Tips for a successful UV curing process

August 05, 2019 //By Peter Swanson
UV curing
Manufacturers often choose light curing materials for assembly applications because of their bonding effectiveness, rapid cure time and process efficiencies. With so many adhesives and so much equipment on the market, where should manufacturers start?

Since its introduction in the 1960s, UV curing technology has been used in a range of applications, initially with coatings and adhesives, and developing into capabilities such as form-in-place gaskets, temporary masking and potting compounds. In the case of bonding, every adhesive has its own strengths and limitations, so it may not always be clear which product is suitable for the task at hand. Selection depends upon the adhesive’s properties, balanced with the application’s requirements and process demands.

With a clear understanding of the UV curing process and the technology available, manufacturers can make informed choices and optimise their process. So, what can manufacturers do to get the most out of their process?

Broad vs narrow spectrum lamps

There are two types of lamp available, broad-spectrum mercury arc UV lamps and LED-based UV curing lamps. LED-based UV lamps will have a quite narrow spectral output based around a single wavelength (e.g. 365nm, 385nm). The traditional broad-spectrum lamp has been the workhorse of the industry for many decades, but does have some shortcomings that manufacturers have to compensate for, such as the operational life of the bulb and intensity that degrades over time. In contrast, LED UV curing lamps have a consistent output, no bulbs to replace and no warm-up time, amongst other advantages.

For best results, remember that your adhesive must be matched to the output of the curing lamp — not all adhesives will cure optimally with narrow spectrum light from an LED lamp, requiring a broader range of light energy to achieve tack free and best cured properties. Matching the spectral output of the lamp to the light responsiveness of the adhesive is a crucial step in getting the process right.

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