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Pico-projectors: Lemoptix enters the picture

Posted: 17 Sep 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:pico-projector? optical engine? Lemoptix?

The heat is on in the MEMS market for pico-projectors as yet another player enters the competition!Switzerland-based Lemoptix SA, which won the best paper award at Photonics West. Hamamatsu Photonics KK, Lemoptix's first licensee, now provides pico-projector modules for smartphones, 3D scanners, heads-up displays for automotive windshields and wearable displays like Google Glass.

"Our business model is to license our technology to others," Lemoptix CTO and co-founder Nicolas Abele told us. "Today we have one licensee, Hamamatsu, who has turned our technology into modules for use in a wide range of products."

The oldest pico-projector maker, Texas Instruments' Digital Light Processor (DLP), uses millions of mirrors!one per pixel!instead of raster scanning red, green, and blue lasers with a single mirror. However, TI does not make the optical engine, which uses LEDs instead of lasers. Rather, it works with about 20 different optical engine makers to achieve compatibility.

The other major pico-projector competitor, Microvision Inc., is like Lemoptix in that it uses lasers and a single raster scanning mirror. However, the Seattle company builds its own modules and even some end-user projectors, rather than licensing its technologies to other manufacturers.

"Microvision is our main competitor, but unlike them, we do not make products," Abele said.

Lemoptix has designed what it calls the world's smallest optical engine!25mm x 25mm x 12mm!and has worked to "despeckle" displays using proprietary technology. Without despeckling, a laser-driven display looks pixelised, with overly sharp pixels surrounded by obvious circles of black. Lemoptix has not revealed all the details of its despeckling algorithm, but it did reveal enough to win the Photonics West best paper award.

In addition, Lemoptix has been to solve application problems to make its Hamamatsu modules easier for designers to use. For instance, it has built demonstration applications for heads-up displays on automobile windshields that work even in the brightest ambient light. It has also built 3D scanning solutions using structured light, embedded projectors for smartphones, and wearable displays for augmented-reality smart glasses.

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