Setting its sights to redefine the projector market, SI Asia’s Shireen Ho recently caught up with Walter Burgess, PTI’s Vice President of Engineering, to know more about the game-changing laser light source.
SI Asia: What is Illumina Light Farm exactly?
BURGESS: The Illumina Light Farm is a single light source that provides visible light to every projector in a building complex. That building can be a cinema complex or any location where multiple large projectors are used. Until the Illumina Light Farm was introduced, each projector required its own light source. With our single light source providing visible light to 10, 15 or 20 projectors, it really is a game changer. It’s available with cinema quality colour spectrum or with a slightly less expensive colour gamut for large venues.
SI Asia: What is the core technology behind it?
BURGESS: There are two core technologies behind the Illumina Light Farm. One technology involves the light source while the other technology surrounds our speckle reduction technology.
The Workings Behind Illumina Light Farm: Laser Illuminated Projection (LIP) requires high optical power in the Red, Green and Blue spectrums. A single colour laser cannot economically produce all the light needed for projection. Many companies have tried to make single colour high power lasers and failed. Since there are no reasonably priced high power visible lasers, Power Technology rely on lower power lasers. The engineers of PTI combine the optical outputs of many lower power visible lasers to produce the large number of lumens that projection requires.
The core of our light source is managing a large quantity of light sources to produce the massive amount of laser light needed for projection. The Illumina combines multiple lasers to produce light. Managing the electrical, thermal and optical properties of a single laser is routine. Managing the electrical, thermal and optical properties of over 100 lasers simultaneously is where the core technology is found.
The second core technology is the ability to despecke the illumination source. Lasers are naturally mono-chromatic – they have a single colour of light present in their output. They do not produce a broadband spectrum like a bulb or LED. This mono-chromatic output has side effects that are normally beneficial in typical laser applications. In projection, this side effect is the production of speckle.
On-screen, it appears as a grainy structure that looks like sand. If you move your head, the pattern on the screen moves too. This can be distracting and results in a low quality viewing experience. After we finished a military contract in 2012 we had spent $1.5M learning how to reduce speckle with lasers. We applied the lessons we learned to illumination sources for projectors. The results? The Illumina family of projects.
SI Asia: You call the Illumina Light Farm the World’s First Multi-projector Light Source, what is the evidence that supports this and what sets it apart from your closest competition?
BURGESS: The Illumina is the world’s first commercially available multi-projector light source. Other companies have talked about ‘Light Farms’ as a concept but have never brought a product to market.
(To be clear, the Illumina light sources come in different configurations. One configuration is designed to supply light to a single projector.) The Light Farm is designed to supply ample amounts of light to multiple projectors simultaneously. This sets it apart from every other product in the market. Every one of its competitors is connecting a single light source to a single projector. We have moved beyond single projectors by supplying a light source for the entire cinema complex.
SI Asia: Market reception so far…?
BURGESS: The market reception has been really good. In November 2015, we disclosed our relationship with NEC. We participated in the NEC’s New York Showcase event. Our single projector light source was displayed with NEC’s NC1440L model projector. It provides up to 10,000 lumens. We are also deep in discussions with other projector manufacturers in addition to exhibitors about OEM possibilities and retrofitting existing projectors.
OEM projector manufacturers are looking at our product very strongly. Since we are independent from every projector manufacturer, they are free to buy a light source from us without strengthening a competitor. We don’t have exclusivity with anyone because we developed the light source at our own expense.
We shorten their time to market. Projector manufacturers already have the projector they need. Once they adapt it to accept laser light, they purchase a Illumina light source and they are ready for market. To develop their own light source, it would take years and high cost investment cost. Meanwhile the market opportunities will have been taken by their competitors.
SI Asia: Do you foresee more of such technology to come into the market soon?
BURGESS: I anticipate Laser Illuminated Projection will become more prolific in the market over the next five years. The cost of high power visible lasers continues to fall. Red lasers are fairly inexpensive because they use technology and infrastructure previously available for DVD players. Since DVD players have been replaced by internet streaming and solid state data storage, the capacity to make red lasers is inexpensive and available.
Green and Blue lasers are newer types of lasers. They require different technology and infrastructure. As with all technology, they will continue to decline in price over the next few years. As the price of the key components is reduced, the market adoption will increase. Because of the price pressure in Cinema market, this decline in price is happening faster than we have seen in 47 years that we have made lasers.
Laser Light Farm Is Ideal For…
- Cinemas – the first market space PTI is targeting.
- Virtual Reality environments that uses multiple projectors.
- Amusement/ Theme parks and large venue projection.