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LED and Laser Projectors Lagging

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By Anne L. Fischer

Ultraportable projectors are ultrapopular, but those with LED- and laser-based illumination have not taken the market by storm. A report from Insight Media indicates that projectors with ultrahigh-pressure (UHP)-type lamps accounted for about 99 percent of all ultraportable projectors sold in 2008.

By 2013, LEDs and lasers are expected to capture about 21 percent of the ultraportable market. The report documents some of the advantages and disadvantages of LEDs and lasers in the ultraportable market and gives some indication as to how LED and laser solutions will make these inroads.

The "2009 LED- and Laser-based Ultraportable Projector Report" released in January 2009 describes the many ways in which LED and laser illumination are superior to lamp illumination, and then details some of the problems inherent in current LED-based ultraportable projectors.

According to Matt Brennesholtz, senior analyst and one of the report's authors, the drawbacks of the traditional lamps are that they have mediocre colorimetry, short lifetimes and high replacement costs. It's also very difficult to make low-lumen lamp projectors-down around 200 lumens or less, he said. Another downside is that they can cost $200-$450 per replacement lamp, "so if you paid $500 for the projector, you're probably not going to replace the lamp."

LEDs and lasers both have good colorimetry and lifetime. In DLP ultraportables, neither will show color breakup. Brennesholtz indicated that if you buy an LED-based projector, you never have to change a bulb. In fact, LED projectors don't have to have replacement as part of the design, he noted. The downsides however, include the fact that the output and cost of the LED is proportional to the area of the LED. Therefore, LEDs are great for low-lumen projectors, but for much brighter applications you'd need either very bright LEDs or more of them. Because of this, Brennesholtz stated that LEDs will permanently be limited to a 2000 lumen maximum output. "No one will ever build a mass-market LED projector brighter than that." He added that that's not a huge issue because most ultraportable projectors sold today have less than 2000 lumens.

Lasers have all the advantages of LEDs plus some additional advantages of their own including the ability to be used in very bright projectors, according to Brennesholtz. He said Sanyo has a 7000 lumen demonstration unit that the company says will be on the market in 2012, although it is not an ultraportable projector.

LightSourceCost.jpgA huge drawback is the hefty price tag. Laser projectors on the market now fall far outside the "ultraportable" category and cost around $150,000, which limits them to military use in simulation systems. Even higher priced laser projectors are used in planetarium exhibits. One problem is availability of lasers-especially low-cost green lasers, though he expects this to change in a year or two.

The report discusses the market and how next-generation ultraportable projectors may meet needs. Roadmaps are also included, detailing the introduction of LED and laser-based ultraportable projectors through 2012. For example, in 2008 the typical LED ultraportable projector had SVGA resolution, 160 lumen output and a bill of materials (BOM) cost of about $200. Note that the BOM cost is for components and does not represent the retail price, which is typically about 2.5 times more, according to Brennesholtz.

By 2012, a WSVGA or XGA LED projector with 300 lumens could be built with a BOM cost of about $130 - $160.

Also included is a SWOT analysis, which is a strategic planning method that looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in this market, and summarizes suggested areas for development in order to drive the market.

ProjectorSales.jpgIn terms of projector sales, Insight Media expects sales of LED, laser and Ujoy follow-on projectors to grow from about 100,000 this year to a about 2,200,000 in 2013. The Ujoy lamp is a low-power (50 W), low-cost UHP-type lamp produced by Royal Philips Electronics of The Netherlands that's intended for projectors in the 200-300 lumen range. It has severe colorimetry problems and has gained little market acceptance. Therefore, the expected growth in projectors sales is, in reality, more about LED and laser projectors than Ujoys, according to Brennesholtz.

The report gives details on which lumen category and light source will outperform others. The unit sales figures are a combination of new sales and those migrating from conventional lamp-type projectors to those with newer light sources.

For LED manufacturers Brennesholtz indicated that the key takeaway is that there's a need for the highest possible lumens per square millimeter and LEDs custom designed and packaged for the projector market. On the laser side, the same thing is true but it's imperative that costs come way down before the laser projector market takes off.

Also discussed are imaging modules within projectors-technical approaches, current status and roadmaps for various microdisplay technologies. The report also includes profiles of 16 manufacturers of ultraportable projectors with an interest in LEDs.

For more details of the report, visit:

Anne L. Fischer
Apr 2009
The methods used to measure color and to define the results of the measurements.
The general term for the application of light to a subject. It should not be used in place of the specific quantity illuminance.
A transmissive, reflective or emissive high-resolution display that typically measures 1 cm diagonally, and whose use requires magnifying optics to project a highly magnified image on a surface for the image to be observed by the viewer.
BrennesholtzbulbcolorimetrydefenseDLPilluminationInsight MedialampLumenmicrodisplayNews & FeaturesprojectorSVGAUjoyXGAlasersLEDs

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