New DLP Home Theater Projectors Use LEDs

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LAS VEGAS -- Texas Instruments today announced a new technology that could dramatically change the perception and appeal of front projectors. Its new Brilliant Color DLP chipset works with a PhlatLight Light Emitting Diode (LED) light source to produce images.

Traditionally, DLP projectors relied on a color wheel and mirror design, which would produce color images in conjunction with a lamp light source. Competing projector technologies 3LCD, which uses red, green, and blue LCD panels, and LCOS both require a lamp as well.

Texas Instruments' design is the first full-size LED projector to be shown. But the idea of using LEDs as a light source for displays is not a new one. A handful of pocket-size projectors have used LEDs as a light source, including Toshiba's TDP-FF1AU, the Mitsubishi PocketProjector, and models from Samsung and Boxlight. Both ViewSonic and 3M have shown prototypes, as well. And LCD television and monitors have begun using LED-backlighting in the past year and a half.

No Lamp, No Fuss

Roger Carver, manager of DLP Front Projection at Texas Instruments, calls the new design a major innovation "that will be a breakthrough for the industry. It will change the face of consumer projectors," he says.

That statement may not just be hype: Lamps, which can often cost around $300 to $500, and filters are a big chunk of the total cost of a projector over its lifetime. By not requiring a lamp, these projectors will eliminate the kid-glove treatment (being careful of the lamp, making sure the lamp has sufficiently cooled before powering off the projector) needed by current models.

By contrast, the new DLP technology is "maintenance-free: There's no lamp replacement, no filter replacement. The LEDs last the entire life of the projector," Carver says. "This will enable greater penetration of projectors for consumers."

Now that Texas Instruments has cracked the secret of how to use LEDs as a light source, the company says that DLP technology is "uniquely positioned" to take advantage of LEDs.

"Other technologies, like LCD, requires you to use polarizing filter that throws away half of the light generated by the light source," Carter says. "But it's important to use all of the light, to maximize the brightness for consumer applications. With LEDs, DLP can use all of the light offered, because the technology doesn't need a polarizing filter."

Instead, red, green, and blue LEDs pulse really fast, which eliminates the need for a color wheel.

The LEDs have other benefits as well. An LED-based projector consumes less power than a lamp-based model; and the projector runs cooler, too. That in turn means an LED projector is quieter than a lamp-based projector, since manufacturers won't need to place fans inside to cool down the lamp.

Carter says the lamp-free design of the DLP chipset and LED light source will enable projector manufacturers to produce models that are the same size, or even smaller, than current models.

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