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.
More Colorful, Too
Another benefit for the new LED-based DLP technology: It extends the color gamut beyond traditional lamp projectors, just as the technology does with LED-backlit LCD televisions and monitors.
“The light spectrum of a lamp is limited compared with LEDs,” explains Carver. “LEDs have a larger light spectrum, which in turn enables a wider color gamut.” Texas Instruments says you get 50 percent more colors with LEDs than with a standard lamp projector.
Again, the company says its technology is well-matched with the LED technology. LEDs have a fast switching speed–they can switch in microseconds, notes Carver. “The DLP chipset’s mirrors can match that switching speed. You can pulse the LEDs and pulse the mirrors to get the right colors on the screen,” Carver says. “It’s the best use of the available light.”
Products Coming This Year
Currently, TI is aiming its new LED design to transform the home theater projector market. The prototype, on display as a technology demo at the InfoComm trade show here in Las Vegas, is between 500 and 1000 lumens range, Carver says. That’s the sweet spot for home theater projectors, which is why Texas Instruments chose to focus on home theater projectors first. However, business projectors need to be brighter — from 1500 to 3000 lumens — because they’re often used in ambient light environments.
The company says it expects its partners to release the first LED-based home theater projectors by the end of 2008. However, the technology will come to corporate and education projectors soon, and with sufficient lumens to serve those markets.
“This has the potential to be a game changer for corporate and education markets,” adds Carver. He expects the lumen range to grow over the next year or so, and that products will be available by end of next year.