UV Lamp

UV Lamp

UV curing is a speed curing process in which high intensity ultraviolet light is used to create a photochemical reaction that instantly cures inks, adhesives and coatings. UV Curing is adaptable to printing, coating, decorating, stereolithography and assembling of a variety of products and materials owing to some of its key attributes, it is: a low temperature process, a high speed process, and a solventless process—cure is bypolymerization rather than by evaporation[1] Originally introduced in the 1960s this technology has streamlined and increased automation in many industries in the manufacturing sector.[2]

Applications


Other industries that take advantage of UV curing include medicine, automobiles, cosmetics (for example
 artificial fingernails and gel nail polish, food, science, education and art. This curable ink has efficiently met the requirements of the publication sector on variety of paper and board.UV curing is used whenever there is a need for curing and drying of inksadhesives and coatings. UV-cured adhesive has become a high-speed replacement for two-part adhesives, eliminating the need for solvent removal, ratio mixing and potential life concern.[citation needed] It is used in the screen printing process where the UV curing systems are used to cure screen-printed products, which range from T-shirts to 3d and cylindrical parts. It is used in fine instrument finishing (guitars, violins, ukuleles, etc.), pool cue manufacturing and other wood craft industries.

Advantages of UV curing

The primary advantage of curing finishes and inks with ultraviolet lie in the speed at which the final product can be readied for shipping. In addition to speeding up production, this also can reduce flaws and errors, as the amount of time that dust, flies or any airborne object has to settle upon the object is reduced. This can increase the quality of the finished item, and allow for greater consistency.

The other obvious benefit is that manufacturers can devote less space to finishing items, since they don't have to wait for them to dry. This creates an efficiency that ripples through the entire manufacturing process.

Types of UV curing

Mercury vapor lamps are the industry standard for curing products with ultraviolet light. The bulbs work by high voltage passing through, vaporizing the mercury. An arc is created within the mercury which emits a spectral output in the UV region of the light spectrum. The light intensity occurs in the 240 nm-270 nm and 350-380-nm. This intense spectrum of light is what causes the rapid curing of the different applications being used.

In the last few years an emerging type of UV curing technology called UV LED curing has entered the marketplace. This technology is growing rapidly in popularity and has many advantages over mercury based lamps although is not the right fit for every application [3]

Types of ultraviolet lamps

The mercury lamp has an output in the short wave UV range between 220 and 320 nm (nanometers) and a spike of energy in the longwave range at 365 nm. The H lamp is a good choice for clear coatings and thin ink layers and produces hard surface cures and high gloss finishes.Mercury vapor lamp (H type)[edit]

Mercury vapor lamp with iron additive (D type)

The addition of iron to the lamp yields a strong output in the longwave range between 350 and 400 nm while the mercury component maintains good output in the short wavelength range. The D lamp is a good choice for curing heavily pigmented inks, adhesives, and thick laydowns of clear materials.

Mercury vapor lamp with gallium additive (V type)

The addition of gallium to the lamp yields a strong output in the longwave range between 400 and 450 nm. This makes the V lamp a good choice for curing white pigmented inks and base coats containing titanium dioxide which blocks the most shortwave UV.

Fluorescent lamps

Fluorescent lamps are used for UV curing in a number of applications. In particular, these are used where the excessive heat of mercury vapor is undesirable, or where finer grained control over the process is desired. Fluorescent lamps can be created that produce ultraviolet anywhere within the UVA/UVB spectrum. Additionally, lamps that have multiple peaks are possible, allowing a wider variety of photoinitiators to be used. While fluorescent lamps are less efficient at producing UV than mercury vapor, newer initiators require less total energy, offsetting this disadvantage. Fluorescent lamps in a wide variety of sizes and wattages are available.

LEDs

UV LED devices are capable of emitting a narrow spectrum of radiation (+/- 10 nm), while mercury lamps have a broader spectral distribution. For further comparison, the advantages and disadvantages of UV LED curing technologies are outlined below:[6]

AdvantagesDisadvantages
LEDs last 20,000+ hours vs. 2,000 hours of mercury lampsHigher initial cost
No downtime to change lamps or consumable lamp costsLimited availability of UV LED curable inks
Instant on/off and no degradation of intensity with togglingAdhesion of the UV ink/UV curable adhesive can be more problematic
Contain no mercury, obviating need for disposal/recyclingUV LED curable inks cost, on average, twice as much as traditional UV curable inks
LEDs do not produce ozone gas with use while conventional mercury lamps doAlthough LED curing uses 20% of the energy for emitting UV light, it produces more heat within the device.
LED devices do not require proper ventilation for ozone gasUV LED solutions require air- or water-cooling systems, which is not factored into the energy consumption equation
LED provides consistent UV spectral output for a given temperatureLED light emitters require a very tight tolerance in distance from the substrate (within c. ¼”)
As a part of a developing industry, UV LED and ink suppliers provide products of variable quality


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