Comparison chart for medium pressure, microwave, and UV LED curing

When considering UV LED curing for your converting processes it’s helpful to compare the available UV curing technologies. This chart provides concise and easy comparisons of UV curing technology (medium pressure arc, microwave, and UV LED), the characteristics of each and process design considerations for typical wide web converting processes.


ARC (medium pressure)

Microwave

UV LED

NOTES
Technology Characteristics

Useful Life (hours)

500 - 3,000*

6,000 - 8,000

10,000+

All UV lamps degrade over time, so it's important to understand "useful life", which is the expected operating hours where adequate curing can still be achieved for your process. *Arc lamp life is significantly reduced if the lamp is not kept within a narrow operating temperature range and by the number of on/off cycles. Additive arc lamps have a shorter useful life than mercury arc lamps.

Cooling Needs

External Fans - complicated and critical

External fans - complicated, exhaust required

Internal Fans - simple

Water cooling sometimes used for all types. In general, UV LED systems require about 10 times less cooling than traditional UV systems and dynamic cooling, like that used in Semray UV LED systems, ensures longevity and optimal operation.

Energy Use

High

Higher

Low

UV LED curing systems use 30 to 70% less energy than traditional UV curing systems.

Power Class

253 W/cm

253 W/cm

14 - 22 W/cm2

This is a general indication of the class of curing system, but does not indicate UV energy reaching a substrate. For arc and microwave systems this is actually the input power. For UV LEDs their rating is typically the peak irradiance at the emission window. Since there is no standard for energy density ratings of UV curing systems, users need to run tests or obtain data from individual manufacturers.
Technical Paper: Comparing traditional UV to UV LED

Wavelength Output

Broad - short and long; additive lamps

Broad - short and long; additive lamps

Narrow, nearly monochromatic; 365, 385, 395, or 405nm

Wavelength output needs to be a best match for the chemistry formulation being cured. This is normally available from your chemistry supplier. The longer wavelengths of UV LEDs are ideal for laminating adhesives and PSAs, but surface curing for hard coats is challenging.

Lamp Length

Up to 280cm

25,4cm multiple modular units to cover wide webs up to 610cm

Custom array lengths or multiple modular segments to span wide webs

Long arc lamps require rotating at least each week to prevent bowing of the lamp. Modular UV LED curing platforms like Semray enable quick changes to different wavelengths and less costly upgrades as UV LED technology advances.
Picture: UV segment coming out of the backplane

Dimming

38 - 100%, step or continuous

35 - 100% continuous

30 - 100% continuous

Controls typically tied into overall coating line controls to improve process flexibility and consistency. Power supply technology is advancing rapidly to include smart, self-monitoring dynamic controls like that found in Semray UV LED systems.

Warm-up Time

~ 5 min.

15 seconds

0

The instant on/off capability of UV LEDs offer a significant advantage over arc lamps resulting in higher line utilization and production rates.

Restrike Time

long, must use shutters

rapid cycle (0-5 sec), sometimes shutters

0

Unexpected line stops and changeovers between production runs become non-events with UV LED. No worries that a shutter may break.

Mercury

Yes

Yes

No

UV LED offers a safer work environment, more sustainable production process.

Ozone

Yes

Yes

No

Short wavelength UV energy generates ozone. Since UV LED does not emmit short wavelengths, there is no ozone - you get a safer work environment and more sustainable production process.

Weight

Heavy

Heavy

Light

UV LED units weight much less, but also the mounting and UV light shielding is significantly less weight.

Form Factor

Large, Bulky

Large, Bulky

Compact

UV LED is so compact that it is easy to retrofit on existing lines and even use in combination with existing arc lamps for converting applications that need surface curing, i.e. hardcoats on film. With UV LED there are no bulky cooling/exhaust ducts and external fans.

Optical Output Strategies

Internal Parabolic Reflectors

Internal Elliptical Reflectors

Various Micro-optics or External Means to Collect Stray Energy

UV LEDs do not use reflectors internally since the energy is all forward facing. Some UV LEDs incorporate external mirrors, glass rods, etc. or internal micro-optics as a means to better control and enhance the output onto the substrate. Heraeus UV LED Microoptics

Process Design Considerations

Ideal Working Distance

5,33cm

5,33cm

5mm to 20mm

Distance from the face of a UV curing system to the substrate surface. UV energy reaching the substrate drops significantly the larger the working distance, even more so with UV LED systems which emit energy from the emission window at high angles. Semray uses micro-optics to focus the energy enabling larger working distances with less drop in UV energy onto the substrate. This results in reduced contamination of the emission window, thus a more consistent process with increased uptime.

Uniformity Across Wide Web

OK

Best

Best

As an arc lamp ages the lamps ends darken impacting the uniformity of UV energy output across its length, i.e. the width of your converting line. UV LEDs at close distances have poor uniformity, but increasing working distance to improve uniformity decreases energy density on the substrate. Semray uses micro-optics which enables larger working distances which significantly improves uniformity, while maintaining high energy density, especially alongside Semray's self-monitoring sensors which dynamically adjust the LEDs to maintain consistent energy output. Chart: Uniformity of UV LED

Consistent & Reliable

Good

Better

Best

UV LED curing offers significantly more consistent UV energy and wavelength output and high process reliabilty, especially compared to arc lamps whose output and wavelength shift cause inconsistent curing, especially for additive lamp processes like laminating.

Maintenance Costs

Highest

Middle

Lowest

The savings here can be significant, not only in maintenance labor and consummable parts, but also reduced downtime that results with UV LED curing. Semray's on-board diagnostics and modular platform enable quick troubleshooting and even less maintenance downtime. More infos about reducing downtime with UV LED

First Cost

Lowest

Middle

Highest

First cost of the UV LED system is typically higher, but installed facilities costs for things like blowers, ducting, and light shielding is significantly less. First cost should be weighed against Total Cost of Ownership (see below), production rates and resulting increased revenues.

Total Cost of Ownership

Highest

Middle

Lowest

UV LED TCO is lowest based on lower maintenance, energy, consummable parts costs and upgrading. UV LED technology advances rapidly, so TCO depends on a less costly and easily upgradeable platform. Semray's modular plug & play platform enables easy and less costly upgrades. Picture: Plug & Play segment

Heat Sensitive Substrates

Good

Better

Best

UV curing is considered a "cooler" process than thermal drying/curing processes. UV LED curing enables curing of heat sensitive substrates not possible with traditional UV curing. As a result, it may be possible now to UV cure new products, expanding converting capabilities on existing lines.

Chemistry Availability

Mature, many available chemistries

Mature, many available chemistries

Laminating adhesives and PSAs, expanding to other chemistries

UV LED chemistry formulations are available for laminating adhesives, PSAs, and transdermal patch hydrogels or where UV energy can penetrate a transparent film. Additional chemistries are being developed as UV LED curing expands into additional converting applications. Hybrid UV curing, combining the use of traditional UV with UV LED, is another option that provides flexible process solutions and takes advantage of UV LED's benefits.
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