3M takes aim with picoprojector

3M is aiming to take a slice of the emerging market for picoprojectors. Although arriving behind Texas Instruments and Microvision, 3M believes its liquid-crystal technology will drive the projectors into personal digital assistants and smartphones.

3M is using the combination of a liquid crystal on silicon engine illuminated by LEDs. The resulting module – about the size of an earpiece and less than half an inch thick – is capable of showing a 5in VGA image under ‘normal’ lighting, and a 50in image in a darkened room – with power consumption of just 1W.

“We have launched our own product, but the main objective is to licence the technology into other devices,” said Michael O’Keefe of the company’s optical systems division.

At its current size, the device appears best suited to the larger PDAs that run Windows Mobile versions of Powerpoint, and also to laptops and the emerging netbook market.
“We are working to further reduce the projector’s size as that will open up more consumer opportunities,” O’Keefe said.

3M’s technology uses liquid crystals rather than the micromirrors used in TI’s DLP system. Each crystal represents the red, blue or green content for one pixel that will feature in the image, and accordingly opens or closes to either pass or block the appropriate RGB content.

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