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Micromirror tech expands to industrial use cases

Posted: 09 Oct 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Texas Instruments? micromirror? chipset? 3D vision? 3D printing?

The Micromirror light projector chipset from Texas Instruments (TI), used in the projector and digital cinema markets, has been optimised by the company for industrial applications including 3D vision, digital lithography and 3D printing. According to the company, the DLP9000X chipset gives developers more than five times the streaming speed of previous chipsets, with four million micromirrors supporting print resolution less than 1?m. The chipset consists of the DLP9000X digital micromirror device (DMD), DLPC910 controller and DLPR910 PROM.

"In the past our digital light projector (DLP) products were optimised for the projector market," said TI's GM for DLP products embedded, Mariquita Gordon. "We also released our first automotive device for heads-up display this year." But there was activity among users who were applying DLP technology to industrial applications such as 3D printing, Gordon said, sometimes tearing down projectors to access the devices. "Our new product targets these industrial markets."

DMDs are MEMS units that provide an array of individually-controllable mirrored surfaces. By coordinating illumination with the mirror movements, these DMDs can be used to project images using a variety of light sources, including lasers, LEDs and lamps. The mirrors are able to move rapidly, allowing the achievement of such effects as colour mixing and intensity modulation.

Micromirror light projector

The DLP9000X device is a 2560x1600 micromirror array optimised for working with 400nm to 700nm light sources, compatible with photosensitive resins and materials. The device and its companion DLPC910 controller are able to achieve a sustained pixel loading rate over 60Gb/s, five times the speed of the existing DLP9000 chipset, and support random-row loading for flexible light modulation. The pixel loading rate translates to a whole-array refresh rate (pattern rate) of 15kHz.

The DLP chipset can support a variety of industrial applications. For 3D printing using UV-curable resin, for instance, the chipset can support feature sizes less than a micron square with a print head half the size of previous versions working at five times the exposure speed. The DLP can also be used for direct lithography of PCBs, eliminating the need for physical masks.

DLP projectors can also be used as part of a 3D vision system for drones and industrial robots. The chipset allows coordination of its projection with image capture by associated cameras. By projecting a known pattern onto an object, a vision system can interpret apparent distortions of the pattern in the captured image as depth cues, extracting 3D information from a single 3D image.

The D4100 DLP discovery kit allows developers to begin exploration of the technology. In addition, TI offers a 3D printing and digital lithography reference design (TIDA-00570) with schematics, design files, and test data for those seeking a leg up on their own designs. There is also a DLP Forum in TI's E2E Community.

"Our platform allows developers to customize this technology for new markets," said Gordon, "and we have partners to support them." TI's DLP Design Network of third-party providers can help developers accelerate their product development.

- Rich Quinnell
??EE Times

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