Frequently Asked Questions
Who are we?
TCS Technologies is a USA based specialty lamp manufacturer producing over 6000 replacement lamps to fit most UV curing systems. Since 1979, we have been manufacturing the highest quality UV curing lamps built to match, and often exceed OEM specifications.
TCS Technologies is committed to being the best supplier in the UV industry providing professional and global service. Equipped with modern facilities and advanced technology, we can provide all types of UV curing, screen exposure, inkjet and digital flatbed lamps.
What can we offer you?
We can save you money! Our UV curing lamps provide long service life and consistent UV output. With TCS Technologies, you are dealing directly with the lamp manufacturer for a more cost-effective way to purchase lamps.
Can you private label lamps?
Absolutely, for a one-time printing die charge, we can print your name and lamp part number on any of our products.
How long should my UV inkjet lamp last?
UV inkjet lamp (bulb) life depends on many factors including number of starts, thermal operating conditions, power rating, additives and proper handling. Simply defined, it is the hours the lamp produces enough UV energy to properly cure the ink within the available exposure time.
The initial 200 to 250 hours of operation (idol time plus active print time), the UV output is stable. Between 250 and 450 operation hours, output decreases, eventually resulting in insufficient UV curing energy. Some inkjet printers have the ability to change lamp power settings. Switching to medium or high power increases UV output, however heat
is also increased. There may be a fine balance between acceptable UV output and heat generation. Another option is to maintain heat loading by slowing print speed while the UV lamp is at low power. This option is mostly available with standard mercury filled lamps. Some lamps are additive filled. They produce higher levels of UV; however, they do not last as long and normally cannot be run at low power.
Each lamp startup reduces UV lamp life. Adjust printing schedule to keep lamp starts to a minimum. The fact that the lamp lights is not an indication of proper UV output. Most UV lamps will continue to operate long after their useful life has expired. Under normal conditions, the vast majority of TCS inkjet lamps will last 600 hours.
How long should my standard (non-inkjet) lamp last?
As is the case with digital inkjet lamps, life depends on many factors including number of starts, thermal operating conditions, power rating and proper handling. Under normal conditions, the vast majority of TCS Technologies lamps will provide at least 1000 hours of useful life. In the unlikely event of failure during the first 100 hours, 100% credit will be given. Between 100 hours and 1000 hours, pro-rata credit will be given based on the number of lamp hours. For example, a lamp which fails after 500 hours would result in 50% credit. Consult factory for exact warranty details
What are the recommended running temperatures for a UV curing lamp?
The area between the tips of the electrodes, within the main lamp body, should be maintained at an operating temperature of 600 – 800 degrees C. The area consisting of the metal foil and end fitting should be maintained at a temperature of less than 250 degrees C. If the lamp has a lead-out wire, the wire must be maintained at a temperature of less than 200 degrees C. Lamps running too hot can expand and or sag and will cause short lamp life. Overcooling can cause just as many problems as overheating. Lamps must have a minimum wall temperature in excess of 357O degrees C, the boiling point of mercury. Below this temperature, mercury condenses, lamp voltage along with UV output drops. In extreme cases, the inner lamp wall becomes plated with a mirror like effect from the mercury sputtering.
The ends of my lamps are discolored, what happened?
- Avoid excessive starts. Upon start up, the internal lamp pressure is low. During this time the lamp electrodes literally sputter off tungsten and this is deposited on the inside of the tube. Always start lamps in high power to shorten warm up time. Excessive starts cause premature darkening and drop in UV output. Limit your cure area to 3 inches less than the lamp arc length to insure highest UV output. For example, a 13 inch arc lamp should be used to cure a 10 inch print area.
- Natural solarization due to age, UV level and high temperatures can cause blackening.
- Lamps operating at excessive lamp current. Some equipment manufacturers utilize power supplies that employ low voltage high current lamps. Lamps operating in excess of 13 amps have greater electrode blackening and generally shorter lamp life. Keeping lamp current between 6 and 11 amps will significantly increase lamp life.
- Finally, poor thermal conditions such as lamp overheating or overcooling results in lamp blackening.
My coating or ink will not cure.
- Confirm that the dryer reflectors are clean and free of distortion.
- Be sure the lamp is not covered with spray powder, fingerprints, reflector material or other contaminants.
- Make sure UV lamp is up to full power. Consult TCS Technologies for specifics.
- Confirm that lamp shutters are opening properly. Many UV dryers use mechanical shutters to block light and heat in case of parts stoppage. Check to be sure shutters are opening fully.
- Verify the number of operating hours that the lamp has run. If we are speaking of a standard UV curing lamp, they generally have an energy output of about 75% of their original specification after 1000 hours. If the lamp has over 1000 hours of use, it may not generate enough ultraviolet energy to cure your application. UV inkjet lamps have a shorter life. Depending on the inkjet lamp, useful life ranges between 400 and 700 hours.
How do I properly dispose of a lamp?
Ultraviolet curing lamps contain mercury that is considered a hazardous waste. Do not discard these lamps in the trash. Disposal must be made in accordance with local, state and federal regulations. Contact your local hazardous waste management authority for proper recycling / disposal instructions.
Part of our program as a UV lamp manufacturer, TCS Technologies encourages both recycling and reclaiming programs for all our lamps. Simply, package your UV lamps safely and send them to TCS Technologies. We will properly dispose of these materials at no charge.
Can you supply a lamp even if we do not know the part number?
TCS Technologies manufactures lamps for all makes of curing systems. We can match lamp specifications from an original operating sample. Normally this only takes a few days between receiving the lamp and providing a replacement.
Can you retrofit a higher power lamp into our dryer?
It depends. Power supplies and UV lamps are normally matched to provide peak performance. Usually, upgrading would require both the lamp and power supply to be replaced, along with modifications to the lamp head to provide additional cooling. Please contact our engineering department for advice.
How do I clean my UV lamp?
Use a lint free cloth with Windex or Simple Green to clean. Do not waste your money on special UV lamp cleaners as they have dubious value! If solvents are permitted, use isopropyl alcohol. For extreme cases, use a mild abrasive such as Soft Scrub to clean the UV Lamp. Be sure to rinse any residue off the glass before reinstalling lamp. Always allow lamp to cool and disconnect all power prior to any cleaning.
If your UV dryer uses a clear quartz filter plate, use the same cleaning method to remove dust and ink mist. Remember to remove all fingerprints prior to resuming operation.
Is my lamp cooling adequate?
Proper UV lamp cooling is crucial for efficient UV curing. Improperly cooled lamps are a major cause of premature bulb failure. Unfortunately, one looks at lamp cooling after a problem surfaces. By this time the horse is out of the barn and little can be done to salvage the particular lamp. We can break this down into two areas:
- Undercooling (overheating)—left unchecked, UV lamp temperature can easily soar to 1,200+oF. Evidence of overheating includes: Distorted (enlarged or bowed) lamp tubing, overheated foil seals, burned lead wires and discolored lamp (metal) end fittings.
- Overcooling—many UV systems have the ability to reduce lamp power to an idle mode to conserve energy. Excessive cooling in this mode will cause loss of power, mercury will condense and electrodes will sputter, depositing metal on the bulb surface turning lamp ends silver-black. To avoid this terminal condition, lamp cooling must be appropriately reduced to maintain thermal equilibrium. Lamps idled at 120 watts per inch or lower for excessive time will cause excessive current and voltage spikes resulting in electrode failure. Unfortunately once lamp has sputtered from overcooling it will always have compromised curing ability.
How do I measure UV lamp voltage?
Measuring UV lamp operating voltage can be extremely helpful when troubleshooting curing issues. One must exercise extreme caution while measuring voltage. Lethal voltages are involved with UV power supplies. It is always best to have a trained professional electrician perform any measurements. There are means to indirectly measure lamp voltage via a potential transformer. For reference we have listed the two most popular UV lamp circuits below: choke and ballast/transformer. These are provided for guidance and are by no means a substitute for a trained electrician.