Introduction: DIY Projector on the Cheap

Picture of DIY Projector on the Cheap

Although it's not my original idea (far from it), I finally decided to tear apart my LCD monitor and give this one a go. I had to innovate a few parts, so I hope my solutions help anyone out who's attempting this awesome project. This is my first instructable, be gentle :)

Step 1: Materials and Initial Disassembly

Picture of Materials and Initial Disassembly


LCD Monitor, any old one will do, the backlighting is going to be ripped out anyway. In my case, 14" was perfect, larger would have gone outside the border of the overhead's window.

Overhead projector, like from school. I'm no expert at these, and living in Taiwan, it was nearly impossible to find, but I know there are loads on ebay for cheap.

Document protector, used for housing the power and settings strip of the monitor.

Cork. Self explanatory.

First, get the LCD glass out of the monitor by carefully unscrewing, dismembering and prying. Be careful around the wires and you should be fine. One handy thing is that on mine, the display cable was detachable from the motherboard, so that made it easier. It's helpful to have a second pair of hands for this, in my case, I used my girlfriend's.

Step 2: Initial Assembly and Test

Picture of Initial Assembly and Test

The hardest part is over. Now it's just a matter of coming up with some sort of mounting and enclosure construction. You're going to want to space the screen up from the projector window, as it gets super hot, and could damage your LCD. I used a cork, cut into four pieces and slit 50% down the middle.

I found that my projector was overheating and shutting off by itself, so I mounted a fan on the inside of the casing to get the air moving a bit.

Step 3: Casing

Picture of Casing

With all the plugging and unplugging I was doing of all the components, I felt like the power jack on the mainboard was getting a little flimsy (it's only held on by solder, I think), so I put the entire board inside a document protector, which closed pretty well with only the jack and the VGA port sticking out.

After a brilliant suggestion from Alyosha, I have since created a bellows as a variable-height enclosure. I will be posting a separate instructable for it presently.

Step 4: Finished!

Picture of Finished!

Sorry about the poor quality of the picture, but I had to take this with my mobile phone. There is some light spill-off from the projector itself, I later ended up covering the sides with a black plastic bag temporarily (it needs some vertical give to adjust the focus).

I have just finished creating a bellows that serves as a wonderful variable height enclosure and keeps the light spill-off to a minimum. See step 3.

Overall, the project was pretty simple, and it works great! I'm going to be making a rear projection screen for it, which I'll post a separate instructable for as soon as I finish.


belgadro (author)2012-05-23

I broke two lcds that I got at garage sales for cheap all I got are white lines of death...least that is what people call them...I was extremely careful with taking apart the monitor and still managed to break it. Good luck...I'm giving up. I think I will go back to my idea of the projection tv except find a way to integrate more light...

nightgamer360 (author)2012-05-04

I used a fresnel lense, cardboard box and mirror for the tv projector at the time, i found a nice 32 inch tv abandoned on the sidewalk so it made it unessesary to use lol. it also helped to direct and focus the light from the mirror to the projection screen using cardboard rather than having the light projected off the mirror spread out.

nightgamer360 (author)2012-05-04

As i havent seen it done, I'm wondering if making a double projector and merging the image (focusing the two images on top of eachother
on the projection screen using two projectors projecting the same image simultaneously, using a splitter for the videocord projecting the same image) will improve picture brightness/quality. just a thought. probably going to try that myself when i get money.
Also i've tried with a cheapo tv and gotten murky semi watchable images, it helps the picture brightness to have the room completely light tight , even if its dark out (starlight/moonlight/streetlights will cause problems because the picture is faint) cover windows
with a blanket, cover all led's in the room.

tten eyck (author)2011-10-04

Does that not cause massive overheating?

tten eyck (author)2011-10-04

That thin layer of cork is enough distance between the screen and the projector to prevent overheating? Is your LCD screen still working/in good shape? Most of the other instructables demand building a frame and inserting fans to cool the screen. If cork is sufficient -- that would be so easy and awesome!!

slimguy379 (author)2010-12-10

how do u guys hoo up things such as a game cube to a RCA monitor? i did this same thing. only thing now is i can only hook up my computer/laptop. no game systems

kmaes (author)slimguy3792011-06-12

you use an emulator on your computer and use a controller hooked up...

bass8casey (author)2009-04-17

cool, what age are u??

sandworm (author)bass8casey2009-05-06

Me? I'm 29.

spooky1300 (author)sandworm2009-07-02

you said you are in Taiwan? which City?

sandworm (author)spooky13002009-07-03

I spent the last 8 years in running a design firm in Taichung, but now I am a game designer in Jakarta! I'm super stoked about my new job :)

bijikenyot (author)sandworm2011-03-05

Jakarta? well ,what i can say welcome to jakarta ,crowd city, although i live in west jakarta too ..... :D
are u happy and comfortable live in jakarta for a temporary?

sandworm (author)sandworm2009-07-03

Correction: 30 :)

bijikenyot (author)2011-03-05

yeah, i hate original LCD projector, because they're keep broke lamp inside if get shut off quickly
,and the price for the lamp is minimum $2000

st00pit (author)2009-06-25

hey, built one of these following your's (total hassle with the monitor i chose lol thin plastic ribbon cables that are all just ALMOST long enough to be out of the way) anyways, was wondering if just cutting a square in like a thick black beach towel and draping over/taping it on the rising lens would work all the same as the bellow? not too great with those instructions

sandworm (author)st00pit2009-07-03

No kidding about the monitor, it took me forever to figure out all those cables :) The beach towel seems like a good idea, but it IS a lot of light, it might come out of the sides... Also if the towel collapses inward, it might block some of the image, but there's no way to know until you try!

Callum Snowden (author)sandworm2010-12-04

Use cardboard formed around it in a 4-sided pyramid shape :)

Runeshai (author)2010-10-31

Just tackled this project this weekend and it worked great. I definitely recommend the screen-size=OHP screen size. Ours doesn't and it's a tad annoying, but as long as we can adjust the size of whatever's playing we're good. Overall, 100 bucks for a permanent projector and an extra monitor (lucked out, got 2 for $50), we're very happy :D.

squiggy2 (author)2010-10-31

hey sandworm,
awesome work!
I've taken some pointers, and made my own.
Did you have a problem with the LCD being too big for the projector? - I can't project about 10% of the screen - which is where the start bar is on one side, and the quicklaunch bar on the other side is. how did you fix this?

Utahtabby (author)2007-08-31

****Dumb Question Alert**** Could you just lay your laptop open as wide as possible on the overhead projector's base with the keyboard-half sticking off on a box for support, (maybe propped on an upside-down beanbag-filled lap-writing desk so the LCD screen would lay flat) and use that set-up to play DVDs or show Documents, power points, etc on the wall screen? Using cork spacers or something in-between the projector's base and the laptop to allow for cooling... Be gentle with your answers; I am not trained in electronics. I was just curious.

squiggy2 (author)Utahtabby2010-10-27

I saw a guy who took of the back of his laptop screen, and removed the backlight and stuff, and permanently attached it to the overhead. Fine if you have an old laptop that you no longer use, but it destoys the portable-ness of the laptop, and it's a lot more work than using and LCD monitor

mad magoo (author)Utahtabby2010-06-29

You couldn't do it with any laptop I've ever seen; the opaque casing of the laptop would block the light that needs to go through the LCD screen in order to project an image. However, if you are okay with possibly destroying your laptop, you could remove the back casing, backlight, and other electronics that would block the light and replace the casing with acrylic or something similiar. Then you could just lay the laptop screen on an overhead.

bwpatton1 (author)Utahtabby2009-04-28

Well, that would be wonderful if it would, but It wont. The light needs to pass through the screen, then through a lense to blow it up (make it larger).

bwpatton1 (author)bwpatton12009-04-28

Srry Didnt see the answers below.

sandworm (author)Utahtabby2007-09-20

Actually that wouldn't be possible because your laptop screen isn't transparent, only the glass itself is. The folding screen of your laptop is more than just glass, it's backlighting and support and logos and little chipboards and wires and stuff. You need to extract the glass from it's shell to get to the transparent part. :)

bullzebub (author)sandworm2008-05-27

but all those things is possible to remove with a steady hand and some elbow grease :-)

sandworm (author)bullzebub2009-01-01

Oh yeah, totally. Thing is with the monitor, it's better 'cause it has VGA input alreado, no need to rewire.

DYLEGO (author)Utahtabby2008-12-30

you would have to remove the back casing from the laptop. the lcd screen is really clear, but you have to remove the backlight and other materials. its best to use a old computer monitor screen.

joniwilhelm (author)2010-03-04

 can you use a "box" computer monitor for this one?

squiggy2 (author)joniwilhelm2010-10-27

No it wouldn't because you need to shine light THROUGH the monitor, which is what happens with an LCD anyway, just with a much dimmer light than a projector. A CRT, or 'Box monitor' projects the image from the back of the box to the glass pannel at the front.

Whales (author)2010-04-03

 okay, so to make this "cheap" projector i have to buy an expensive one? kinda defeats the point of it in the first place. unless you're talking about a different projector than i'm thinking.

mad magoo (author)Whales2010-06-29

I looked on ebay, and if you do it right this whole project could run you under 150 USD. Old (but good--there is really no design variation between old and new basic overhead projectors) overhead projectors can be found on Ebay for around 50 USD, sometimes less. LCD monitors are generally around 80-100 USD. That's cheaper than replacement light bulbs for some commercial projectors.

cody777 (author)mad magoo2010-08-30

i got my over head for free i just went to a school and asked if they had an extra they gave me a pile of parts and i just had to assemble it

squiggy2 (author)cody7772010-10-27

same here. I even got a fully assembled one :P
and I got an LCD monitor from the IT department because the backlight didn't work - perfect!
= one data projector ASOLUTELY free

squiggy2 (author)Whales2010-10-27

The projector you need to get (I stole one from school) is an overhead transperancy projector - one of those ones that are a big box of light with a mirror on top and you print on a piece of perspex then place that on top and can write on it with whiteboard markers.
they're a fraction of the price (if they cost anything at all) of a data projector which plugs into a computer and can project moving images

downgrade (author)Whales2010-07-02

If you followed the project you would see they made a video projector with an overhead (or "transparency") projector.

thorn11166 (author)2010-06-13

about how big does the screen get?

squiggy2 (author)thorn111662010-10-27

According to photonics, the image can be as large as you want it.
The further you move the projector away from the wall, the larger the image will be. So if you have a really long room, you canmake the image huge!
The only limitation is the power of the light in the projector compared to the ambient light.
Therefore, the darker the room, the further back you can move the projector and the larger the image you can have.
With a pitch black room, the image can be pretty darn big.

bennyj92 (author)2010-05-25

Whales, the overhead projector is like a big box, that shines light upwards, through a transparency, which can be written on. Then the light is reflected forwards and focused by a lens, and projected onto a wall/screen.
The difference is that it has no screen, and has no input for a video device (or any capability of such.)
They are pretty much old technology, i just finished High School and they dont use them anymore, but they did when I was in primary school!
they should be pretty cheap nowadays!

Gizmotech (author)2010-04-23

LOL, I remember my DIY build from ages ago. Wasn't economical due to having going through 3 LCD screens. The heat inside these are so intense and cooling as to be very good. However, too many cooling fans leaks out too much light. It's just cheaper to repair or mod a used commercial projector. Bulbs are available these days so you don't have to buy the whole lamp. LumenArc holds a lot of projector surplus which maybe useful commercial projector owners and compact DIY projector builders. The've recently launched their forums and I think the people new to this project should open a thread in their forums and share your experiences. It's all fun. I've still got my 250W NDL HQI-TS lamp and ballast kit growing dust.

getsdhc (author)2010-04-08

Woow mac donalds sponsor him! ;)

tokooloshe (author)2010-02-07

 Would it be possible to add energy saving light bulbs inside the overhead to reduce power consumption and heat?

Derin (author)2009-06-19

STAR TREK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111111111

sandworm (author)Derin2009-06-19

What else? :)

TyMan210 (author)sandworm2009-12-07


albro (author)2009-11-16

its a nice work! the bellow idea was nice and unique.
Albro -india keep going

astrozombies138 (author)2007-10-27

i am planning on making this soon and i would need to use my dads ebay account for the overhead, but hes a bit hesitant about it saying that quality probably wouldnt be good. is there any argument i can use against him?

slim_jim (author)astrozombies1382007-12-01

No. Your Dad is right. The quality won't very good, or people would do this instead of spending $3000. Look at the picture above, for chrissake.

ZBM (author)slim_jim2009-11-05

wow you are an unpleasant person ..the guy who posted this instructional said he took the pic with a cell phone camera but the quality is fairly sharp..and at 400 bucks as opposed to your $3000 investment then losing a little quality is better than losing a lot of money.....and the person who posted the question that you answered would making something and learning as he goes, might even make some improvements along the go and stifle some one else  some where else.

Wolf Seril (author)slim_jim2009-01-04

That assumes that people are smart. They aren't.

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