Introduction to a major new LIPA review article:

Title: Types of Laser Illuminated Projectors (LIPs) – Evolution, Tradeoffs and Trends

Author: Bill Beck, aka “The Laser Guy” – with contributions and assistance from LIPA members, past and present; industry pioneers, colleagues, and friends…and several great editors!

The objective of this article is to provide industry participants and observers a framework with which to view the history and evolution of Laser Illuminated Projectors (LIPs). This evolution spans over three decades, although most current movie-goers and projector users know little or nothing about it.

The article attempts to answer big questions like: why did it take so long? What were the major technical challenges? What were the business and external cultural challenges? What is the status of LIP Development? And what are the trends impacting different types of LIPs? The narrative follows the two major technological tracks, namely, Red-Green-Blue lasers (RGB) and Blue Laser-pumped Phosphor (La-Ph), that evolved independently at first, but then synergistically converged and now provide a broad foundation for future innovation and continuous improvement.

Since commercial introduction over 10 years ago, “Laser”, both RGB and La-Ph technologies have grown rapidly, displacing lamp illumination. Laser is truly the “4th generation” of Cinema Projector light and the end of “lamp changes” for all kinds of projectors.

Like many transformational new technologies, it took a very long time for Laser to equal and then surpass lamp illumination in terms of performance and lower total cost of ownership. But as many now have done both, LIPs will continue to grow as the dominant light source for projection.

The article was originally released on 8/31/22 to members only. LIPA is now making an updated version available to the public to help recognize and highlight the contributions that its members have made to the industry and its key role in Laser Safety and regulatory reform. We encourage all to share the article and its extensive Glossary of Technical Terms with colleagues in their various areas of endeavor.

Download Here!

Disclaimer: The author does not represent that all dates, data, and details are precise, but that they are true to the general story line. Photos, diagrams, charts, and captions are for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to endorse or promote any product, technology, or approach.

“1H22 Global Market Update” – Key Takeaways

LIPA hosted an informative webinar on 9/29/22. Rosemary Abowd of PMA Research and David Hancock of OMDIA, presented their company data and forecasts for the first half of 2022 (1H22). PMA covered the Global Display market and focused on Professional and Consumer projector segments. OMDIA covered the Global Cinema projector market.

Below are some of the Key Takeaways from the presentations and Q&A exchange with LIPA members.

Overall Projection Market

  • Neither Professional + Consumer nor Cinema markets will finish 2022 ahead of 2019 (pre-pandemic) unit sales levels but for different reasons.
  • Pro/Con has been supply-constrained for a variety of reasons into 2022, but will accelerate into 1H23 as supply catches up with demand
  • Cinema is still content-constrained and will also face additional headwinds in 2023, as disposable income is eaten up by higher energy and other non-discretionary costs
  • The percentage of LIPs sold continues to increase in nearly all categories with shares ranging from 50-90+%, depending on a number of factors
  • Penetration shares increase with price point, lumen level and resolution; with LIPs now available from 3,000 – 60,000 lumens, and up to 8K resolution

Professional and Consumer (Pro/Con)

  • Global Display markets continue to be impacted by Covid and Government policies, past and current and more recently, historic increases in inflation.
  • Global unit volumes declined 6%; revenues declined 4% in 1H22 compared with the same period last year.
  • Full year revenues for 2022 are expected to finish up 5%, and grow 13% in 2023
  • Revenue growth from 2022 to 2026 is forecast to be $8.5B to $12.5B, reversing a 5-year (slight) downtrend
  • Laser share is now over 90% by revenue and units for models 6000lm and up; with resolutions of 4K UHD and higher available
  • LIP growth opportunities exist in Consumer, Education, Corporate and Immersive Venues, based on improved Image Quality, lamp cost elimination, increased light source lifetime and reduced power consumption

Cinema

  • Global screen count continues to grow – up 3% to 213,000, by the end of 2021 vs. the end of 2020 – with nearly all the growth coming from the Asia/Pacific Region.
  • There are now ~7,000 “premium screens”, or roughly 1 in 30. Most of these are laser-illuminated
  • Exhibition has lost an estimated ~$60B since the Pandemic began early in 2020, sending many circuits into survival mode. Since then, there have been a number of acquisitions and consolidations, but few outright bankruptcies, as the industry adjusts to the return of patrons and content flow increases
  • Nearly all countries are “fully open” with China being an important exception. Regional lockdowns there continue to cause uncertainty in a country that now generates 1/3rd of global box office receipts
  • OMDIA reported that the global installed base of LIPs in Cinema is ~16% of the total, equating to ~35,000 worldwide. [Ed. Note: there may be some error in this estimate as some of the data is inferential]
  • They also report that 2 of the 3 Cinema projector suppliers are selling >50% LIPs in 2022
  • The Pandemic and resulting disruption and uncertainty have destroyed the idea of an orderly “replacement wave”, anticipated as Series 1 and 2 projectors reached the end of their expected life. Instead, exhibitors often “repair rather than replace” and have converted to laser on an “as needed” basis.
  • At this point, Cinema revenue is still not back to peak 2019 level. This is largely due to the 18 to 24 month lead-time needed to produce new content. Two “Billion Dollar” titles this summer proved that if the content is compelling the patrons will come out, indicating that for the most part, direct Pandemic impact is over.
  • Depending on region, box office is back to 50-90% of pre-pandemic levels with an overall recovery of ~80% vs. 2019.
  • Cinema will not return to 2019 (previous peak) level until 2023. Timing will be region dependent

Laser Illumination progress

  • Cinema installed base is ~15-20% Laser, with much higher penetration rates for PLF and new multiplexes
  • The overwhelming majority of both Cinema and non-cinema LIPs are Laser-Phosphor (or more recently, RGB+Laser-Phosphor Hybrids) with “pure” RGB growing slowly. RGB acceptance is still held back by the perception of speckle
  • Rapidly increasing Energy costs will favor LIPs, as they are more efficient and require less cooling than Xenon based projectors
  • Highly optimized RGB+Laser-Phosphor hybrid light engines continue to reduce the TCO of LIPs vs Lamps
  • In the Professional/Consumer segments, Laser Illumination shares of unit volumes and revenues are forecast to increase in 2023 to 28% and 62% respectively; with RGB attaining ~5% share by revenue
  • LIPA member manufacturers LIP shares ranged from 50% to near 100% by revenue in 2Q2022

Question and Answer Session

  • The group discussed the likely impact of rapidly increasing Energy costs and concluded that given a desire and ability to purchase, LIP direct and indirect OPEX savings would be higher with higher power costs, but that general inflation might discourage that decision to purchase. This could substantially impact various business models.
  • PMA pointed out that in general FPDs are competitive with Projectors, but above 80” diagonal image size, laser projectors begin to have a price advantage for both hardware and installation that increases as image size gets bigger
  • DVLEDs were discussed in the context of their threat to LIPs. Although comparable in terms of image quality, they are still more expensive and even more so when construction, installation, and skilled installation-labor shortages are considered.
  • However, DVLEDs are making inroads in content production workflows (virtual movie sets) where they have higher prices, unique benefits and custom installation costs are supportable
  • Some Cinema DVLED are “HDR-capable” but so far, little content is available that is mastered in HDR (for Cinema or Streaming). This will change over time as DCI has recently ratified a new HDR specification for Cinema exhibition. Note that HDR/WCG will be the topic of the next LIPA Webinar on October 26, 2022. See: www.LIPAinfo.org for details.

Types of Laser-Illuminated Projectors – History, Evolution, Trends and Technical Glossary

Types of Laser-Illuminated Projectors – History, Evolution, Trends and Technical Glossary

The following article was written by Bill Beck, co-founder, past chairman and current Communications Consultant for LIPA.  It provides the reader with a structured history of the technical and then commercial developments that have brought Laser illumination from the R&D labs to its current position as the dominant new illumination technology.

The article includes the early history of Laser illuminated (LIP) prototyping; the evolution of both RGB Laser and Laser-Phosphor (La-Ph) illumination technologies; the two main application tracks of early commercialization and the current proliferation of optimized Laser and La-Ph technologies and LIP applications of all kinds. It also includes an extensive “LIP Glossary” with in -document links to the definitions of acronyms, technical terms and “buzz words”.

The purpose of the article is to provide LIPA Members – their Representatives and colleagues – with a common historical and technical framework from which to view and discuss the current-status and future trends of LIPs and their applications.  The author does not claim that the article is 100% accurate in all details; but rather, conceptually, and usefully descriptive of past developments and current trends. The author and LIPA welcome comments, corrections, additions, and clarifications and where material, will publish them from time to time in future Blog Posts.

The governing board of LIPA has reserved the use of this article for members only for the next 90 days (through the end of November 30, 2022) as a benefit of their paid membership.  During this time, LIPA Members and Representatives are encouraged to read, share, and discuss with colleagues, both to develop a consensus historical record and to educate their newer members who may not have personally “lived through” the long and complex development of this important new product category.

The article will be distributed to LIPA Members only on Wednesday, August 31, 2022.  We look forward to your comments and their contribution to a more complete and colorful understanding of the story of LIPs.

LIPA 1H22 Market Update Webinar

LIPA 1H22 Market Update Webinar

What:

An interactive Webinar to present and discuss 1H22 Global Sales, Revenue and Market Data for Commercial/Professional/Education (Non-Cinema) and Cinema/PLF market segments. The first hour will include interactive presentations, followed by a 20 to 30-minute, moderated panel discussion.

When: 

Thursday, September 29, 2022 

  • 22:30-24:00 (Tokyo)
  • 21:30-23:00 (Beijing)
  • 15:30-17:00 CET (Brussels)
  • 14:30-18:00 (London)
  • 09:30-11:00 EDT (New York)
  • 08:30-10:00 CDT (Texas)
  • 06:30-08:00 PDT (Los Angeles)

Who:

Rosemary Abowd

PMA Research

From the PMA website:

By any measure PMA’s team is by far the most experienced of any firm engaged in display market research today. The PMA team includes executives from Hitachi, Toshiba, and InFocus as well as other display-related manufacturers. And with offices in in Asia, Europe and the United States, PMA continually has a complete and balanced view of worldwide developments and trends in the display business.

David Hancock

Omdia

From the Omdia website:

Omdia unifies and harnesses the depth and breadth of expertise from Informa Tech’s legacy research brands: Ovum, IHS Markit Technology [Screen Digest], Tractica and Heavy Reading. We bring you unparalleled, world-class research and consultancy to navigate the now and create the future.

Both Rosemary and David have presented their data summaries and insights to LIPA members a number of times. They bring world class reporting and many years of experience tracking LIPA’s markets and Laser Projection in particular since its introduction more than ten years ago.

Why attend?

LIPA member Representatives and their Management, Marketing and Sales colleagues are invited and encouraged to attend this interactive Global Market Update.  It will cover quantitative analysis for the first half of 2022.  Unit sales and revenue by major categories, brightness levels, Laser vs. Lamp illumination and other useful metrics.  Audience members are encouraged to ask detailed questions during the presentations and then join Rosemary, David, and several LIPA “moderators” in a panel discussion of market, business and technical trends, new products, threats from other technologies and of course, thoughts on the mostly-post-Covid market situation.

Participants may send questions in advance to: billbeck59a2@gmail.com or ask them at any time during the 90-minute session, live or via the chat box. 

We look forward to an informative and thought-provoking session and to involving members of your organizations that don’t normally participate in our events and discussions. The session will be recorded if you cannot attend during the scheduled time slot.

We hope to see on September 29th.

CineEurope 2022 – Highlights and Trends

CineEurope 2022 – Highlights and Trends

June 20-23 at Centre Convencions Internacional Barcelona (CCIB)

Highlights

  • Overall mood was upbeat and optimistic, buoyed by a (Helicopter) fly-in appearance by Tom Cruise in support of the industry and his record-breaking sequel to Top Gun, Top Gun: Maverick. The recent release, having surpassed $1B in box office by June 27th, further supports already upbeat predictions for 2022 box office recovery. The audience greeted his arrival with a 5-minute standing ovation.
  • Avatar 2 and the resurrection of 3D were previewed, further pointing to “better days” and Box Office, ahead
  • Industry experts predicted that 2022 Box Office will finish at $31.5B, only about 20% off 2019’s record level of $42B. (Gower Street Analytics)
  • The conference itself was upbeat but still not quite back to pre-pandemic levels, especially attendance by smaller exhibitors and suppliers

Trends and Numbers

  • Global Screen Count, now at 213,000, has held up well despite 2 years of lockdowns, cost cutting and market uncertainties.
  • Recovery in Europe varies widely by country.  France is strong, aided by 40% locally generated content throughout the pandemic.  Germany and Spain lag in recovery.
  • Penetration of Laser Illuminated [Cinema] Projectors (LIPs) in Europe was reported to be only around 10%, suggesting that estimates of global LIP adoption in Cinema may not be as high previously reported.
  • One large “All Laser” (and all 4K) deal – PVR India – for a 1,000-screen buildout was announced.  New builds more often take advantage of All LIP technology conversions
  • 2K LIPs continue to be important as many customers seek ways to upgrade to Laser projectors but as economically as possible.
  • However, one Cinema projector maker continues to market Xenon projectors, even 4K models with advanced features alongside their RGBe and Real|Laser Ô projectors.
  • Sustainability is a strong trend, favoring the long-lifetime and near zero consumables of LIPs.  Easier maintenance with reusable filters was also pushed.
  • Exhibitors of all sizes are finding ways to “premiuminize” their offering, at the circuit – partnering with a branded PLF; multiplex – providing an in-house PLF offering and even within individual auditoria.  One exhibitor has been successful carving out 20-25% of seats per room for a premium experience – with seats, sound, 4D effects and other amenities supporting higher ticket prices
  • Business discussions reflected a focus more on traffic and attendance, driving number of visits per year vs. spend per patron.  This only makes sense for an effort to get patrons back into a cinemagoing routine rather than for once a year, expensive events.

Summary

From all reports, CineEurope 2022 continued the upbeat impressions from Cinemacon 2022, in both mood and numbers. There is ongoing growth in Box Office, from blockbusters and in the aggregate; manufacturer deals and new products; and with the continued progress of LIPs in supporting a better, more consistent Cinema experience while reducing total cost of ownership and improving long-term sustainability for exhibitors.

2021 AGM Highlights

Highlights from the 2021 LIPA Annual General Meeting Presentations

Held (virtually) on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, from 8am-12pm EST

15 speakers from 14 companies; 6 members, 2 previous-members, 6 consultants

Summary of Presenters

Speaker Company Title/Topic
Goran Stojmenovik Barco Chairman’s Welcome Message
Anabel Martinez AMSL – Admin Membership Summary
Wei Gu Appotronics Membership report/new member introductions
Mark Roslon Seiko-Epson New Communications Chairman
Bill Beck BTM Consulting Communications Committee Annual Report
Goran Stojmenovik Barco Regulatory Committee report and update
Karl Schulmeister Seibersdorf Laboratories New EU Consumer Laser Product Safety Standard EN 50689
Rosemary Abowd PMA Research Projector Market Overview – Pandemic Chain Reaction
David Hancock OMDIA Cinema Rebuilding after Existential (Covid) Crisis
Wei Gu Appotronics/ForMovie Ultra-Short-Throw 4K Laser Projection TV Market update
Brian Montalbano Nichia-USA Nichia Laser Presentation LIPA 2021
Caspar J.W. Ruan Foxconn On study of Multi-emitter RGB Semiconductor Laser
Dr. Yu Xin Appotronics Laser Phosphor Hybrids (PJs and Laser TV) technical update
Pete Ludé Mission Rock Digital Projecting the Future of Projectors (and other display options
Kristofer Oberascher Texas Instruments Phase Modulation for LIPs
Alberto Alfier Osram-ClayPaky Laser Illuminated Lighting Progress
Greg Niven Kyocera-SLD Laser Lighting Update from Kyocera-SLD

Denotes current LIPA member

Annual General Meeting (AGM2021) purpose is to provide membership with a formal update of LIPA’s activities progress for the year via reports from Regulatory, Communications and Membership committee members.

The meeting ran for 4+ hours and was divided into 4 sessions: LIPA/Committee updates; Market Updates; Technology Updates and “Blue Sky” Future View.  There were 43 “video visitors” – 35 members, 5 speakers and 3 guests.

LIPA 2021 Highlights –

  • Chairman Goran Stojmenovik of Barco welcomed all participants and highlighted the fact that LIPA celebrated the 10th anniversary of its founding in May 2011 at a Video Meeting in May
  • Goran recognized fellow officers: Richard McPherson of SharpNEC – Treasurer and Tim Ryan of TI, Secretary
  • LIPA’s Membership Chairman, Wei Gu of Appotronics, welcomed 2 new members – Foxconn (Hon Hai) and Dolby Labs
  • LIPA introduced newly appointed Communications Chairman, Mark Roslon from Seiko-Epson
  • Bill Beck of BTM Consulting, reviewed the Committees activities and projects for 2021, including a number of regulatory bulletins, articles, blog posts, and a Global (virtual) Celebration of LIPA’s 10th Anniversary attended by over 80 participants: current and past members, founders and LIP pioneers going back to 1992
  • Goran, Introduced Takashi Ikeda of Panasonic as new Regulatory Chairman, who replaced founding member Hideyuki Kanayama, also of Panasonic, who retired recently
  • LIPA’s Regulatory Committee produced and published 3 new Bulletins in 2021
    • Laser Light Show (LLS) variances for Dealers and Distributors
    • FDA variance Separation Height (SH) requirement reduced from 3m to 2.5 m
    • Traditional Lamp Illumination regulation harmonized with Laser illumination based on Risk Group “Equal Footing” finally established
  • The Regulatory Committee updated the audience on the Small Source Task Force’s report to the FDA. Goal is to push for “no variance” classification Risk Group 2 for very small chip w/angular subtense under 5mrad

LIPA Formally Welcomes New Members at its Annual General Meeting

LIPA welcomes two new members, Dolby and Foxconn, at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on December 7, 2021.   

Dolby, Dolby Laboratories, Inc., engages in the provision of audio and imaging technologies. It transforms entertainment and communications for content playback in movies, television, music, and gaming.  Its products include Cinema Imaging, Cinema Audio, Dolby Conference Phone, Dolby Voice Room, and Other Products. The company was founded by Ray Milton Dolby in 1965 and is headquartered in San Francisco, CA.

Dolby Cinema is an emerging premium large format (PLF) standard that combines Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos for an experience that offers the best in sound and imaging. Dolby Cinema uses dual laser projectors that integrates Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range (HDR), for better contrast, truly deep black levels and a more consistent and vibrant image. Dolby Atmos takes Dolby’s traditional 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound setups a step further by adding a third, overhead dimension.

LIPA welcomes Dolby knowing it will bring its AV industry experience and know-how to create unique, Laser-illuminated visual experiences.

Foxconn, Hon Hai Technology Group (aka Foxconn) is the world’s largest electronics manufacturer. Foxconn is the leading technological solution provider. It continuously leverages its expertise in software and hardware to integrate emerging technologies with its unique manufacturing system.  

Foxconn operates a leading projector ODM business.  It co-developed and mass produced the first laser/LED hybrid projector. With several projector production lines and specialized equipment/instrument, Foxconn’s yield capability can go up to 1 million units of DLP projectors per year.

The multi-emitter semiconductor laser market is emerging as an important resource for LIP companies.  Foxconn has entered this market segment thanks to the knowhow of Sharp, one of  its subsidiary companies. Their industrial processes could lead to useful breakthroughs in laser package manufacturing and useful modeling for projector optical design.

LIPA welcomes Foxconn and its cutting edge laser diode technology in the Laser illuminated projector industry. 

LIPA 2021 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

LIPA 2021 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – PRELIMINARY PROGRAM

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7 – 5:00-9:00AM PST

This year, LIPA’s Annual General Meeting will again, by necessity, be virtual.  We have assembled an outstanding mix of topics and presenters covering industry progress, challenges, and opportunities ahead. 

The program will run for about 4 hours and be divided into 4 sections: LIPA; Markets; Technology; BlueSky.

We will start with a welcome and introduction by our Chairman, Goran Stojmenovik from Barco; then review the progress of each of our major committees: Membership, Communications and Regulatory. We’ll conclude this session with a guest speaker, Dr. Karl Schulmeister, reviewing new European Laser Regulations for Consumer Products.

Rosemary Abowd of PMA Research will begin session 2 with Projection Market Overview – “Pandemic Chain Reaction”.  David Hancock, of OMDIA, will update all on the status and trends of the Global Cinema Market.  We’ll conclude the market session with a talk on the application of Laser Illumination to the rapidly growing Ultra-Short Throw 4K TV market.

Session 3 will include comprehensive updates on Laser Devices and Packaging by Brian Montalbano of Nichia; New Device Packaging, by prospective new LIPA member, Foxconn and a review of advances in LaserPhosphor + RGB Hybrid technology by Wei Gu of Appotronics.  The session will close with a talk on the applicatons of LaPh Hybrids and other advances to projection technology by Rich McPherson of LIPA founding member, Sharp/NEC.

We’ll conclude the presentations with a “Blue Sky”, forward looking session starting with LIPA-founder and past Chairman, Pete Ludé, entitled “Projecting the Future of Projectors”, a review of emerging technologies such as DVLED, that will compete with classical projection going forward. Next, Kristofer Oberascher of Texas Instruments, will preview work his team is doing on Phase Modulation, enabled by Laser Illuminations and its application to image projection.  Next, Alberto Alfier of LIPA member Osram/ClayPaky will present an update on Laser Illuminated Show Lighting and the impact of bright, controllable, and safe laser lighting for events. The program will close with a presentation by long time LIPA supporter and past Chairman, Greg Niven, of Kyocera-SLD.  Greg will review novel ways Lasers, fiber and phosphors are addressing specialty, high performance lighting applications.

Watch for detailed registration instructions in to be emailed to members this week.  Please invite interested colleagues from your team or other parts of your company.  Be sure they register individually.  New members will need to set up their own LIPA accounts.

We hope to “see” you all on TUESDAY the 7th of December.

For LIPA, Best regards,  Bill Beck – The Laser Guy

LIPA CELEBRATES ITS 10TH ANNIVERSARY – SESSION HIGHLIGHTS

Introduction

LIPA Celebrated its 10th Anniversary in May; having achieved much progress and many milestones.  As an in-person gathering was still out of the question, we held two, two-hour GoToMeeting sessions.  We enjoyed the inputs and memories of about 80 members, past and present; colleagues and friends.  We even had some surprise guests from the earliest days of Laser illuminated projection.

The idea was to bring together many of the industry’s pioneers, visionaries, technologists and LIPA members to review, acknowledge and reminisce about the history and progress, the challenges and future trends of this radically different lighting technology.

The Sessions

The two sessions were divided into 6 topics: The Early Days, Digital Cinema, Technical Breakthroughs, The Regulatory Story, Commercialization Progress, Status and Future Developments. 

We still don’t know for certain when the “first” LIP was contemplated or built, but we all learned a lot more about how early work began.  We had several pioneers from COLOR, an early R&D shop that built and installed demo LIP systems in museums, sports arenas and even to project images of tanks on “disposable screens” at the US Army’s gunnery range…all in the 1990s!!

We learned about the impact of the Cinema industry’s change from Film to Digital, that enabled the use of narrow-band RGB laser light to generate the millions of colors in the Digital Cinema Initiative’s (DCI) specified color gamut.  The DCinema conversion was both a blessing and curse. One the one hand, it provided a solid, if difficult to achieve, global specification and a huge (future) addressable market. This enticed a few intrepid investors to “go back into” laser technology shortly after the telecom bust of 2003. On the other hand, delays in the financing of the Digital Cinema conversion, (indeed, a global financial crisis in 2008-09), greatly delayed the expected time to market for DCinema LIPs.

The commercial availability of Blue Laser Diodes from Nichia and the extensive Laser-pumped phosphor technology from Appotronics both accelerated DCinema development and enabled a host of new, lower lumen LIP segments and applications.

Although the focus of the sessions was on Laser technology, LIPA founding members, TI and SONY provided the essential Spatial Light Modulator (SLM) technology that enabled the application of Laser illumination to high performance projection.

LIPA’s core mission, in fact its “raison d’être”, is to rationalize global Laser safety regulations to assure risk mitigation while not unduly impeding the adoption of the technology.  The audience learned what a great challenge this was for LIPA, that it took years of meetings and millions in dues and in-kind contributions from members and their expert staff to achieve what would be required for robust commercialization.  LIPA was able to contribute greatly to the understanding of optical hazard and risk; how to quantify it and to establish a global framework that now evaluates laser and lamp illuminated projectors the same way.

Given the magnitude of the challenge and the prerequisite of the US FDA/CDRH to start with a peer-reviewed article on the optical hazards of LIPs, it is (in retrospect), no surprise that it took so long to establish a new and more structured regulatory regime.  In fact, with the help of LIPA’s Regulatory team of member experts, laser safety consultants and yes, lawyers, LIPA adopted a strategy to utilize the International Electro-Technical Commission (IEC) regulatory framework and its updating opportunities to make progress much faster outside of the US. Eventually, with the IEC formally on board, it was much easier to convince the FDA/CDRH to “conform” to new IEC global standards than to start from scratch.  But it still took a long time, and success was never assured.


Ten years ago, high lumen “flagship” Cinema LIPs were demonstrated by several LIPA members. This really put the pressure on LIPA to establish a mechanism to bring these amazing systems into commerce.  Initially, “Laser Variances”, that is, individual FDA authorizations were required to deploy these specialized projectors in large screen, typically 3D-capable theaters.  These early variances provided the template for future global regulatory requirements.

The consensus is that commercialization of Cinema LIPs started with a series of demos and product introductions in spring of 2014 by several LIPA members.  At the same time, the brightness levels achievable with Laser Phosphor technology began breaking records every quarter. People wondered: would they every hit 10,000 lumens…? They did, and have gotten much brighter since.

As of now, LIPs are available at all brightness levels from “Pico” to 75,000 lumens; in nearly every category, from the classroom to the boardroom; from Ultra-Short Throw 4K Laser TV to gigantic, multi-projector mapping systems.  Laser engine architectures now include often complex hybrids of RGB diodes + custom phosphors, optimized for the required mix of image quality, color space, power efficiency and lifetime. 

Market data suggests that LIPs are now the dominant illumination technology on a dollar value (if not unit) basis.  Some major projector makers have moved to all laser or all solid-state illumination, eliminating lamp-based designs from their new product offerings. (Later this year LIPA will publish a formal update on LIP Market penetration.)

The sessions wrapped up with a view to the future.  The consensus was that as the global economy and in particular, Cinemas, “open up”, LIPs will lead the charge.  Many multiplexes were built as or upgraded to “All-Laser” during the pandemic. And many LIPA members have developed new LIP products and product families during the past 18 months. 

LIPA still has much work to do.  As new designs are developed and brightness levels increase, new regulatory cases continue to emerge.  Our long-term mission to assure user safety and promote business success continues, and now that mission covers nearly all projection categories, not just the cutting edge of premium Cinema.

Session Takeaways

  1. The development and commercialization of LIPs …TOOK A LONG TIME – at least 30 years.  It took many visionaries, technologists, companies, investors, Hollywood gatekeepers…and LIPA to put all the pieces together.
  2. LIPA, founded in May of 2011, by about a dozen companies, developed and achieved a global regulatory rationalization strategy that has enabled very rapid adoption and no known injuries since commercialization of high brightness LIPs in 2014.
  3. As of 2020, all high brightness (Risk Group 3) projectors are regulated by the same standard, irrespective of light source technology – Laser and Lamp illuminated projectors are finally on the same footing
  4. Over time, LIPs have “paid off” all of benefits of laser illumination, predicted since the 1990s: higher brightness, better image quality, amazing color saturation, ultra-long light source lifetime, higher power efficiency (lm/watt), lower heat generation, quieter operation, remote light delivery via optical fiber and lower cost per usable lumen
  5. As a result of the above advances, LIPs have in ten years become the dominant projection illumination technology with a strong trend toward a fully “lamp-less” future.

Introduction to Laser Illuminated Projector Efficiency Metrics

Introduction

Laser Illuminated Projectors (LIPs) provide both image quality and economic benefits to a wide range of applications.  New laser packaging technology and more sophisticated thermal management subsystems continue to improve the energy efficiency of LIPs for both cinema and non-cinema applications. 

Part of LIPA’s mission is to establish best practices and to educate our members, purchasers and users of LIPs.  With the widespread and growing adoption of Laser illumination, our industry needs a consensus “Figure of Merit” (FoM) by which LIPs can be directly and accurately compared, “in use”.  The goal of this blog post is to propose a well-defined FoM that can provide the basis for comparing, tracking and continuously improving the efficiencies of this increasingly dominant, solid-state illumination (SSI) technology. Furthermore, it will touch on strategies to further increase base efficiencies and extend operating lifetimes.

LIP Overall Energy Efficiency

The Energy Efficiency of a LIP is simply the projector’s output in lumens divided by its wall-plug electrical power consumption. The metric is “lumens per wall-plug watt” or lm/WElectrical.  This is the most comprehensive and straightforward definition, as it is the measure of what the user “gets” for the quantifiable power utilized (and billed) – at the wall-plug (Mains) source.

This metric should be included on LIP data-sheets, so the customer does not have to calculate it.  It quantifies the efficiency of the projector per se, and allows the user to compare different models and to calculate the hourly power cost to operate the LIP for a given electricity price in $/kW-hr.

Simple yes, but…

This Figure of Merit becomes reliably comparable, when several consensus conditions are met and included in the definition of the proposed metric.

  1. The wall plug POWER in watts must include all requisite laser, optics, electronics and cooling, whether on-board (inside the projector) or off-board, in a chiller or radiator.
  2. The wall plug POWER in watts includes all the power needed for electronics, processing, fans, content interfaces and storage etc., not just the laser light source.
  3. The wall plug power is that which is required to deliver the specified lumens, with the appropriate definition. Examples:  Maximum lumen output; Typical lumen output, Maximum lumen output at calibrated white-point; efficiency at output and power level leading to maximum lifetime.

We see that for any given Projector, one may arrive at different efficiencies levels using the standard FoM [lm/W]. All efficiency values can be valid, comparable and useful if they are clearly defined.

To illustrate how the FoM can be used to compare LIPs in several different modes we can take a hypothetical LIP that delivers a maximum of 20,000 lumens and consumes 2,000W (2.0kW) of wall-plug power to do it.  FoM = 10 lm/W.  When the projector is calibrated for its intended White-point/color space, the output may drop to 18,500lm FoM = 9.25 lm/W.  If the projector is set for maximum operating life, it may produce 15,000 lumens at 1.8kW power consumption FoM = 8.33 lm/W.  The figure of merit is the same, but the value is different when measured and calculated under different operating conditions.

Finally, in comparing operating efficiencies of LIPs, one must also consider the power consumption of any HVAC cooling when the projector’s exhaust heat is “externalized” to the venue operating environment.  For example, the heat dissipation in watts of an operating projector if merely the difference between the wall-plug watt input and the optical power output in watts (not lumens) out of the lens. The design of the projector may seek to maintain a constant Laser (and optics) temperature via the use of a chiller or by air-cooling the whole projector to “the ambient environment”.  In either case, “the environment” still has to dissipate the heat.

In cases where the heat load is large, this cost must be borne either way, but it is NOT included in the Projector efficiency FoM.  Technically, this is true of all LIPs, but for most lower lumen LIPs, the additional HVAC power consumption is de minimis, so can be left out of the calculation.

In conclusion, the simplest efficiency metric, lm/Wwallplug can be used and compared, as long as its measured wall power consumption corresponds to the stated operating condition (maximum, typical, calibrated, average).  In some special cases – ultra-high lumen output and/or ultra-long operating lifetimes, external heat dissipation costs should also be considered in selecting the right projector and operating conditions for the most efficient combination of output level, lifetime and power consumption.

Future LIPA posts and articles will discuss the range efficiency levels and how they are measured and achieved.  

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