It's Time to Switch on the LED

Sara Jennings looks at the benefits to be gained with LED UV curing

UV curing using LED instead of mercury arc lamps is slowly becoming mainstream. Customers who have purchased UV LED curing printers have discovered they can print on a far wider range of materials than they could with mercury UV technology.

Customers who have purchased UV LED curing printers have discovered they can print on a far wider range of materials than they could with mercury UV technology.

Printer manufacturers are finding they can design smaller devices as UV LED poses fewer heat dissipation challenges and can be used for short runs, print on demand, and even personalisation of objects.

UV LED light sources emit UV within a very narrow range of wavelengths that infrared isn't included. Consequently, the lamps emit no infrared at all. Materials that would wrinkle, shrink, burn, or otherwise change adversely when exposed to the heat of the mercury lamp, don't budge under UV LED light sources.

This doesn't mean that UV LED arrays don't generate heat. UV LEDs convert about 15 to 25% of the received electrical energy into light. While this is significantly more efficient than mercury lamps, the remaining 75 to 85% is converted into heat, which is why LED arrays still need cooling. This heat is transferred away from the LEDs using either air or liquid cooling methods.

UV LED arrays have a lifespan of between 10,000  and 20,000 hours. As LEDs need no warm-up and are instantly on or off, they are only switched on when curing is actively needed. This allows for the lifetime to be stretched further and LED array manufacturers can therefore claim their lifespan should exceed the lifetime of the printer.