Market Watch

Kodak Gets FDA Approval for Laser Projector Technology

March 09, 2011

David Hancock David Hancock Director – Research and Analysis, Cinema & Home Entertainment, IHS Markit
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Kodak has received approval of a variance from the US Food and Drug Administration for its proposed laser technology for cinema projectors, required because the use of lasers (or indeed any manufactured radiation-emitting device) and is governed and restricted by a number of laws and regulations. The variance means that Kodak can sell the systems without the need for each individual cinema site and operator to seek their own variances from the FDA. The variance essentially means that the FDA believes that this technology as proposed by Kodak is safe for use in public. It also serves as an application template for its potential licensees to follow, saving them time and money although they will still need to do it if they make any modifications or improvements. Kodak unveiled their innovative step forward in cinema projection in September 2010. Company expects the laser light source to be replaced every 30,000 hours compared to 500-1000 hours for current Xenon bulbs. This would reduce the overall lifetime ownership of a projector, although it may make the upfront costs higher.

Kodak believes that this technology will be of special interest for 3D operation, given that they contend this technology will produce higher brightness. After more than ten years of standards discussions, and six years after DCI reported, the market is just approaching compliance to the specification laid out by DCI and now working its way through global standards making-bodies. This new technology could destabilise the market to some extent, especially for those who are yet to make their final decisions, but the majority of the world's mainstream cinemas will be converted by the time it comes to market. The main issue with this innovation is one of timing, when there were 37,000 digital cinema projection systems in place at end 2010, and a further 20,000 expected this year. Kodak is looking to license this technology to other manufacturers and bring products to market within two years. However, Barco recently demonstrated its laser technology and put a 'to-market time' of 3-5 years. Laser Light Engines, a third company that is investigating this area with backing from a group of investors including IMAX, is also actively developing a laser technology solution, for IMAX in the first instance having signed a MOU that gives IMAX exclusivity for a two year period for large venue use and three years for the very largest (ie those currently in 70mm format).

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