Learn more about R&D chemical mechanical polishing by requesting our FREE informational CD.

Download our CMP White Paper


FREE subscription
Subscribe for free to receive each issue of Semiconductor Today magazine and weekly news brief.


1 October 2007


LBO raises $26m to speed laser-based projection system development

Light Blue Optics (LBO) of Cambridge, UK, which develops miniature holographic laser projection systems, has closed a $26m Series ‘A’ funding round, led by Earlybird Venture Capital and Capital-E. Existing investors 3i plc (which led LBO’s $3.5m seed-funding round) and NESTA ( the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts) a lso participated. The funding round follows the release of engineering samples to key customers and strategic development partners from July.

“This $26m investment is one of the most significant European Series ‘A’ investments in the last five years - testament to the remarkable progress LBO has made with its partners and customers over the past 12 months,” says 3i director Stephen Lowery.

Founded in 2004, LBO’s projection technology uses laser light sources and patented holographic techniques to deliver large, full-colour, high-quality video images. A diffraction pattern of the desired two-dimensional image, calculated using LBO’s holographic algorithms, is displayed on a phase-modulating liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) microdisplay. When illuminated by coherent laser light, rather than blocking light, the microdisplay steers the light to exactly where it is needed, making the system highly efficient. Unlike conventional projection systems, LBO’s technology does not require a projection lens. Instead, a demagnification lens pair expands the diffracted image from the microdisplay, producing an ultra-wide throw angle greater than 90º. The projected images are in focus at all distances from the projector – even on curved or angled surfaces without distortion, eliminating the need for a focus control.

As well as easy miniaturization, the technology’s benefits include “exceptional levels of brightness and a robust, lightweight optical architecture [without moving parts] that is highly tolerant to a range of microdisplay defects [such as pixel failure ],” says the firm’s co-founder and director of business development Dr Edward Buckley. As well as low-cost devices for hand-held mobile applications, the technology is also suitable for use in safety critical markets such as aerospace & defence and automotive, he adds.

The new funding will enable LBO to accelerate its product development and commercialization programme towards the high-volume manufacture of projection systems for deployment in a range of markets including automotive, digital signage and consumer electronics, says CEO Dr Chris Harris. In May, LBO also announced a joint development agreement to provide French aerospace & defence company Thales with engineering samples of its miniature holographic laser projection system for aircraft cockpit displays. “LBO has world-beating technology, excellent customer traction across a wide range of markets, a strong investor syndicate and is ideally placed to become the world’s leading supplier of miniature projection systems,” Harris claims.

Capital-E partner Rudi Severijns believes that LBO’s holographic laser projection technology can take a significant share of the rapidly emerging market for miniature projection systems. LBO estimates that the total addressable market will exceed $5bn by 2012.

See related items:

UK’s DTI funding laser projection display technology development by Swansea University

LBO and Thales to develop laser projection displays for aerospace & defence applications