15" G4 iMac: iGoggles Flat Panel Display Protection

By: Mikio Moriyasu - Revised: 2006-06-22 devin

Before deploying the flat-panel iMacs on the first and second floors in the Union Building's South Hall and in the downstairs CyberCafe, we checked to see what options were available for protecting the surface of the flat-panel displays from point impact damage. The hope was to find a solution that was inexpensive & durable yet could be easily replaced.

Unfortunately, there are virtually no commercial products available for protecting the iMac flat-panel displays. The one commercial product we tested is best described as a protection kit that was built to our specifications.

It consisted of two, cut-to-size acrylic sheets (one clear and the other anti-glare) with machined edges and double-stick tape. We soon discovered that this and any solution built around acrylic sheeting shared a common drawbacks:
  • Using of double-stick tape to stick the sheet to the display, in and of itself, is not a problem. The tape, if poorly positioned on the acrylic sheet, however, will obscure part of the visible area.
  • Gluing the sheet to the display, aside from voiding the warrantee, is a "permanent" solution that would make it difficult to remove the acrylic sheet if it ever got damaged beyond use.
  • While it may not emit a great deal of electromagnetic radiation, the flat-panel display does generate heat. Affixing the acrylic sheet to the face of the display will trap this heat possibly degrading the operation of the display over time.
  • This problem can be alleviated to some degree by using spacers or thick tape that allow for air flow behind the sheet. Raising the sheet off of the surface of the display, however, also makes it easier to pry the acrylic sheet off.
  • The spring-loaded support arm on the iMac is tensioned so that it perfectly offsets and therefore supports the weight of the display. While there is some allowance, the additional weight of the acrylic sheet and the attachment device can overload the arm causing it to sag.
  • In our final estimate, no commercial product based on acrylic sheeting offered what we thought was adequate, robust protection at an affordable price. This was especially true if we had to replace sheets due to damage or theft.
In the end, we purchased 30 precut acrylic sheets that matched the white surround of the display from The Home Depot for about $2.50 per sheet. The edges of each sheet were then rounded at a campus machine shop.

One feature of the Home Depot acrylic sheets that we discovered was that they were not as thick as the ones from the "kit". As a result, when they were affixed using very thin yet robust double-stick tape, the combined additional weight did not overload the display support arm.

This solution achieves the goal of protecting each flat-panel display from point damage. It is not permanent so damaged sheets can be easily removed and replaced, and it is inexpensive so replacement of some or all of the sheets would not be a significant issue.

We have not applied this solution to the iMacs, however. We are concerned about the buildup of heat behind the acrylic sheet and what it could do to the flat-panel. Because of this and because we have not had any incidents resulting in serious flat-panel damage, we will probably not apply the acrylic sheets until absolutely necessary.