UV Cure: American Ultraviolet Cool Cure and Open Cure 365 nm LED UV Exposure Tools
The Flexible Cleanroom has two different UV curing tools. Most users who need to cure parts in UV should use the American Ultraviolet Cool Cure Chamber (all blue), because of its safer design where the door must be closed before the lamps can be lit. For the users who require an open work area while doing UV curing, they can use the Open Cure 365 nm LED UV Curing Tool (mostly red, with a blue front panel). The Open Cure 365 nm LED UV Curing Tool was converted by Tom Carver from the older mercury vapor lamp powered Loctite curing tool to 100% LED operation with an array of 441 individual “true 365 nm” LEDs. The front red vinyl curtain is removable when necessary. In the cleanroom, the American Ultraviolet Cool Cure Chamber sits on the left, while the Open Cure 365 nm LED UV Curing Tool sits on the right.
Always wear CLEAN gloves, when touching the touchpad controls of both machines, or they could be destroyed. Please only touch the interior or exterior of both machines with CLEAN gloves. Do not touch with wet, sticky gloves.
Always enable “UV Exposure Tool” on Badger when using either tool and remember to disable the tool on Badger when you are done. Reservations are generally not necessary. First come/first serve.
The American Ultraviolet Cool Cure Chamber allows the user to cure UV-curing polymers, adhesives, optical cements, photoresists, epoxies, etc., without heating up the substrate or exposing the substrate to infrared or visible light. This helps the polymer to cure without heat-induced distortions. The temperature within the chamber typically stays lower than 35C for long exposures. By programming repetitions of a timed on/off cycle, the temperature can be maintained at very close to room temperature. It is very safe to work with, because the UV lamps are interlocked to the chamber door. No special personal protective equipment other than clean gloves are required while using this machine.
The machine has four high intensity 365 nm LED light sources located in the ceiling of the chamber. There is no infrared or visible white light spectrum from these lamps, like you would get from a mercury vapor lamp. And there are none of the usual risks associated with mercury vapor lamps (explosion, exposure to mercury, high voltage arcing, ruined optics, or high temperatures).
All internal surfaces are mirrored to help uniformly expose anything put in the chamber. Any UV-curable material optimized for 365 to 405 nm will be exposed if the exposure time is sufficient.
The machine has three modes of operation:
- On/Off Cycle
- For a cycle of 1, this serves as a simple one-shot timed exposure.
- Multiple cycles allow longer exposures while keeping heat to a minimum.
- Press “Go” button or tap foot switch to start timed process.
- Continuous Mode
- Hit “go” or tap foot switch to turn lamps on, hit “go” or tap footswitch to turn lamps off.
- Manual Mode
- Press and hold “go” (or press and hold footswitch) to turn on lamps, release “go” button (or release footswitch) to turn lamps off.
The Open Cure 365 nm LED UV Curing Tool allows the user to cure samples in an open work area, allowing for external connections or sample manipulation during the cure. The red vinyl front safety curtain is removable to access into the exposure area, if necessary. The top exposure hood is set to a default of 7" working height, but can be height adjusted. Operation is simple with a programmable timer and a simple "Start" and "Stop/Reset" button.
As the UV lights are exposed, emitting invisible 365 nm UV light, safety precautions and proper personal protective equipment must be worn. Protective eyewear must be worn. Clear polycarbonate safety glasses should be adequate if the red vinyl front curtain is in place, whereas dark tinted polycarbonate safety glasses should be used if the front curtain is removed. The level of UVA intensity from these lamps is equivalent to staring at the sun at noon on a clear sunny day at the equator. So never stare directly at the lamps when lit, even if wearing dark sunglasses. Hands and wrist should be covered if you are manually holding something in place during curing. Nitrile rubber gloves block more UV than vinyl gloves, so use nitrile rubber gloves. For longer exposures, you might want to wear thin white cotton gloves covered by clean nitrile gloves.
Protect the red silicone rubber pad work surface from spills using a sheet of plastic or other disposable material if there is a likelihood of a UV cure resin spilling out onto its surface.
In order to become a qualified user of either of the UV Exposure Tools, you need to follow each of these steps in the order as listed here:
- Complete the process to become a lab member of SNSF and follow the instructions to activate a Badger account.
- Complete the process to become a Flexible Cleanroom user.
- Review the training materials for the respective tools:
- Contact Tom Carver to be qualified to use either machine.