How To Refurbish an Epson Powerlite 5500c Image Engine.

I don't know if this qualifies as a hack per say, but this might encourage some enterprising young dumpster diver to try and fix their own projectors. I got this projector from a friend of mine for free. He gave it to me because the lenses were rattling around inside of it, leading to it displaying ugly blue and yellow bars on the edges of the screen. I figured I'd take it apart and fix the problem myself. 

Difficulty level: Epson's factory service manual has this to say on opening and repairing parts of the Powerlite 5500C image engine. "There are no technician serviceable parts inside. The entire image engine must be replaced as a unit. You do not have the proper tools to re-align the components and the electronics are all calibrated for this specific image engine, and its components."

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Yes. I know this webpage sucks.  I am not good with interwebs. Enjoy the pretty photos and ignore the markup.

Step one, Remove cover. The cover is held in place by 6 screws. There is a retractable piece of metal for the shoulder strap that needs to be pushed in to remove the cover. Lift and rotate the cover from the opposite from the strap ring and slowly pull it off. There is a ribbon cable that you do not want to damage. Disconnect the ribbon cable and set the cover aside.

Remove the following 6 screws on the top of the image engine, and the metal bracket. You should already know this, but remember which screws go where, it's important. 

Disconnect the ribbon cable, and the 5 other cables from the top circuit board and set it aside.

Remove the air filter and thermal sensor and set it aside.

Disconnect the lamp fuse wire from the image engine.

If you have a problem with the fan on the bottom of the image engine, it can be accessed, by removing the image engine entirely from the projector housing. Remove the back plate of the projector by removing the 4 (2 by the time you have the cover off) screws holding it in place if you need to pull the image engine, Otherwise leave the back plate in place.

These are 4 screws that hold the image engine inside the projector. Once you remove them the image engine can be lifted out after unscrewing two sensors. This is not covered in this how-to because I'm lazy and don't want to tear the projector that far down again. Deal with it.

To access the image engine internals. Remove the 5 screws holding the top cover in place, and disconnect the 3 ribbon cables. Lift the top cover of the image engine off slightly and tap it a few times to make sure no lens elements are stuck to it as you remove it. Set it aside.

Behold the glory of the image engine.

Before you start playing with things, it is important to PAY ATTENTION TO WHERE EACH LENS AND FILTER GOES! THEY ARE NOT INTERCHANGABLE AND ORIENTATION MATTERS! This sounds scary but it's not. Clean one lens or filter at a time, then set it back in place (I used lens cleaner and a microfiber towel for cleaning. I would advise against using anything but this). The slots for shaped lenses are contoured, and they will only fit in the slot in the correct direction. Match the bevel of the slot to the curve of the lens.

Now Epson engineers did something really really nice for you, so pay attention to this next photo. You can see this is the slot for one of the filters. Note the tapered edge at the top of the slot. These tapered edges are found all over the image engine, and they mean something. You will notice the filters are held in place with yellow foam pads. Whenever a lens or a filter is inserted into it's slot, the pads should be facing that tapered edge like this one is.

The problem I encountered with this projector was caused by these foam pads. Over time, being exposed to the heat of the lamp caused them to shrivel up and no longer hold the lenses in place. The solution is to carefully remove the shriveled foam from the lens, and replace it with fresh padding. (In my case I used cork floor protectors for furniture.)

I only needed to replace the foam pads for these 2 elements. They are closest to the bulb and take the most heat. Important note here. These 2 lens elements are not only padded to hold them up against the slot, but also to a specific SIDE of the slot. Pay attention to the tapered edges of the slots and you will have no problems aligning them correctly.

This second lens element is a bit tricky to deal with because it has multiple parts inside. Make sure you use a system when you take it apart so you can put it back together without turning anything around. Remove the metal retaining clip, then the two glass elements underneath it. They are only held in place by the clip so don't drop them. Beneath those is a metal plate with a dull and shiny side, and finally at the bottom you'll see last lens. Replace the foam, and make sure the last lens is pressed to the correct side of the plastic enclosure. Then reassemble the whole unit and put it back in.

Finally, There are foam pads on the bottom of the top cover of the light engine. You may have to replace some of them as well, or elements will still be able to move.

You might notice what appear to be alignment screws here. DON'T FUCK WITH THEM.

Once you have cleaned all the elements inside the light engine, replaced all the bad foam pads, and put the lenses and filters back into place; reassemble the whole thing in reverse order. If you did it correctly you will no longer see yellow or blue bars on the edges of your screen! 

Over time, astonishing amounts of crud build up on all the optics, causing a loss of image quality on the screen, usually in the form of small droplet like splotches that darken the image. After cleaning everything I have noticed a marked difference in the clarity and brightness of the display. It is without a doubt, better then when I got it.

An exploded look at the image engine. The main zoom lens and the LCD module can only be removed like this when the entire image engine is outside the projector.  A fan is normally located on the bottom of the LCD module, and is not pictured in this image. This level of disassembly will allow you to clean the LCD modules and the rear element of the main zoom lens.  DO NOT REMOVE THE LCD MODULES FROM THE PRISM! Leave them where they are. You do not have the proper tools to re-align them and will end up with convergence issues.  Just clean the sides that are visible to you with lens cleaner and a microfiber cloth.

This is the fan from the bottom of the image engine.  You can see why I had to replace mine.  2 broken blades, caused by yours truly with a can of canned air. Those little red straws are sharp!

These fans go for 30-40 dollars refurbished. Part number: NMB 2406KL-04W-B59-L05  Don't break yours.