By BizLED Bureau
April 17, 2015: When we talk about LEDs, we usually think about its applications for general lighting, street lighting, automotive, signage, etc. But there are several industrial applications like curing (drying) where LEDs are vital. For example, ultraviolet (UV) LED technology is very important for curing?a market segment that is growing fast across the world.
What is UV-LED curing?
UV-LED curing is an emerging technology used for treating surfaces with monochromaticultraviolet radiation from LEDs. UV curing is traditionally carried out with mercury-vapor lamps. With the advent of LEDs capable of producing UV radiation, curing devices using the technology have increasingly been incorporated in industrial and commercial applications.
UV-LED curing is a technique that uses the energy emitted by LEDs in the UV spectrum. This is used for treating coatings, inks, adhesives, and other UV-curable materials. The energy that is generated by the UV light starts off some reactions, leading to polymerization of the material, and in the process it hardens or cures the material.
Traditionally, mercury-based UV lamps are used for curing, but now manufacturers are turning to LED-based UV technology that is more energy-efficient and environment-friendly. It also leads to higher productivity.
LED-based curing technology uses LEDs to get the UV light while electric current passes through them. When an LED is forward-biased, electrons can be recombined with electron holes within the device, which releases energy in the form of photons.
Applications of UV-LED curing technology
With advancements in UV-LED curing technology, it is being used for a variety of applications like coatings, printing, adhesives, etc.
Printing: Currently, LED-curing technology is being used in the printing industry, which is replacing the traditional methods as it gives the benefits like system capabilities, better economics, and better environmental impacts. UV-LED curing technology is rapidly being used in printing processes like UV curing of inks in digital inkjet, screen, flexographic, etc.
Coatings: Today UV-LED curing is being applied in a number of coatings. These applications range from flooring and cabinetry to advanced electronics, automotive, and commercial construction materials.
Adhesives: UV adhesives are now being used in assembly and manufacturing processes for medical devices, consumer electronics, etc.
Besides these traditional application areas, many new applications are emerging that are adopting UV-LED technology. As UV-LED can eliminate heat that damage electronic components, UV-LED technology is being used for advanced flat-panel display manufacturing for cellphones, OLED TVs, and touch screens, etc. UV-LED technology provides more consistency with less heat transmitted to the panel. It also improves manufacturing yields. UV-LED curing technology is also being used for decorative bottle printing for glass containers.
For the low-temperature advantage of UV LEDs, it is being used for curing on surfaces like ceramic tiles, wood, metals, plastics, glass, and plastic for 3D textured printing.
Due to the advancements in UV-LED curing technology, and as it can significantly reduce energy consumption and work-piece surface temperature, it is being used for roller coating, edge coating, digital printing as well.
Materials compatible with UV-LED being formulated
Now with UV-LED curing technology being adopted by several industries, many types of inks, coatings, and adhesives are being made that are compatible with UV-LED technology. Actually, the spectral energy distribution of UV LEDs is different from that of mercury lamps, hence, new material formulations are being adopted that are compatible with UV-LED technology. New monomers, resins, oligomers, photo-initiators are being developed.
In the coming years, with more advancement in UV-LED curing technology, a larger number of new applications areas will open up. Advanced display technology like flexible organic LED (OLED) and high-speed additive manufacturing will immensely benefit from the energy delivery and low heat-load capability of UV-LED technology.
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