Why are Projector Lamps so expensive?
Can you remember when we used to pay about $10.00 for a projector lamp? These were the small MR16 halogen lamps that fit into a variety of overhead and slide projectors so common in schools and training facilities. Why are we now paying upward of $300.00 for projector lamps?
The ENX lamp was a popular halogen lamp. My cross reference shows the ENX being used in over 250 different projectors from 3M, Apollo, BUHL, Dukane, Elmo etc.. It costs about $10.00 is 360 watts, lasts about 75 hours and produces 2500 lumens.
The newer metal halide lamp Proxima LAMP-016 is used in over 40 multimedia projectors from Boxlight, Canon, Eiki, Proxima and Sanyo. This lamp cost about $200.00 ($349.00 when first introduced) is 200 watts, lasts 2000 hours and the projector is rated for about 2200 lumens.
Life is one primary difference. The newer metal halide lamps last approximately 2000 hours compared to the 50 -100 hours of tungsten halogen type lamps. Some Philips UHP type mercury vapor lamps last as long as 6000 hours. A lamp that lasts 20X as long is easily worth 20X as much as it reduces the number of times you have to replace the bulb. Lamps never blow out at an opportune time so extending the life of these lamps exponentially increases the value of the lamp just from a convenience factor.
Light output is another significant factor. The ENX lamp uses tungsten halogen technology. This is similar to incandescent lamps as electricity is passed over a wire and the resulting resistance heats the wire until visible light is produced. Normal incandescent lamps use carbon filaments and as the carbon evaporates from the filament it attaches itself to the inside of the glass bulb. Over the course of its life it steadily coats the inside of the lamp with carbon, reducing light output and life.
The tungsten halogen cycle is unique because as the tungsten evaporates from the filament it combines with the halogen gas and redeposit’s itself back on the filament. This reduces the amount of darkening to the bulb envelope throughout the life of the lamp.
Metal halide projector lamps do not have a filament, but produce light by creating a spark between two electrodes. The spark is created by a high amp jolt from the power supply and ballast. This ignites the mercury vapor which produces light. The small point source of light is then focused by the reflector into a tight focal point at the lens. The reflector is so meticulously designed that all available light is focused to the front of the lamp, which virtually eliminates all ambient light and reduces heat buildup. This design allows more light to be delivered to the screen so bright crisp clean images can be seen even in a brightly lit room via a 200w lamp.
The primary manufacturers of these lamps Philips (UHP) and Osram (VIP) spent a significant amount of money in the design and tooling to manufacturer these lamps to the exact specifications of the projector manufacturer. I think it is reasonable to allow them to get a return on their investment. Generic lamp manufacturers have come along and copied the design of these lamps. Their R&D costs are significantly less then it was for the company that created the technology. This allows them to sell a much cheaper lamp. At AllProjectorLamps I am constantly asked about the quality of generic types. My answer: Some generics manufacturers produce a top notch product, but they are only a copy of the original. I have lots of customers that tell me that the generic brand works just as well as the original. I have never heard them say that it works better.