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Counterfeit Projector Lamps: Are You Buying or Selling Them?

The bulb used in a fake lamp will never be the one intended by the projector manufacturer. There is a high chance that the performance will be reduced.

Counterfeit Projector Lamps: Are You Buying or Selling Them?

Apr 2, 2014 10:43 AM,
By Dave Bethell, CEO of Just Lamps

Which is the fake? The one on the right, but you’d need to be a specialist to tell.

On holiday in the Far East recently, I could have bought a $2,000 Rolex watch for $50. Of course, I knew full well it wasn’t a Rolex; no one was being duped. But had that watch cost $1,500, I might have thought I was getting a good deal on the genuine article.

That’s exactly what is happening in the replacement projector lamp industry today. Customers at all points in the channel, from distributor through to the projector owner, are being deceived, and are paying for a seemingly genuine product while unwittingly receiving a fake. It’s an issue affecting all Western markets and it’s a problem that is growing.

At this point, you may be asking, is it really such a problem if people are saving a few dollars and getting a product that does the job? Well, yes, it is.

Putting aside for the moment the issue of fraud, one of the real problems with counterfeits is performance. The bulb used in a fake lamp will never be the one intended by the projector manufacturer. There is a high chance that the performance will be reduced. The wrong reflector shape and poor burner quality means reduced light entering the projector optics, leading to a duller image. The incorrect bulb wattage will stress other electrical components such as the ballast, leading to a shortened lamp lifetime and maybe early projector failure. At this point, those few dollars saved start to feel like a false economy.

I’ll mention briefly the not-so-minor detail of the safety. These glass and mercury products operate at temperatures of 8,000 degrees Celsius and pressures of 200 atmospheres. Some require an ignition voltage of up to 20Kv. With this knowledge, cheap fakes start to sound rather worrying.

Let’s move on to how a counterfeit lamp can damage your reputation and business. Many new commercial relationships start small. It’s not uncommon for the sale of a replacement lamp to be the first transaction in what is hoped to be a long-term relationship. If you unwittingly sell a new customer a counterfeit item that fails after a short time or performs shoddily, then you’ve killed the relationship before it even gets off the ground. Gain a reputation for selling unreliable lamps and there will be serious consequences for your business.

To go back to the issue of fraud, it’s simply dishonest for these counterfeiters to benefit from the millions of dollars invested by the projector manufacturers in producing safe, efficient, and consistent products.

Spotting a fake is easier said than done. The problem is that these counterfeit lamps are very convincing. Visually, they appear to be the real McCoy. The packaging, manuals, and bulbs all have the look of an original. The right logos and markings seem to be in place and unless you have an original to compare them with, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference. Even if you are an expert, you can be fooled, as my own company found out to its cost recently. Despite rigorous quality control, we had an incident where a few dozen fake Epson lamps got into our supply chain.

This is why we recently launched a website to help the industry identify the majority of counterfeit lamps, The website advises how to read important markings, by bulb brand, that should be identical on old and new lamps and help you check you have what looks like the genuine article.

This is not a problem that can be solved by any one organization. Everyone involved in the channel needs to look at their product sources and work together to clean up the supply chain. Steps to take include avoiding prices that sound too good to be true and educating yourselves and your colleagues about how to spot errors in markings.

Dave Bethell is CEO of Just Lamps, the world’s largest specialist projector lamp distributor. Just Lamps has created a free website to help the whole channel identify counterfeit lamps. |

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