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Laser driver fits pico projectors in tiny CE apps

Posted: 29 Oct 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RGB laser driver? pico projector? consumer electronics?

MAX3600 laser driver

Maxim Integrated Products debuts the MAX3600, a three-channel RGB laser driver that enables the integration of high-resolution pico projectors into small-form-factor applications.

Made using Maxim's newest BiCMOS process, the device achieves very fast switching times of WXGA (1,400 x 768 pixels). It also eliminates the need for three discrete laser drivers, thus enabling system designers to embed pico projectors into a new class of consumer electronics. Targeted applications include smart phones, portable media players, mobile computing devices, digital cameras/camcorders, accessory projectors and digital picture frames.

Quickly becoming small enough to fit into the tight enclosures of today's smart phones, embedded pico projectors promise to transform the multimedia capabilities of CE. These miniature projectors enable users to display images and video from their portable devices onto walls and other surfaces, effectively freeing consumers from the constraints of their cramped displays. Given the widespread integration of video capabilities in CE, a large potential market exists for pico projectors. Indeed, market researcher In-Stat predicts that this market is "ready to break out worldwide," with revenue growing to $1.1 billion by 2013.

Until recently, digital light processor (DLP) and liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) technologies have been the frontrunners among pico-projector architectures.

DLP offers HVGA (480 x 320 pixels) resolution at a mid-tier price point. However, it is the most power-hungry technology consuming 3.5W at the system level. Higher resolutions require an even larger and more power-hungry projector (i.e., a bigger micromirror device), since DLP uses a separate micromirror for each pixel.

Meanwhile, LCoS employs LEDs to allow for a relatively low solution cost. It offers VGA (640 x 480 pixels) resolution, with better power consumption (~1W to 1.5W) and a smaller solution size than DLP. Yet, like DLP, LCoS requires a larger footprint (i.e., a bigger panel) for higher resolutions. Driven by the diffuse light of an LED, LCoS projectors have significantly less contrast than laser projectors.

In the long term, this inability to shrink to smaller form factors undermines the suitability of DLP and LCoS technologies for the ever-tinier enclosures of today's CE.

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