Covering our companion way hatch with smart film

 

Being moored in the marina with the stern to the dock is super convenient for getting on and from the boat. However, especially at night time with the salon iluminated, privacy can be an issue if you have a transparent door hatch for your companion way. And this is what we have on Five Senses. Honestly, I am not a fan of people staring at me when I am in my pyjama's reading a book on the salon's bench or sitting over the weatherforecast of the next day.
So I thought about covering the plexy-glass door with some opaque film, like I did in the bathroom windows. But this would have caused some protest from the children, as they love looking out the door-way when the weather is bad outside. They can spend hours watching the rain coming down and when heavy winds hit us in the marina.

097A2619Luis is watching the rain from inside

So I kept thinking and watched out for some other solutions. And you will never guess how I found my final remedy: in a bathroom of a restaurant in Brussels. There, they had installed a so called PDLS film, or, smart film to shielt their toilets from views from the outside. When the bathroom doors was unlocked, you could see inside. But after turning the door lock, the entire cabine became opaque. What a fancy gimmick! Besides the originality of that idea, it was huge fun watching the shocked faces, when people came in, looking for bathroom facilities and then discovered the "fancy interior".

With some help from the internet I found out, that this was "smart film" or "switch glass" a kind of film that consists of micron sized droplets of liquid crystal dispersed in an optically isotropic polymer matrix. The technical term for this product is Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal (PDLC). The working principle is rather easy, without current applied to the film, the liquid crystals are dispersed randomly and thus, light cannot pass through. After energizing the film with around 60V AC, the crystals align in a structured way and the film becomes transparent. So why not trying this on the boat?
Via Alibaba, I found a company called Groupeve, located in China producing their "magical smart film". They are shipping worldwide from their production in Sichuan. And their service, support and product quality are simply outstanding. I was in touch with one of their staff "Amanda" via What's App and they really made sure that first the smart film fitted the right dimensions and, that I was prepared to install it correctly. They even sent over pictures from the production to make sure all was perfectly right. You can see the paper blue print I had sent them. They used it to check the perfect fit.

Still, it took two attemtps to get the right size of the film to our boat. But it was really my fault as I had not sent the correct dimensions first. So my tip to those who might be trying to do the same thing: take a kind of blue print, measure everything twice and make sure you send over some pictures to be absolutely sure that you get what you need. You will also need to think where to attach the electric cables for applying the current.

First time, I thought I could cut out small pieces to make the film fit, which was not true at all. I totally destroyed the film. So again, make sure you sent the producer the 100% accurate measures so that they can prepare the film for you. Do not try to cut it on your own.

Groupeve will send a perfectly protected and well packed kit for installation. It includes a guide, soft towels for application and some smaller film pieces for practise. Another learning: use these parts for practising, as application of the smart film is not easy when you do it for the first time. And I am not saying that its a tough thing to do - just practise once and you will be fine. Groupeve even provides a short video instruction how to remove bubbles that might remain after attaching the self-adhesive smart film.

Another necessity is that you have a 100% clean and dry surface before you start attaching the smart-film. Every micro-hump will appear as a bubble. And even after cleaning the door several times, still, I found a hair then between the plexi-glass and the film. So I had to detach the film partly, remove all dust again and re-attach, which went fine. In my case there where several scratches, that I could not remove at all. But they did not seem to cause any issues.

The final result looked pretty nice, I felt. However - and you see I am not a DIY genius - I could not find the electric equipment anymore. I searched the entire boat for hours, but could not remember, where I had put it. Finally, I found it - back home, in the cellar. So I will write another post as soon as I am back in Italy again, to show you the final results including the electric installation.

The End of PDLC Story

Sunday March 31st, 2019

[…] is how the smart film cover looks like after a few winter months. I had installed it back in December. The film has become stiff, and the adhesion does no longer seems to work. Whether it was the […]

Das Ende der PDLC Geschichte

Sunday March 31st, 2019

[…] sieht der Smart-Film nach ein paar Wintermonaten aus. Ich hatte ihn ja letzen Dezember aufgebracht. Die Folie ist steif geworden, vor allem aber scheint die Adhäsion nicht mehr zu […]

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