Inside Panasonic Visual Products
Asking the developers of the
3-Chip DLP™ Projector
A deeper look into our engineering thoughts leading up to the development of the new PT-RQ50K, and the secrets behind the product development!
“We wanted to create the world's smallest and lightest 50,000-lumen projector, capable of revolutionizing the visual experience with never before seen large-scale images.”
When it comes to entertainment, everyone wants more. More power, more excitement, a bigger image, a better image. So, it was our main mission to create a brighter, more detailed projector capable of breathtaking images that would capture the audience.
On the other hand, the excellence of a projector lies not only in the beautiful images, but also its ability to recreate images of virtually any subject and, by increasing the number of projectors, achieve it in an unlimited scale. However, the more projectors you add, the more concerns there are behind the scenes, due to the proportional increase in peripheral devices, cables, setup time and cost. The live event industry needed to be able to create immersive spaces, while minimizing such on-site hassles. Despite such trends, a look around showed us that while there were projectors exceeding 50,000 lumens, the majority of them were large, heavy and divided into multiple cabinets. This certainly did not meet the needs of the customer.
—— So this was the birthplace of the world's smallest and lightest 50,000-lm projector.
Next, let's explore why the picture quality of the PT-RQ50K garners such high praise!
Pursuit of Image Quality
“We pursued a “red” that glows with projection mapping.”
A projector as bright as 50,000 lm the most active when it is used for projection mapping on large structures such as buildings, castles and stadium grounds.
So we asked ourselves, what kind of image quality is required in such applications?
As we were evaluating our first prototype in an attempt to project a bigger, brighter image than ever before, we instantly felt that brightness alone would not suffice. It just wasn't enough impact. So, what do we have to do to deliver the world's best images to impress our customers?
The solution was to equip the projector with a red laser.
With projection mapping, images are projected not only onto bright white screens, but onto a variety of materials as well. When light is absorbed or reflected onto those materials, or when ambient light enters, there are many cases in which the color and brightness you want to express cannot be obtained. In order to faithfully and powerfully express the colors and brightness intended by the creators of the content, we needed to achieve a wide color gamut which would only be possible by adding a red laser and achiving a particularly brilliant “red.”
“But it wasn’t enough — we had to combine the “powerful red” with our long-time commitment to “skin color”.”
We soon hit a dilemma. When we simply created a wide color gamut, the balance was lost with delicate colors such as skin tones and fruits, causing them to appear unnatural.
So, by using a newly developed 3D Color Management System that can freely control colors, we learned to control the red laser. After checking hundreds of images and hundreds of colors, we were finally able to create both natural and high-impact images.
* Images are simulated.
Our ideal red came from our focus to not only realize powerful colors by adding a red laser, but also by controlling its output for the utmost natural expression,
—— So that's how the PT-RQ50K realizes an image quality that not only expresses a high-impact “red” that glows with projection mapping, but also very natural colors, such as human skin tones. In the following volume, we will explain in detail how we achieved such image quality while maintaining stable operation and reliability.
Our Struggle with the Red Laser
“While adding multiple red lasers, we still wanted to deliver it in a compact body, and we still needed to secure the ability for reliable and stable operation. It took us multiple tries to discover a light source design that met all three, image quality, size, and reliability.”
—— This would be the first time a Panasonic Projector would carry the red laser, were there any challenges?
Although the red laser is essential in creating the image quality we aimed for, it comes with some challenges.
First, compared to the blue laser, the red laser has a lower output, so there is a need to equip many lasers to produce the same level of brightness as the blue laser.
This simply would result in an increase in size.
Next, red lasers have a characteristic where the output changes greatly when the temperature of the laser module changes, and the instability of the brightness of the displayed images was one of the greatest problems that we faced.
So, in order to control the temperature-sensitive red lasers, we used a semiconductor device called a Peltier element to maintain a constant temperature with full digital control.
However, because condensation is generated inside the product in high temperatures and humid environments, we struggled to find a control method and structural design of the Peltier elements to suppress this.
Finding a way to control its size, and stable operation were one of the biggest struggles.
—— So, as you can see, there were many struggles to overcome in order to deliver the PT-RQ50K, with brilliant colors while maintaining stable operation
“We created several prototypes using various materials, and finally succeeded in developing an optical engine that can withstand an ultra-high brightness of 50,000 lumens.”
Since the PT-RQ50K is significantly brighter than conventional projectors, the temperature of the optical engine inside the projector increases and the engine is exposed to high temperatures.
These high temperatures can cause unwanted expansion, or distortion in the prism and lens, which are key, delicate components of the optical engine. As a result of being exposed to unprecedented high temperatures, the internal lens may break, and the image quality declines with the defocusing of the projected images.
In order to develop a 50,000-lumen projector, we reviewed the materials for each component and redesigned the optical system using the most suitable materials.
—— Was there anything that was gained by redesigning the optical system?
Yes. For example, by redesigning the prism with undistorted materials, the focus was improved, and we were able to improve the reliability of the entire optical engine more than ever before by redesigning the lens using materials with excellent heat resistance properties. We believe that we have approached the ideal projector that can be used by our customers with full confidence.
Our Commitment to a Compact Size
“This world most compact size was achieved through the desires of each individual hardware designer, who wished to reduce the projector's size by even the tiniest millimeter, and the continued challenges of steady downsizing.”
What first contributed to the compactness was a significant reduction in the size of the radiator used for liquid cooling.
With the newly developed radiator, we were able to make the cooling path as thin as possible using fine processing technology.
As a result, we were able to maintain the necessary heat dispersion performance while downsizing.
However, even with the new radiator we still had to shorten the depth by 11 cm to fit it into the conventional footprint.
—— Were major design changes required to further downsize?
Yes, in order to give shape to everyone’s desires of delivering a smaller sized projector to the customer, we had to review everything from the design and layout of nearly half of the overall parts from scratch at the timing of the final engineering sample prototyping process.
—— Along with pursuing the color reproducibility required by the customer, we were very committed to the compactness, even though there were many hardships and conflicts that had to be overcome!
“In an unbelievably short one-year development period, the Design, Factory and Quality Assurance Departments worked together to overcome the tough hurdles of developing new models of the mechanisms, optics, cooling and electrical circuits from the development stage.”
—— This will be the final edition of this series. The PT-RQ50K achieved the world's first ultrahigh brightness of 50,000 lumens in a body lighter than 150kg. What an incredible development this must have been.
For the RQ50K, we newly designed everything from the electrical circuits, software, optical system, projection lens, structure and mechanical components of the projector. We had to accomplish this all in a year, so it was one of the most challenging developments.
With a large venue category product like the PT-RQ50K, our main customers are rental, staging and theme park companies. We had a goal of making it in time for the season required by these customers, so the development schedule was extremely tight.
We built red lasers into a compact body, and pursued a brilliant "red" that glows with projection mapping, we even achieved the goal of doubling the brightness while practically maintaining the same body as before. We newly designed everything.
Development Engineers, Design, Factory and Quality Assurance Departments all gathered to share the same goal, and with great team work and passion, we were able to overcome the numerous challenges.
I truly believe that the development of the RQ50K is an incredible milestone in projection technology.
We hope that this product will help our partners expand their world of entertainment.