What is a DLP Projector?

Garry Crystal

A Digital Light Processing (DLP) projector is a revolutionary technology that uses an optical semiconductor to digitally manipulate light. It incorporates a reliable, all-digital display chip that delivers the very best picture quality available. A DLP projector system can be used in a variety of products, including projectors used for business or home entertainment, large screen digital televisions and digital cinema.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

The basis of the DLP projector system is the optical semiconductor known as the Digital Micromirror Device (DMD) chip. Dr. Larry Hornbeck invented the DMD chip in 1987 while working for Texas Instruments. In basic terms, the chip is the world's most sophisticated light switch. It contains a rectangular display of around two million hinge-mounted microscopic mirrors, each measuring less than one-fifth the thickness of a human hair. Once the chip is coordinated with a light source, a projection lens and a digital video or graphic signal, the mirrors reflect a digital image onto a screen or other surface. The DLP projector chip and the electronics that surround it are called Digital Light Processing technology.

The reason the DLP projector is described as a light switch is because tiny hinged mirrors are able to tilt towards the light source in a DLP projector system to turn it on, or swing away from the light to turn it off. This creates a dark or light pixel on the projection surface. The image code enables the "light switch" to be turned off and on thousands of times per second. The system can reflect pixels in up to 1,024 different shades of gray. This can convert graphic or video signals entering the chip into a detailed grayscale image.

At least 16.7 million colors can be created using a single chip DLP projector system. White light generated from a lamp passes through a color wheel as it moves to the surface of the chip. The wheel filters the light into red, green and blue. The three-chip DLP projector system is capable of producing 35 trillion colors. This system produces stunning high quality, high brightness pictures for use in cinemas or large venue screenings.

The display technology used can either make the worlds smallest projectors with no loss in quality, or can light up the largest film screens. The technology is also in high demand wherever visual excellence is needed. The result is clarity of picture, with a color and brilliance that has never been seen before.

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