Media Q&A: Laser Technology
1. What is Laser?
Lasers are light-producing systems made up of Laser Diodes, producing light output levels of up to over 50,000 lumen. The three most important technologies are laser phosphor, RB and RGB laser.
The DLP system, which is centred around a semiconductor with up to 8.85 million small, movable mirrors and combined with a light source, can project a bright image without loss of brightness.
Laser projectors deliver 20,000 hours lifetime without a lamp replacement required. In addition, because laser light is characterised by a special property - it is extremely pure in colour, it also supports a very wide colour gamut.
2. What are the benefits of laser?
Laser projectors achieve two crucial business benefits: cost effectiveness and reliability.
Laser projectors have very low maintenance costs, because there is no lamp that needs to be replaced. Organisations would historically have kept a supply of replacement projector lamps, so therefore the investment made by the business or organisation is immediately depreciating. The other cost to the business is staff time and resource to replace lamps, especially for organisations with projectors located in difficult to reach areas. Installing scaffolding or other structures to reach these components for maintenance requires human resources and the money could be better invested elsewhere. Additionally, there is no need for laser projectors to be installed by a certified professional [see later Q on this].
Laser technology consistently offers the highest image quality with 24x7 operation. Light generated with laser systems inherently has a longer and more stable brightness level that decreases at a much slower rate than conventional lamp-based systems, so its operating life span far exceeds traditional lighting methods.
In addition, laser projectors also offer a relatively compact design whilst also offering this high brightness.
To summarise, benefits of laser projectors are:
- Lower maintenance costs
- Appealing visual experience through consistent light output, brightness uniformity and constant colour rendition
- Reliable, maintenance-free operation in 24x7 environments
- Return on investment through longer life, and lower brightness decline during lifetime, lower energy consumption and lower thermal emission
- High quality experience due to higher contrast and wider colour gamut
- Better for the environment: mercury free, instant on/off capability, flexible brightness adjustment (20-100%)
3. What brightness level can laser achieve?
Most people have the perception that the laser light is even brighter than that of a traditional lamp.
NEC currently provides a brightness output of 5,000 to 8,000 ANSI lumens with one chip DLP technology and up to 12,000 ANSI lumens for three chip DLP models. The possible brightness level will be expanded even further in coming years.
In the cinema projector area, generating 40,000 to 70,000 lumen with a slightly different technology based on pure RGB laser is now possible.
4. What is the future of technology and market opportunity for laser?
The brightness and energy saving benefits offered by laser means that it will probably replace lamp-based projection systems in the future. The future of projection will only be laser. According to Futuresource, the market for projectors in 2020 will be 74% laser based*.
Industries or applications that show particular potential right now are large venues. This is a scenario where the high brightness is of particular benefit. The physical nature of most large venues means they, in particular, will benefit from not needing to replace the lamp, as this limits maintenance and reduces the need for precious staff and time resource. These large venues might be in education or corporate environments, for example. Laser is already being used in DOOH scenarios, in which advertisers value the always-on, always-bright benefits.
As a particularly cost-conscious industry, cinemas are starting to replace lamp-based projectors with laser technology. The long-term high brightness offers particular benefit to cinema-goers, whilst the lower maintenance costs mean that operational costs of the cinema are reduced. This is one industry where laser is set to become established very quickly.
In the future, there will be more and more scope for the benefits of laser projection to be felt in indoor signage, control room, industrial, care design and 3D model simulation. Laser’s high reliability and high brightness means it is also well suited for mission-critical scenarios. As these industries look to upgrade or replace projector technology, they will turn to laser for their next investment.
The wider production of laser projection means the cost per lumen will reduce significantly, so even more industries will start to see the total cost of ownership benefit.
The higher brightness delivered by laser projection means laser projectors will eventually be used across larger and larger venues, such as in rental and staging.
*revised numbers since Febr 2015: http://www.futuresource-consulting.com/2015-02-SSI-Growth-Forecast.html
5. What’s the total cost of ownership (TCO) calculation?
Even today, projectors with around 5,000 lumen are a good alternative to traditional models without laser. In a total cost of ownership calculation laser based projectors are the clear winner.
In general laser projectors generate lower operational cost than lamp. Waiting to replace the projector will not pay off long-term, because of the total cost of ownership calculation.
When comparing two very similar products; the laser based projector PX803UL with a lamp based model (PX750) the huge difference in operational cost becomes very obvious. Putting purchasing price, energy costs, lamp replacement and maintenance cost all together, the total savings of a daily operation of 9 hours representing a 3 year usage will sum up to 3,600 €. In applications where 24/7 operation is required, the projector will create total savings of 8400.- € based on a 20,000 hours’ usage.
6. What are the regulations with regards to laser? How has it affected adoption?
With laser there are still recommendations for health and safety similar to those of very bright lamps but the topic is no longer in the realm of laser regulation. Previously, laser installations would not have been possible without a specially trained laser officer. Recently, regulatory change from the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) has made this obsolete. There has also been a change in the general classification of laser projectors which is further helping to reduce costs and provides further evidence that laser has a broader future than previously thought.
7. What scenarios are better for laser than lamp?
The laser technology provides an amazing colour quality regarding gamut as well as contrast and uniformity. Also the low brightness loss of laser means that projectors are more suitable for higher brightness environments. So this technology is eye pleasant for a variety of factors. As a mercury-free technology with less power consumptions it is also the more eco-friendly solution. And finally the lower energy consumption and maintenance costs make it very attractive from the ROI point of view.
8. What is NEC’s involvement with Laser?
Being an early adopter of this lighting method is already paying off for NEC Display Solutions. The specialist for all sorts of imaging technology, it is already working on its second and third generation projector models and sees a bright future for lasers. The engineers at NEC Display Solutions saw much potential in the technology.
In order to deliver the best possible performance with a wide variety of applications and to fulfil all customer needs, NEC Display Solutions makes use of all three major laser technologies in its projectors: Laser Phosphor, RB Laser and RGB Laser.
With its unrivalled line-up of laser projectors, NEC offers solutions for multiple applications across many vertical markets: From Digital Cinema where laser illumination creates an extraordinarily bright picture – especially appreciated in 3D movies – to meeting rooms, where the compact P502HL-2 projector can deliver outstanding image quality. Especially for the large venue sector, NEC offers a huge range of laser projectors, covering almost any brightness level and screen size.
NEC projectors also support NEC’s Green Vision for sustainability, thanks to eliminating mercury lamps, lower energy and emissions.
9. Does it support 4K?
Whilst lamp projectors can provide a 4K image, laser provides a better visual experience and this also applies to 4K. Laser lamps will also offer the high brightness and better visual experience for longer, without the need for maintenance.
10. Is it suitable for mission-critical applications?
Laser projectors do not have downtime, where a lamp-based projector would need to be out of commission for periods of time whilst lamps are replaced, or worse still, if a lamp explodes. For that reason, laser is much better suited for control room or mission-critical scenarios. Whilst redundancy is always advisable, laser projectors are much better suited to these types of applications.
11. What is unique about the laser offering of NEC compared to other vendors?
Hardly any other company has such a long track record in laser projectors. The quality we deliver satisfies the highest needs coming from demanding areas such as the cinema industry and critical commercial applications. Our solutions are used in 24/7 environments where quality and reliability is of the utmost importance. That’s why customers in areas like Aviation and Transportation, Healthcare, Rental & Staging, Higher Education, Cinema, Retail & Signage, Leisure & Museums as well as Corporate Offices and Board Rooms prefer NEC to other providers.
NEC offers one of the widest line-ups in terms of brightness, ranging from 1,000 ANSI lumens for very small installations to 35,000 ANSI lumens. Depending on the use case we are able to use the three different laser technologies in the best way possible for the customer. As we can choose from a wide portfolio we don’t need to push prospects in one fixed direction. Instead we have the opportunity of consulting them and identifying the technology that best meets their demands. This way we tailor a solution that delivers the most visually appealing, as well as reliable, experience.
The know-how of years of development and constant improvement is embodied in each of our products. This shows in our specially developed phosphor wheels with long-lasting phosphor and our optimized DMD technology. This also comes to play in small details like the dust protection of devices like the PH1202HL. It uses a sealed laser source and light engine.
Furthermore, we support our customers on all laser-related questions and help them to become experts with dedicated training and support.
12. Which NEC Projectors use laser technology?
Two of NEC’s laser projectors are the world’s first DCI certified laser projectors:
- NC1100L (Laser Phosphor projector)
- NC1040L (RGB Laser projector)
Other Laser projectors offered by NEC include:
For more information on the range of laser projectors, visit: http://www.sharpnecdisplays.eu/p/laser/en/portfolio.xhtml
13. More information on laser:
Please take a read of the Whitepaper: The Future is Now – Benefits of Laser Cinema Projectors
This includes a TCO calculator to help organisations calculate the benefits of laser projectors.