The Origins of DLP

January 24, 2007

DLP ChipI ran across an interesting article over at EE Times about Texas Instruments early research into digital micromirror devices (DMD’s), the digital micromirrors employed in DLP (digital light processing) projectors. The devices actually got their start in the analog realm and were invented by TI’s Larry Hornbeck.

As with many other notable inventions we take for granted today, the initial need for micromirrors (MEMS) sprang from a military contract. The entire interview is quite interesting but here a few of the notable bits I gleaned from it:

Micromirror research goes all the way back to 1977 at Texas instruments.

By 1986 Hornbeck had decided that his research team had to move to the digital domain to achieve the desired image uniformity.

Hornbeck invented the digital micromirror device in 1987 and immediately applied for a patent. Of course no one could have known at the time that Hornbecks little invention would one day revolutionize the home entertainment world as we know it.

The first commercialization of a DMD was in an airline ticket printer in 1990. The image was created on the ticket by focusing light from the DMD onto a special paper-stock embedded with colored plastic powder.

HDTV applications for DMD’s were again spurred by a military contract in 1989. As early as 1989 TI was working with a British firm to develop 3-Chip DMD projectors.

Texas Instruments officially began in-house work on their HDTV capable DMD’s in 1991 and had their first DLP products ready for commercial consumption in 1996.

The first three DLP projection customers/manufacturers were InFocus, nView and Proxima. This was also the same timeframe that Epson was finalizing their first foray into LCD projection.

As of 2007, DLP has about 50 percent of the worldwide front projection market.

Texas Instruments and Larry Hornbeck were awarded Emmys in 1998 from the Academy of Televisions Arts & Sciences. TI got its Emmy for DLP and Hornbeck received his for the invention of digital micromirrors.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater Projectors


Comments

  • HT

    I too believe DLP is here to stay for quite some time – like forever. It is a superior technology to LCD and is only surpassed by SXRD and D-ILA in quality. SED technology may obsolete all of the current formats but that will not happen for a LONG time indeed.

  • HT

    I too believe DLP is here to stay for quite some time – like forever. It is a superior technology to LCD and is only surpassed by SXRD and D-ILA in quality. SED technology may obsolete all of the current formats but that will not happen for a LONG time indeed.

  • B.Greenway

    Hi JP, I assure you rumors of DLP’s demise are greatly exaggerated 🙂 the ratio of DLP to LCD projectors alone would prove this. LCD, D-ILA, SXRD and DLP (and other technologies) will all co-exist for quite sometime.

  • B.Greenway

    Hi JP, I assure you rumors of DLP’s demise are greatly exaggerated 🙂 the ratio of DLP to LCD projectors alone would prove this. LCD, D-ILA, SXRD and DLP (and other technologies) will all co-exist for quite sometime.

  • JP

    I’ve read recently (one some popular forum) that DLP is a dying technology for TVs i.e. lots of manufacturers looking at other technologies. Looks like LCDs are the biggest buzz now. I own an older DLP TV and absolutely love it. I would hate to see DLPs just die.

    Do I just get the wrong vibe or is there some truth to this?

  • JP

    I’ve read recently (one some popular forum) that DLP is a dying technology for TVs i.e. lots of manufacturers looking at other technologies. Looks like LCDs are the biggest buzz now. I own an older DLP TV and absolutely love it. I would hate to see DLPs just die.

    Do I just get the wrong vibe or is there some truth to this?