How DLP Sets Work

By: Tracy V. Wilson & Ryan Johnson

DLP Technology

Colorado Blue Mountain Flower Mosaic
Colorado Blue Mountain Flower Mosaic
Photo courtesy Michael Jastremski for

DLP technology is based on an optical semiconductor, called a Digital Micromirror Device (DMD), which uses mirrors made of aluminum to reflect light to make the picture. The DMD is often referred to as the DLP chip. The chip can be held in the palm of your hand, yet it can contain more than 2 million mirrors each, measuring less than one-fifth the width of a human hair. The mirrors are laid out in a matrix, much like a photo mosaic, with each mirror representing one pixel.

When you look closely at a photo mosaic, each piece of it holds a tiny, square photograph. As you step away from the mosaic, the images blend together to create one large image. The same concept applies to DMDs. If you look closely at a DMD, you would see tiny square mirrors that reflect light, instead of the tiny photographs. From far away (or when the light is projected on the screen), you would see a picture.


The number of mirrors corresponds to the resolution of the screen. DLP 1080p technology delivers more than 2 million pixels for true 1920x1080p resolution, the highest available.

In addition to the mirrors, the DMD unit includes:

  • A CMOS DDR SRAM chip, which is a memory cell that will electrostatically cause the mirror to tilt to the on or off position, depending on its logic value (0 or 1)
  • A heat sink
  • An optical window, which allows light to pass through while protecting the mirrors from dust and debris
DMD architecture
DMD architecture
Photo courtesy of Texas Instruments