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Creating an efficient MEMS-based pico-projector

Posted: 11 Mar 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:pico projection  pico projector  imaging technology  microelectromechanical system  MEMS 

Applications for pico projection include near eye display, interactive digital signage, head mounted display, ultra short throw TV, stand-alone portable projectors and embedded projection in smartphones, tablets and laptops. New uses continue to emerge; for example, imagine a thermostat using an on-demand display with interactive touch.

After a developer formulates a great idea on how to use pico technology in their application, they are faced with several factors to be considered. These include selection of the display technology, light source, optics and software. A well-chosen selection of these variables can result in an end product with optimal power and light efficiency capable of delivering bright, high quality images.

So what are the considerations for designing a pico projector that will maximise power efficiency and yet deliver large, bright and crisp images? We will next address each one of these variables.

Imaging technology
Designers are faced with imaging technology options. Selecting the imaging device that most efficiently utilises light is most important. There are two different optical path architectures in the market place: transmissive and reflective. Most pico projectors use Texas Instruments DLP Pico technology, which is reflective. It utilises an array of microscopic mirrors to create the image which utilises reflection to maximise light efficiency.

In contrast, other technologies employ transmissive or a hybrid of transmissive and reflective systems, requiring polarisation of light to control the intensity of each pixel both of which incur significance light loss thus reducing optical efficiency.

Another consideration for the selection of the display technology is the ability to tilt the micromirrors. DLP technology uses a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) superstructure to tilt the micromirrors towards or away from the optical path to create each display pixel. Tilting mirrors allows the device to more efficiently capture light without worrying about polarisation, resulting in higher brightness at lower system power.

Switching speed is another consideration for the selection of the display technology. For this case, the developer should consider a technology that can switch as fast as possible as this will allow the design to quickly control the light path and colour sources for the system. The faster switching speed not only provides better colours but also better image quality as there is less motion blur, resulting in a better viewing experience. As a reference, DLP Pico devices can switch each pixel / micromirror at up to 3000 times per second making it the fastest solution available.

Light sources
When considering light sources, there are three primary options: lamps, LEDs and lasers. Lamps are commonly used in conference room and home theatre projectors, where high lumens levels (1000L to 2000L) are required.

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