How Mini Projectors Work

Mini projectors are the next generation of projector technology that is quickly sweeping the globe.

They’re portable thanks to their incredibly small size and light weight when compared with standard projectors.

Mini projector technology is possible because of advances in light projection technology, namely the big three:

  1. Digital Light Processing (DLP)
  2. Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS); and
  3. Laser Beam Steering (Laser) Projection

How Mini Projectors Work

How Mini Projectors WorkThe great thing about how mini projectors work is the melting pot of technologies that go into creating such a useful device.

This article will cover the core lighting technologies that make mini projectors possible, but keep in mind that there’s also a vast range of connectivity technologies used like USB, HDMI, SD cards and more.

There is also a software component to mini projectors that makes these lighting technologies come alive.

How Digital Light Processing (DLP) Mini Projectors Work

DLP, short for Digital Light Processing, created and commercialised by Texas Instruments.

Previously, standard DLP projector units (the bigger ones) relied on a mechanical spinning colour wheel and light lamp combination. The DLP technology used in mini projectors is a replacement for this combined lighting system.

It’s cheap to manufacture due to using super bright coloured LEDs (usually three or more in combination) and allows for a much smaller platform.

It works by creating the image by directing these LEDs with microscopically small mirrors laid out in a matrix format on a semiconductor chip called the Digital Micromirror Device (DMD).

DLP provides smooth and jitter free images, removes the need for a bulb (and therefore no more bulb replacements), and is the projection technology of choice for most mini projectors.

How Laser Beam Steering Mini Projectors Work

Laser Beam Steering mini projectors use an a technology developed by a company called Microvision.

Beam Steering works by using Microvision’s scanning mirror technology, Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS).

MEMS is a tiny little silicon device that oscillates a small mirror horizontally and vertically directing to direct a coloured laser beam. It then directs (or steers) this laser beam to recreate the image pixel by pixel.

Microvision are one of the only companies at this stage to have commercialised their technology in a system called PicoP. Hopefully we’ll start to see other companies licensing this technology in the future.

How Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) Mini Projectors Work

LCoS actually works in a very similar manner to DLP, though with some slight differences in how the mirrors are setup.

If you recall, in DLP technology the mirrors are laid out on a semiconductor in a matrix like format. LCoS actually uses Liquid Crystals instead.

Think of it like a cross between DLP projector technology and the same technology that runs your LCD computer monitors and TV screens (LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display).

The great thing about LCoS is the ability to produce high resolution and high contrast images. It’s a mature technology that has been around for a long time as well being developed by General Electric in the 1970’s.


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