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What is DLP® Technology?

The DLP® chip was invented by Dr. Larry Hornbeck of Texas Instruments in 1987.
It is probably the world's most sophisticated light switch. It contains a rectangular array of up to 2 million hinge-mounted microscopic mirrors; each of these micromirrors measures less than one-fifth the width of a human hair.

DLP Chip picture
DLP chip and Ant leg

DLP® chip

Ant leg in front of DLP® chip

When a DLP® chip is coordinated with a digital video or graphic signal, a light source, and a projection lens, its mirrors can reflect a digital image onto a screen or other surface. The DLP® chip and the sophisticated electronics that surround it are what we call DLP® technology.

How does DLP® work?

  • The greyscale image

DLP Mirrors

DLP® mirrors

A DLP® chip's micromirrors are mounted on tiny hinges that enable them to tilt either toward the light source in a DLP® projection system (ON) or away from it (OFF)-creating a light or dark pixel on the projection surface.

The bit-streamed image code entering the semiconductor directs each mirror to switch on and off up to several thousand times per second. When a mirror is switched on more frequently than off, it reflects a light grey pixel; a mirror that's switched off more frequently reflects a darker grey pixel.

In this way, the mirrors in a DLP® projection system can reflect pixels in up to 1,024 shades of grey to convert the video or graphic signal entering the DLP® chip into a highly detailed greyscale image.

  • Adding colour

The white light generated by the lamp in a DLP® projection system passes through a colour wheel as it travels to the surface of the DLP® chip. The colour wheel filters the light into red, green, and blue, from which a single-chip DLP® projection system can create at least 16.7 million colours. And the 3-chip system found in DLP Cinema® projection systems is capable of producing no fewer than 35 trillion colours.

The on and off states of each micromirror are coordinated with these three basic building blocks of colour. For example, a mirror responsible for projecting a purple pixel will only reflect red and blue light to the projection surface; our eyes then blend these rapidly alternating flashes to see the intended hue in a projected image.

Applications and Configurations

  • 1-chip DLP® projector system

1-chip DLP projection system

1-chip DLP® projection system

Televisions, home theater systems and business projectors using DLP® technology rely on a single chip configuration like the one described above.

White light passes through a colour filter, causing red, green, blue and even additional primary colours such as yellow cyan, magenta and more to be shone in sequence on the surface of the DLP® chip. The switching of the mirrors, and the proportion of time they are 'on' or 'off' is coordinated according to the colour shining on them. Then the sequential colours blend to create a full-colour image you see on the screen.

  • 3-chip DLP® projector system

DLP® technology-enabled projectors for vey high image quality or very high brightness applications such as cinema and large venue displays rely on a 3-chip configuration to produce stunning images, whether moving or still.

In a 3-chip system, the white light generated by the lamp passes through a prism that divides it into red, green and blue. Each DLP® chip is dedicated to one of these three colours; the coloured light that the micromirrors reflect is then combined and passed through the projection lens to form an image.

3-chip DLP projection system

3-chip DLP® projection system

To see a Flash demo of how DLP® works please click here (pop up)

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