TOKYO Victor Company of Japan Ltd. (JVC) and Hitachi Ltd. have started selling their respective homegrown liquid-crystal-on-silicon (LCOS) devices on the merchant market to meet what they say is growing demand for higher-resolution, brighter projectors.
JVC is sampling a 0.7-inch SXGA+ direct-drive image light amplifier (D-ILA) LCOS device, targeting compact projectors and rear-projection TVs. JVC calls the part the smallest available at SXGA+ (1,400 x 1,050-pixel) resolution.
An earlier D-ILA device, developed by JVC in October 1997, features 0.9-inch SXGA resolution and vertically aligned liquid crystals to realize a response time of less than 16 milliseconds and contrast of more than 1,000:1. JVC brought out a projector built with the device in 1998 and has been promoting D-ILA projectors for nearly four years. It claims to have shipped 25,000 units by the end of 2000.
For the merchant market release, JVC has prepared both the 0.9-inch SXGA version and the newly developed 0.7-inch SXGA+ model. The SXGA+ device will aim at applications demanding a small footprint, while the 0.9-inch type will target apps that put a higher value on brightness. Volume production will begin in January. The company said its current production capacity of 10,000 units a month can be expanded if demand warrants such a move.
JVC is also working with Nikon Corp. to combine the D-ILA engine with Nikon's optical systems. The engine will be sold through Mitsui & Co. Ltd.
Hitachi's LCOS device, meanwhile, combines mature twisted nematic technology with a high-speed-response, electrically controlled birefringence (ECB) mode. The 0.9-inch SXGA+ (1,365 x 1,024-pixel) device features a 1000:1 contrast ratio and a response time of less than 8 ms.
Hitachi designed the part into a data projector that has just been released for the U.S. market. In parallel with the projector release, Hitachi has started selling the device to other manufacturers. The company is fabricating the device at its Mobara works semiconductor line, which has a capacity of 15,000 units a month. Customers for the part "should be limited to manufacturers that can design and develop optical systems to be used with the LCOS device, but we are ready for supply," a spokesman said.
Unit shipments of LCOS devices for microdisplays have overtaken shipments of MEMS-type displays in 2001, to make LCOS the second most prevalent microdisplay technology, according to a recent report from Stanford Resources-iSuppli, which tracks the electronic display industry. But the research firm attributed the shift largely to rapid growth in the camcorder- and camera-viewfinder segments. LCOS will penetrate the near-eye application market more deeply than the projection market, accounting for 41 percent of near-eye market value in 2007 but only 8 percent of the projection market value, the firm predicted.