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Thread: UV Light Box

  1. #1

    UV Light Box

    I've got parts ordered to build a light box for exposing alternative process prints. I'll be using LEDs for a light source. I found some pretty high power wide angle LEDs, and I'll be putting them on a 2 inch grid pattern, and at the distance I have calculated (conservatively) they will overlap each other 100%. The only thing I haven't worked out is whether or not I'll need a diffuser for the light. I'm sure I can find some low iron glass for transmitting UV, but whether I should make it like viewing glass on a large format camera is the question. Also, what would be a good way of testing the evenness of the exposure?

    In theory I think this will work pretty well, we'll see how it works in practice...

  2. #2
    500+ Posts earlj's Avatar
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    UV Light Box

    I would coat a sheet of paper the same size as the contact frame with cyanotype (or whatever your first alt process sensitizer will be) and just expose the sheet with no negative. If you get areas of darker and lighter exposure that match the LED pattern, then you either need closer spacing or some type of diffuser. I suggest cyanotype because it is inexpensive and easy to use.

    How expensive are the LED's? Wouldn't it be better to put more of them at a closer spacing (and thus decrease exposure along with increasing the uniformity) than to diffuse the light and make your exposures that much longer?

    I am intrigued by UV-emitting LED's. This seems to be a great way to go - I would think that they should provide the most efficient UV light source that you can build yourself. What is the wavelength of the light emitted by the LED's? I have heard of a few people trying this type of exposure unit, but I have not heard how successful they are. Show us some pictures of the exposure unit and of the images that you print using it.

  3. #3

    UV Light Box

    Thanks Earl. This is a big experiment for me so we'll see how it goes. As I said, these are pretty high powered LEDs, 1/2 watt, and they are wide angle, supposedly 140 degrees. My plan was to try and make a 16 x 20 light box with 99 LEDs. That would put them on a 2 inch grid. The distance to the paper will be about 3 1/2 inches which will give me 100% overlap. So the edge of one LED's circle will be on the center of it's neighbors. The peak wavelength of these LEDs is at 400nm. Perhaps a little high, but after reading Sandy King's article, I think it will be OK. Once I get the LEDs in hand I can experiment a little before committing to the final design. I think there will be plenty of light however.

    The LEDs weren't horribly expensive, about 70 cents each. The price will continue to come down as LEDs become more utilized as general lighting. There are some high powered ones already being made, I think the highest I found in my search was 100 watts, though those were pretty expensive. I love the idea of them for their instant on, low heat, and low power consumption. I've seen a few things made for PC boards, but never anything for Alternative process. I can't imagine I'm breaking too new ground. I'll definitely keep everyone posted as I experiment.

  4. #4

    UV Light Box

    Yes this is an interesting project. Where did you find the units? I'll be anxious to see your results also, keep us posted.

    Steve

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    500+ Posts earlj's Avatar
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    UV Light Box

    99 LED's at a half watt each. That sounds pretty good compared to my 3000 watt plate burner with the 220 wiring. Have you looked into controlling exposure with an integrator? Come to think of it, with LED's, you might not need one. If the light output is consistent for the life of the LED, then a timer will be just as effective as an integrator. I think that you might be on to something here, Doug.

  6. #6

    UV Light Box

    Steve, I got them at the world's largest garage sale: ebay. I've been doing a lot of reading to get up to speed on LED nomenclature and characteristics. It helps having an electrical/controls background. Parts have just started showing up today in the mail, and I imagine in a couple of weeks I should have something working. I'll absolutely share my learnings on this. I haven't found much to go on, so even if things don't work out so good, at least people can learn from my mistakes.

    Earl, I absolutely haven't thought of using an integrator. LEDs have a very long lifespan, so I think with the amount I'll be using this, the exposure should be consistent. It's worth thinking about from a testing perspective though. I'll use your earlier suggestion to test with cyanotype. That's a great idea.

  7. #7
    Administrator Tom Persinger's Avatar
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    UV Light Box

    this sounds great.... i'm very interested to see some pictures of the apparatus as well as the tests made with it! I've been thinking of getting a plate burner like Earl, but may wait to see how this project transpires... Thanks for pioneering the way Doug!

  8. #8

    UV Light Box

    Well, Tom, the first try with the LED to just see what it can do doesn't look so promising yet. I am going to try a few other things though, and see if I can't get something workable.

    The good news is I made my first 3 cyanotypes today using sunlight. I just winged it with the negatives, and the results, while not great, are not bad. Now to calibrate the system...

  9. #9
    This project just gained some new life. I was able to source some 3 watt 365 nm UV LEDs. I am tired of having to hope for sunny weekends, which actually is pretty normal here, but also I'm tired of variable results because of clouds etc. I've made some nice prints with sunlight, but now its time to move on and have a measurable, predictable source of light available at night and snowy weekends. My original batch of UV LEDs were relatively low power compared to the ones I've just ordered, but more importantly, their peak UV light was at 405 nm, which with my tests proved ineffective.

    More to come! I'm glad this project is back on track.

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    500+ Posts earlj's Avatar
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    365 nm should put you in the sweet spot.
    because:
    "a squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous, got me?"
    -Don Van Vliet

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