So far this year, sales of lamp-free projectors with 500 lumens or higher have grown 20 percent over last year, says projector market analyst firm PMA Research. “By 2016, we expect annual shipments of lamp-free units to more than triple from 2013,” said Linda Norton, vice president of PMA.
Lamp-free projectors, which use solid-state illumination (SSI) instead of traditional mercury lamps, include LED-only projectors, laser-only projectors, and hybrid projectors that use LEDs and lasers. Since Casio brought the first hybrid projectors to market in 2010, a number of other manufacturers have launched SSI models in different segments of the projector market.
For mobile presentations or small-group settings, there are two- to three-pound LED-based models from the likes of Acer, BenQ, Canon, Dell, InFocus, LG, NEC, Optoma, ViewSonic, and Vivitek. In the mainstream and high-end segments, which encompasses K-12 and higher education, lamp-free projectors are primarily hybrid models from Casio and Panasonic, PMA says—as well as Sony’s laser-lit model, which the company introduced last year.
Meanwhile, new SSI models continue to appear. This spring, Casio unveiled its first ultra short-throw projector running on a hybrid LED-laser light engine, the XJ-UT310WN. This newest model enables schools to project an 80-inch image from just 18 inches away, eliminating shadows.
Although SSI projectors currently account for less than 5 percent of the U.S. market for projectors with 500 lumens or higher, that figure is expected to reach nearly 15 percent by 2016, PMA says.
PMA’s surveys of projector owners and shoppers have confirmed the bright outlook for lamp-free projectors. In 2011, PMA’s survey showed that 65 percent of respondents felt hybrid or LED illumination was “very important” or an “absolute must.” In the research firm’s 2013 survey, this figure jumped to 92 percent.
“This reflects the growing desire to go green, as well as reduce the overall cost of ownership of projectors,” Norton said.
Traditional projector lamps contain mercury, which is harmful to humans and the environment. To emphasize the dangers of mercury lamps, Casio has launched a grant program in which it will give away its latest lamp-free projector to one school in each state.
To apply, schools must educate their students about the hazards that mercury poses, then have students write an essay about what they’ve learned. The schools whose essays receive the most votes on Casio’s website will win.
For Don Fournier, IT manager for the Phoenix Union High School District, it wasn’t just the composition of the light source that mattered.
The lamp-free projectors “operate cooler, use significantly less power than traditional bulb projectors, and are bright enough to be used in a fully lit room with the window shades open,” he said. He expects to save about $25,000 per year in electricity costs by running the new projectors.