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New Light Sources Aiming to Replace Lamps?

Mar 9, 2006 8:00 AM


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In its wide-ranging search for new and better light sources to drive microdisplay projection systems, the AV industry has recently focused on two new tools that are either beginning to appear in market-ready products or coming to the market soon.

LED illumination engines and engines based on various kinds of lasers are getting a lot of attention after this winter’s series of trade shows in Japan, Las Vegas, and elsewhere. Both new technologies represent efforts to free the projection world from the burdens associated with conventional lamps, including their heat output, declining brightness over time, and high cost of replacement.

Novalux, Sunnyvale, Calif., has been demonstrating projection systems using its Novalux Extended Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (NECSEL) illumination platform at trade shows and other events in recent months. A number of TV manufacturers have brought new systems to the market using LED light sources.

LEDs are promised to last the entire working life of the projector in which they are installed. They also turn on instantly, offer excellent color performance, and don’t generate a lot of heat. That means less energy consumption and no need for fans, which can reduce the weight of the projector.

Insight Media expects LEDs will eventually replace lamps in most projectors, generating less than 1000 lumens, although this trend will not really be seen until after 2010.

Lasers must be designed specifically for projection applications, and not just any laser will do. Insight Media notes that systems using more than three lasers have price and performance advantages over systems that use only the three primary colors.

In addition, safety factors must be borne in mind when designing and using laser-based projectors. For example, in rear projection applications, the projector must have some kind of interlock that prevents the laser from operating when the screen has been removed. Nearly all lasers pose some degree of risk to eyes with direct exposure.

How much impact will these new devices have on the corporate AV world? Greg Niven, PR manager at Novalux, predicts quite a bit of acceptance for laser illuminated projection.

“There will be advantages for large venue displays such as conventions, trade shows, and the like because the images will be brighter and have better contrast and color with longer lifetimes for the ‘bulbs,’” he says. “The same comments apply to desktop and conference room projectors.”

Insight Media believes laser illumination could be appealing in visualization and simulation settings, particularly at the high end, where the high demand for quality could justify the cost of the laser systems. Cost, otherwise, will continue to be an impediment to laser illumination gaining much headway in the marketplace, Insight Media says.

On the LED front, such manufacturers as Akai, Samsung, JVC, Sanyo, and others have introduced TVs driven by LED light sources. Many of these systems use the lattice-based PhlatLight product line from Luminus Devices.

Luminus, for the moment, doesn’t see much growth potential in the corporate world. “While there are many opportunities for PhlatLight technology, Luminus has chosen to focus exclusively on light sources for microdisplay-based rear projection televisions and digital projectors for the consumer market,” says Luminus spokeswoman Bree Clidence.

Of course, given the blending of consumer and business video applications these days, any product that takes hold in the consumer space is likely to find a home in the corporate environment as well.



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