Even though flat panels have taken over most of the TV market and continue to fall in price, the larger screen sizes remain out of reach of most consumers. TVs that are 60 inches and up remain the last hope of a dying RPTV market. Breathing some air into this market is QPC Lasers (Sylmar, CA; www.qpclasers.com), which manufactures high-power lasers for consumer, industrial, defense and medical markets. The company has completed a $12M development of lasers for projection TV and disclosed this week that its customer, Asia Optical (Taichung, Taiwan; www.asia-optical.com), has successfully demonstrated a 60-inch RPTV based on the lasers and unnamed LCOS imagers, on display at QPC’s headquarters, actually for the past three weeks.
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QPC says that its BrightLase red-green-blue (RGB) lasers offer advantages to consumer electronics manufacturers including expanded color gamut, low power consumption, long lifetime and an ultra-compact footprint for all microdisplay-based RPTVs, including LCOS, DLP, LCD and scanning micro-mirrors technologies.
I had a chance to speak today with Paul Rudy, VP Marketing and Sales, who said that QPC offers a unique solution for TV illumination, but even for laser manufacturers. First of all, he says, they make all three colors, and they make them in house at their fab in the L.A. area. Secondly, the lasers are easy to integrate optically into an illumination system. The 3W blue and green lasers are single beam. And the 6W red laser is a "direct laser array" on a single chip. All have good collimation, which makes them easy to use, he said.
Another advantage of the QPC lasers is their efficiency — 20% for red, 10%+ for green and 5%+ for blue. And most importantly, these lasers are designed from the ground up for high-volume, low-cost manufacture. "All the critical components are fabbed here," Rudy said, "or are broadly available. There are no special optical elements." The unique enabling technology is the semiconductor laser engine, which is entirely proprietary, protected by trade secrets and 16 patents, he added.
QPC demonstrated its first green laser (based on frequency doubling of its proprietary BrightLase single-mode laser technology) just last September, and entered the market for visible lasers late last year. The company demonstrated pico-projector 0.5W versions of its lasers two months ago in a suite at SID, covered by Insight Media, and was present at the Projection Summit.
Within eight months of signing the development agreement, QPC completed the development phase of the contract last month. "Asia Optical has already demonstrated a very large and impressive first image," said QPC co-founder and CEO Dr. Jeffrey Ungar.
No one is saying when a TV based on this technology will become available. But the company is under exclusive contract with AOCI to supply $11M in lasers for delivery over the next three years, and carries a potential value of up to $230M over its 10-year term, QPC said.
Mitsubishi, at CES in January, unveiled a 65-inch rear-projection set with laser illumination. The result is some of the most vivid color we’ve ever seen on any TV, with especially good black-level, as well. And, the DLP set can support display of 3D images. Mitsubishi said the set would appear on the market "later this year" at an undisclosed price, and added that it will cost about the same as flat panel TVs of the same size.
Meanwhile, we think Asia Optical is hoping to do better than that pricewise. AOCI’s products are sold under a number of well known household consumer electronic brand names. According to Rudy, Asia Optical has joint ventures with more than 15 Japanese CE manufacturers. These relationships should lead to an opportunity for laser-TV to offer a better price point that plasma for the largest sizes. I want one.