Osram lights up digital cinema


XBO bulb production

The Oscar-winning XBO cinema lamp unites high luminance with long life

The cinema has been exciting audience members worldwide for more than 100 years. Only when animated pictures are put on-screen, they become blockbusters, which occasionally go down in the history of motion pictures. While at the beginning of the motion-picture theatre only short films could be projected, we now have a new digital era. Now large data bundles, compressed on small hard drives are delivered to the cinemas that are only decoded and converted into pictures once they are inside the projector. Screening in high-definition requires one thing in particular: High-performance light. The XBO cinema lamp from Osram, the leading light supplier to the movie industry, has been writing film history for over 50 years – and still is in demand for digital projection. They combine a high luminosity with a long service life and thus are an economical solution for cinema operators that are converting their cinemas for the digital era.

The history of cinemas has been accompanied by the light of XBO for more than five decades. In 1983, Osram even received an Oscar for the outstanding light output of its cinema lamp. The company produces the XBO in its factory in Eichstätt as the only manufacturer using fully automated production. In comparison to handmade cinema lamps, the tolerance values are very low, so that customers all around the world can profit from the consistent high quality of the lamps. As a result of the dependable high quality standard, the XBO is now used in every second cinema worldwide.

Nowadays more and more cinema operators are opting for digital projection. This makes sense not only because of the sharp details and colour rendering, but also since the majority of films nowadays are produced digitally.

Economical high performance

In general, cinema projection lamps need a compact design, must possess a high light density and convince through a long service life. Light output requirements have increased with digital projection. A particular bright lamp is necessary to ensure a brilliant reproduction of clear images that illuminate the whole screen. Cinema operators therefore demand a high performance and economical solution.

The XBO fulfils these requirements. It is a short arc xenon lamp which generates lots of light in a small area through gas discharge, and therefore has a particularly high luminance. The arc tube in which the gas discharge takes place after lighting, is positioned between two Tungsten electrodes. Made from high temperature resistant quartz glass, it is resilient against extreme temperature changes and high pressure. The XBO also proves robust against vibration: the capillaries i.e. the finely elongated case at the side of the arc tube is protected by a coil spring. In the case of a fall, this cushions the delicate lamp. The cinema lamp impresses with its long life of many thousand hours. Its daylight-similar light of 6,200 K remains constant over the entire lifespan, so that maintenance costs for cinema operators are greatly reduced.

The companion in the digital age

Both sides benefit from digital cinema projection with the help of the XBO. Audiences are delighted with the clear, vibrant pictures. Thanks to the interaction of consistently high quality, luminance and service life, cinema operators can keep their expenses under control. Osram is constantly developing its cinema lamps in co-operation with projection manufacturers, so that it can remain the reliable companion in the digital age.

Milestones of the XBO cinema lamp:

  • 1949 Start of XBO development
  • 1952 XBO 1,000 W lamps for 35 mm projection
  • 1954 First commercial film projection
  • 1970 XBO lamps for horizontal operation
  • 1980 Introduction of ozone-free quartz glass
  • 1983 XBO awarded an Oscar
  • 1998 XBO used for digital video projectors
  • 2001 Extended durability and guarantee
  • 2006 XBO series for every manufacturer of digital cinema projectors
  • 2009 Robust coil spring design
  • 2010 Start of fully automated production
  • 2012 Especially long lasting XBO lamps used for digital cinema

Image gallery

XBO electrode assembly

XBO laser processing

manual spot check


OSRAM of Munich, Germany is one of the two leading light manufacturers in the world. The company's portfolio covers the entire value chain from components – including lamps, opto semiconductors like light-emitting diodes (LED) – to electronic control gears as well as complete luminaires, light management systems and lighting solutions. OSRAM has around 39,000 employees worldwide and generated revenue of 5.4 billion Euros in fiscal year 2012 (ended September 30, 2012). More than 70 percent of its revenue comes from energy-efficient products. The company's business activities have been focusing on light – and hence on quality of life – for over 100 years. Additional information can be found in the internet at www.osram-group.com