Ultrahigh Definition Microdisplay (UDM)
Alces Technology has developed a novel 1D scanned linear array MEMS microdisplay capable of 8 megapixel images and beyond. In combination with recent developments in semiconductor laser light sources, the Alces Microdisplay provides a low-cost, scalable approach to fulfilling existing and future requirements for UDMs in HMD systems. Combining the Alces Microdisplay with waveguide optics will enable small form-factor HMDs with (1) the lowest cost per pixel and (2) performance levels that cannot be matched by current microdisplay approaches based on OLED, LCOS, or HTPS technology. As part of its Phase I project deliverables, Alces verified performance metrics and completed the design of its microdisplay including the layout of the MEMS device and concepts for the optical core and illumination sub-systems. For Phase II, Alces will develop its microdisplay technology with a focus on form-factor, performance and commercialization potential of the MEMS laser light engine. Alces will demonstrate that the optical specifications set in the UDM project can be met using low-power, commercially-available semiconductor laser sources and will demonstrate a path towards a compelling commercial solution based on this unique approach.
The display industry is experiencing a period of change, with particularly rapid progress in the development of laser light sources as an alternative to LEDs and UHP lamps. Recent announcements on new semiconductor green sources by Sumitomo Electric, Nichia, Rohm and products such as Casio’s Green Slim Projector demonstrate the potential for the laser to enter mainstream commercial products. In addition, the industry is constantly being driven towards ever higher resolutions by the voracious consumer appetite for higher resolutions. Alces is developing a 1D MEMS microdisplay technology that is specifically designed to take advantage of the unique properties of laser light in realizing high resolution projection displays. As such, it is perfectly positioned to capitalize on the recent developments in laser light sources and thus far unmet market requirements for low-cost, bright, ultra-high resolution displays. Furthermore, the AlcesMicrodisplay’s fundamentally low-cost, scalable approach to achieving high resolution will ensure sustainable advantages compared to systems based on incumbent DLP and LCOS light modulator components. There are numerous applications for Alces’ projection technology and funded research programs contributing to the development of Alces’ display technology are likely to prove substantially beneficial to a wide range of market segments - including consumer electronics, indoor digital signage, automotive HUDs and aerospace and defense HUDs and HMDs – as well as benefiting the US display industry. In the consumer electronics space, Alces’technology will allow the creation of ultra-high resolution laser-based projectors with a size and price point an order of magnitude less than is currently possible. This will allow 4K resolution projectors, currently the mainstay of commercial cinema installations, to enter the home. Laser light sources also have high efficiency and a lifetime some two orders of magnitude longer than conventional UHP lamps, providing a clear future environmental benefit. For automotive, defense and aerospace markets Alces’ technology will provide a fundamental change in providing high resolution, wide field-of-view helmet mounted displays (HMDs) and head-up displays (HUDs.) This will result in safety benefits for drivers, due to the quicker reaction time afforded by HUD technologyand for warfighters who will be provided with acuity-limited HMDs providing increased situational awareness. In addition, developments in Alces’ technology would fundamentally benefit its supply chain and ecosystem partners. A good example of this is the semiconductor laser diode industry. In the last year phenomenal progress has been made in the development of gallium nitride-based direct semiconductor green lasers, and in just 12 months since the initial reports of direct semiconductor lasing, engineering samples are now available for purchase. Alces’ productization activities could help stimulate the industry to further improvements in performance and price point and fully realize the potential of this multi-billion dollar industry. Similarly, the ability of Alces’technology to display content at ultra-high resolutions would drive studios, distribution networks and content delivery partners to provide capacity to support this content.
Advanced helmet-mounted displays (HMD) have been proven to improve the safety and success rate of warfighters in combat situations. These HMD systems provide pilots and warfighters with enhanced situational awareness and augment their abilities to fulfill their mission objectives. However, current systems are limited in display resolution, bit depth, and refresh rates. To maintain a strategic advantage, next-generation HMD systems must incorporate a new generation of microdisplay technologies. The Alces Microdisplay is an ideal candidate for the ultrahigh definition HMD systems because of its small pixels, high speed operation, and precise analog control. Through support from the USAF and NSF, Alces has accelerated the development of this microdisplay technology and has demonstrated operation in lab display systems. A commercialization roadmap is being planned to introduce this remarkably versatile technology into various markets and applications. Relative to existing technologies such as LCD-based microdisplays and digital micro-mirror devices, Alces Technology's MEMS-based approach offers significant advantages: 1) reduced device-size, 2) improved optical efficiency, 3) linear scalability to ultrahigh resolution, 4) high frame rate operation. The Alces Microdisplay is a breakthrough scalable display technology with the potential to bridge the gap to visual-acuity limited displays and next generation ultra-high definition HMD systems. BENEFIT: The Alces Microdisplay technology is an innovative display technology with many beneficial qualities in size, scalability and operation. The design is capable of leveraging commercial polarization optical components and emerging laser sources, making the display technology well-aligned with commercial display trends. Alces expect to demonstrate the feasibility of implementing an Alces Microdisplay in a HMD system through collaborative efforts with firms such as Rockwell Collins, who has reviewed the technology and is encouraged by its potential. With these efforts, Alces will be able to realize a stronger HMD design and a quicker path into production. For commercial success, Alces is aligned with the consumer microdisplay market, which addresses various applications including HMDs. The consumer microdisplay market is expected to follow a similar path as CMOS imagers and their adoption into portable consumer electronics such as cell phones, multimedia devices, and digital cameras. With microdisplays, larger images can be generated offering product differentiation and new services and applications. Markets served by microdisplays include various compact projection technologies, high-performance projection technologies, heads-up displays (HUD), and rear projection displays. To address these broad market groups, Alces Technology is focusing its Alces Microdisplay products around three target resolutions: 2K (2048 x 1080), 4K (4096 x 2160), and 8K (7680 x 4320). With these digital cinema standard resolutions, the Alces Microdisplay technology will be able to succeed in the expected $1.1billion microdisplay market in 2012.
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I research project investigates the feasibility of using Micro-Compliant-Interconnect-Mechanisms (MCIMs) to provide chip level communication to Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) devices. MCIMs are microscopic spring connectors fabricated directly on silicon wafers which provide an alternative to soldered flip chip technology for interconnecting individual dies in multi chip modules. Evolving MEMS designs have led to increasingly high-density devices. Providing reliable inter-die electrical interconnections to high density MEMS represents a substantial portion of the overall complexity of these devices. The MCIM connection technology described in this project offers to dramatically reduce the cost of packaged MEMS devices making them available to a much broader market. The broader impact of this technology is that MCIMs represent a novel solution to the challenge of providing high density inter-die electrical connections in devices utilizing multi-chip module architectures. The higher yields and lower production costs provided by MCIMs will lead to new market opportunities for MEMS based laser light modulators. The high costs and relatively low per wafer yields of these devices restrict their use to high end markets. Other applications of MCIMs include the development of micro-probes for use in semiconductor testing.
Ultra high-resolution scanned linear array light engine
Core optical components for deployable ultra high resolution displays will be developed in a program focusing on four main technologies: First is a light modulator that offers high resolution and optical efficiency and can be manufactured with extreme reliability. Second is a laser illumination system that is properly matched to the modulator for high brightness. Third are polarized optical elements for high contrast. Fourth is an optical system architecture that takes advantage of the high switching speeds possible with micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). The components developed in this program are the heart of an optics engine that delivers stunning visual performance for military flight simulation and civilian high performance display applications. Recent advances in laser illumination systems coupled with our new MEMS optical modulator designs will dramatically reduce the size and cost of high resolution projection displays. In addition to demonstrating component technologies, we are also developing metrology tools and methods to facilitate high reliability manufacturing.
The ultimate goal for near-eye displays is visual acuity-limited resolution across a wide field of view. Alces Technology has a novel light engine, capable of better than 3k x 6k resolutions without tiling, yet maintaining the temporal qualities necessary for fast-jet simulations. This light engine leverages existing technologies and investments by the Air Force for new and novel applications. Under this project, Alces will demonstrate the necessary subsystems and develop a design for a revolutionary, lightweight, portable, inexpensive, ultra high-resolution head-mounted display light engine.