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A Newtown chemist has developed shield protectors for personal digital assistants that are wrinkle-free, sans bubbles and stay in place without glue or static.

By REBECCA MB. PEARSON

Courier Times

rpearson@phillyBurbs.com

Mark Ross bought his diabetic son an Apple Newton computer four years ago to help manage his illness. One of its shortcomings proved to be a viable Internet business for Ross.

Like Personal Digital Assistants, the Apple Newton takes information that is handwritten on a small screen. But all that writing breaks down the writing pad. So Ross developed his own screen protector, launching NuShield in 1999.

“The Newton was a great device for managing my son’s food intake but it was expensive,” Ross said. To protect its delicate screen, Ross bought off-the-shelf shields.

“They were terrible. The design of the material had a gummy feeling. They didn’t last very long, either. Air bubbles got trapped so you couldn’t write too well on them,” Ross said.

One day, while talking online with fellow Newton owners, someone mentioned a product called the Barrier, which worked well as a screen protector. Unfortunately, the Barrier had gone out of business.

“Someone asked if anyone could analyze it and if it could be produced,” Ross said. “Well, I’m a polymer chemist, so I said, ‘Sure. Send me some old samples.’ “

It didn’t take long for Ross to determine what compounds were in the plastic material. He also found a supplier for it.

But the cost to mass-produce the sheets was overwhelming, Ross said.

“I had to purchase a minimum order of one pallet of film, a steel die and other tools and materials to customize the sheets,” he said. “In all, I figured just to start up would cost $1,400 to $1,500.”

So he e-mailed the Newton owners, told them he could make shields similar to the Barrier, but that he needed at least 60 to 70 orders in advance. He got 100.

“That’s when I decided to make this a real business,” Ross said. “There was a big flood of orders in the beginning because the demand was there. But it began to taper off. I still get a steady stream of orders, but I told myself that if I doubled my sales, I could pay for my son’s college tuition.”

So Ross started making NuShields for other personal digital assistants such as Palm and Visor.

NuShield is customized to form fit the screens of the different brands of PDAs on the market. It stays put without static and there’s no bubbling or “oil spots” when applied.

It contains no adhesives that would damage the screen when peeled back, and lasts longer than other products because it can be removed, cleaned and reinstalled. A package of three sells for $14.99, and lasts about a year. For a couple more bucks, he’ll throw in wet-and-dry cloth cleaners.

For more information, visit www.NuShield.com or call 1-530-678-5513.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002