Why are UV light boxes so expensive?

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by gr82bart, Dec 10, 2005.

  1. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Well, I was getting sick of waiting for good sunshine (additionally, I work FT and travel a lot so I am limited in the number of weekends I have) and also figuring out the best exposure times for my PT and Kallitype prints, which to date, seem to have no correlation with anything! So I checked out UV light boxes.

    WTF!

    Why are they so expensive? Surely there must be some inexpensive way to make these things cheaper? Has anyone made one from scratch? Has anyone just 'switched' out the bulbs from an ordinary light box?

    In the meantime, anyone nearby (CT/MA/NYC/NJ) with one willing to share? Rent?

    Regards, Art.
     
  2. Daniel Grenier

    Daniel Grenier Member

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  3. Neil Poulsen

    Neil Poulsen Member

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    I am just finishing up on one. You can save a lot of money by building it yourself. Plus, you can build in special features that one might not otherwise find. For example, I built in a drawer to make it easy slide in the contact printer, etc.

    Here are some tips I would offer.

    >> Based on Photographers' Forumlary's design, I spaced my tubes at 1 3/4" centers, using the T12 BL tubes. If one keeps the contact printer at least 2 3/4" from the bulbs, then the light is sufficiently even across tubes. They told me that these distances were based on testing conducted by Dick Arrantz.

    >> Price out stuff before you begin to build, looking for reasonably priced online stuff. I used a local retailer, and this probably cost me about an extra $75 to $100. Still, I had the advantage of asking their advice.

    >> Get the BL tubes, not the BLB. Not that it makes that much difference, but I read on this site that the BL tubes provide more light in the right wavelenths. Also, consider getting the T12 tubes, not the T10 tubes. The latter are thinner and will require more tubes to obtain the same distance between tubes. On the plus side, this results in greater light output, I would think. Plus, there's talk of phasing out the T12's, but that won't happen for quite awhile.

    >> Connect all housings of the ballasts to ground.

    >> If you want to turn it off and on, consider having the fans on a different circuit, so the fans can be left on all the time. I used three 120mm computer fans placed along the length of the tubes. It's easier if you get the 115 volt fans, so that you don't need to splice in a 12 volt DC power source. Better cooling with the larger fans.

    >> Sort of by accident, I ended up getting separate, smaller ballasts, one for each tube. They also didn't come with starters, so had to purchase starters and corresponding sockets separately. I was told that with this arrangement, I would probably get longer ballast life. It was more expensive, though. It was quite a project lining all these up and doing the circuitry for each. I drew lines, used different color wires for each task, etc. I also purchased connectors to make it easy to remove a ballast, if they go out. It's possible to get ballasts that can each accept two tubes that have internal starters.

    >> If you want to do 16x20, consider putting the 16" width along the 24" tube. There's significant fall off within about 3" of the tube sockets on each side. I used 15 tubes, which gives me about 25" of light along the 20" width of 16x20.

    With all the time and work I put into this thing, you couldn't pay me $1000 to do another one! Now that it's done, I have something that's better than anything I could have purchased that uses fluorescent tubes.
     
  4. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    Why are they expensive? Because they are filled with lots of expensive parts. :D Labor isn't that much,it's the materials. There are lots of places with plans for the DIY version, but it may not save you a bunch of bucks unless you can pick up some stuff second hand, or salvage.
     
  5. matt miller

    matt miller Subscriber

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    I built one somewhat based on the u bild it plans at the Edwards Engineering site. It cost me about $400 in materials and 8 hours labor. There are definitely cheaper ways, especially if your prints are fairly small. You can buy pre wired flor tube fixtures for a very good price and just wire a few of them together.
     
  6. matt miller

    matt miller Subscriber

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    I seem to remember talk about a mercury halide bulb working for uv processes. You'd have to check though. These are about $10 and fit into a regular bulb socket. They would probably work on 8x10 & down?
     
  7. photomc

    photomc Member

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    First of all "What Joe Lipka said"....there are A LOT of parts to one of these. Made 2 in the past year, one a 4 bulb prototype (to see if I could) and the 2nd, modeled after the plans listed on Edwards Engineered site. Excellent plans and when you think about it, they are giving this information away...pretty cool guys I would say. The box that Bostick and Sullivan sells is the same box, the one from the Formulary, looks to be modeled after the ubildit plans.

    There really isn't much to one of these, but when you consider using cabinet grade plywood, cost of bulbs (I used 12 @ $10 each), light sockets, BALLAST (this is where I spent most of my money - see below), stain, etc.

    If you search the threads here, you will find some pretty good information about ballast. Now there are as many opinions as there are members, but my impression was that magnetic ballast did not give as good results as electronic ballast would so I went with one from Fulham (Workhorse-7). This allowed me to use one ballast for 4 bulbs. Plus it runs cooler.

    So Art, this is a LOooonnngggg winded description of WHY these things are so expensive. Couple of thoughts if I were to do this again, the 24 inch bulbs (T12) are not always easy to find, and ballast for them are not as common. If you have room (I do not) go with the 48 inch bulbs, they cost about the same (or less sometimes) and you could print with 2 16x20 contact frames at the same time :wink: . The best part of building the UV Box was what you are finding out right now....I would only get to print on weekends and the results were never the same twice. Now I can print at 2 a.m. if I want to...and that is a good thing.

    Good luck and let me know I can answer any questions...you have seen the reults from mine (which may mean you would not ask me....hmmmmmm!! :surprised: )
    Just kidding, if I can help at all, let me know.
     
  8. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Matt is correct, here is a link to Sandy's article on Unblinkingeye where Sandy talks about all the different light sources, pros and cons. It sure helped me.
     
  9. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    I built one that could handle 20x24 contact frames about 12 years ago. With the lamps, ballasts, fan and oak plywood, it ended up costing about $500.

    I'd recommend you look for an old graphic arts plateburner instead if you have the space. You may be able to get something like a used NuArc 26-1K with vacuum for $250 or maybe less, like free, on a good day. Check with local print shops who may be tossing them. The plateburner is faster and gives superior results for most processes IMO.

    Joe
     
  10. Kimberly Anderson

    Kimberly Anderson Member

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    This is what I did. I started calling around to various print shops asking if they had any plateburners for sale.

    Found two different places that had NuArc 26-1k units, one was 400USD the next was 300USD. Both were perfect.

    I'd hunt down a plate burner before I made a lightbank like that. With a plateburner you'll also get a built-in vaccum unit and a timer (light integrator).

    Here's a pic of the one I bought for 300USD.

    [​IMG]

    The fellow I bought it from actually had the factory made stand for it also, which I picked up and put the plate-burner on after I took this image.

    Good luck!
     
  11. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Forgive the ignorant question... but where, exactly, is this site? I've seen a number of people mention it but I can't find it with google searches.
     
  12. ann

    ann Subscriber

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  13. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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  14. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    I think the Edwards Engineering UV box is just what I am looking for. If understand what I am seeing correctly, I believe an 8x10 Photographer's Formulary printing frame will fit right underneath an 11x14 basic UV unit.

    Thanks for all the posts. I'd build it myself, but with no time to make prints, I definitely have no time build one.

    I think Edward's just made a sale. For $600, I guess that's pretty good deal. Yikes!

    Regards, Art.
     
  15. sanking

    sanking Member

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    The NuArc 26-1k is a great printer, and at $300-500 a great bargin. I have one and use it a lot.

    However, in all honesty I have to say that I prefer my bank of UV tubes, which consists of twelve (12) 48" BLB tubes over a 48X38" NuArc vacuum frame. It prints just as fast as the NuArc 26-1k, but with more even illuminaiton over the whole frame. The light integrator I use with this unit, an Olex Ai 970, is also more accurate than that of my NuArc 26-1k, espeically with long exposures.

    Total cost of the 48" bank. About $400, broken down as follows: $250 for the parts and materials for the UV bank, about $100 for the big vacuum frame, and $50 for the Olex Ai 970 on ebay.

    Time of construction of the UV bank was about 2.5 hours. I started on a Friday afternoon, and was printing with it around noon on Saturday. Course, this was the second unit I built, so I understood fairly well all of the construction issues from the start.

    Biggest problem. Carting all of this stuff up to my third floor work room.

    BTW, BL tubes print faster than BLB, but not by much. I will probably replace my BLB tubes with BLs in a year or so, but the BLBs do have some advantages, primarily the fact that the light causes things such as dirt, hair, and other particles on the glass to really stand out, which facilitates cleaning.

    Sandy


     
  16. photomc

    photomc Member

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    So that's why I like my BLB bulbs :smile: Would agree with Sandy about the 48 inch, if I had room would have gone that route. Question for Sandy, is there a way to measure the output (ie a UV light meter), and is it really needed?

    Art, do not think you will be unhappy with the EE UV box, and the good thing is they will take it back in trade for a bigger one - but I would consider how big a print you think you will make, and go one size larger at least...your mileage may vary though.
     
  17. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    OK, I checked out other avenues for UV lights and came up with this: Elation UV Wash

    I think it's perfect for my 4x5 negs. Has anyone tried this UV lamp? I found several sellers listing this at $150. Beats $600 anyday if it does the job. Plus it's 50lbs lighter!

    Regards, Art.
     
  18. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Yes, you can measure the UV ouput with many exposure meters. However, to get an idea of the radiation over time, and at different times of the day, you will need to take many measurments, and perhaps average them.

    Best thing is to connnect your bank of UV tubes to an integrator. However, even if you don't have an integrator the output is fairly stable.

    Sandy


     
  19. htswv

    htswv Member

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    I, too, just finished building a unit based on the Edwards Engineering plans. When all was said and done, it may have been cheaper to actually purchase the kit from Edwards and assemble it myself but I have to say I did have a lot of fun building it from scratch. The only major hurdle for me was having the wood cut to size (since I don't have a saw of any kind). Luckily, the folks at Lowe's were more than willing to help.

    Overall, building the box was an enjoyable experience. Now I just have to make some negatives so I can use it!
     
  20. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Art- if you want to try the really cheap method, and aren't going to initially print bigger than 11x14, Home Depot sells BLB fluorescent fixtures for about $17-20 each. They're made by GE - ballast, BLB bulb, housing all included. I bought six of them, and I screwed them to the bottom of an IKEA shelf that supports my regular 4x5 enlarger. If you put the housings tight together, you get about 1 1/2" to 1 3/4" spacing between bulb centers. I get very consistent results from it, with base exposure times in the 7 1/2 minute range. I don't have model numbers for the GE unit, but they had them in the store where they keep the under-cabinet fluorescent fixtures.
     
  21. EricNeilsen

    EricNeilsen Member

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    Before you jump on the plate burner option, you should be aware of the heat and noise they bring to the table. UV light boxes are very quiet. The plate burners can get quite loud. You also need to consider the light dispersal of the unit. UV rays can burn you. The boxes are really quite safe.

    Bulbs for plate burners are also quite a bit more expensive than the florecsent tubes.