sized so that you can fit the magnifying glass in snugly. Once you have that settled in, tape the handle down to the inside of the box, and add tape around the edges to keep it in place.
The tricky part is finding the spot you should put your phone – this will change, depending on the magnifying glass you use and the size of the box. Wrap your rubber bands around the cardboard, and then slide the piece of cardboard into the box and point the magnifying glass at a light source. Your goal is to get the light to focus on the cardboard. Once you have a clear image of your light source, you can go ahead and tape the cardboard strip in place.
From there, simply pop your smartphone against the cardboard and use the rubber bands to keep it in place. The most important thing to remember is that the magnifying glass will flip the image, so make sure you put your phone in upside-down! Simply close up your shoe box, turn off the lights, and enjoy. Cutting a small hole in the back of a phone charger cable to slide through is optional, but recommended.
Re-purposed Slide Projector
If you have an old slide projector at hand, this second option will be the best option to go for. A smartphone projector made with one of these will have a much clearer image! You will need:
- A lens tube and lens housing from an old slide projector
- A small mirror, like a makeup mirror
- Some cardboard
- A shoe box big enough to fit the lens housing, or more cardboard
- A hot glue gun
- Black tape
First and foremost, you need to open the projector to remove the lens housing – the box that contains the lenses. This will be the main part of your projector. You’ll also need to attach the mirror to a piece of cardboard with a hot glue gun so that it will sit at a 45-degree angle, relative to the projector lens.
From there, it’s a simple matter of arranging your lens housing and the mirror into the shoe box and fixing everything into place with tape and hot glue. Be sure to keep a hole slightly smaller than your smartphone on the top, though, right above the mirror! Once everything is ready, simply turn the lights off, turn your movie on, and adjust the lens tube until you have a clear image on the wall you’re projecting onto.
While not every from-home project is a viable solution to a short-term problem, making a DIY smartphone projector is one of those gems of a project that’s affordable, feasible, and about as good of quality as the lower price range of commercially available products. If you’re able to get your hands on an old slide projector, so much the better – you’ll be sure of having a crystal-clear image to enjoy for a fraction of the cost. The nice thing about these projects, too, is that they can easily be altered to become a more permanent solution with the addition of some old plastic storage containers painted black instead of shoe boxes.
Author: Kathy Hardess