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  1. #1
    gr82bart's Avatar
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    Why are UV light boxes so expensive?

    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.
    Visit my website at www.ArtLiem.com
    or my online portfolios at APUG and ModelMayhem

  2. #2

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    They are expensive because of low demand but you can always make your own, Art. There are several sites explaining how to go about it. Here`s one among many.Good luck.
    http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/UVBox/uvbox.html

  3. #3

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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. #4
    Joe Lipka's Avatar
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    Why are they expensive? Because they are filled with lots of expensive parts. 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.
    Two New Projects! Light on China - 07/13/2014

    www.joelipkaphoto.com

    250+ posts and still blogging! "Postcards from the Creative Journey"

    http://blog.joelipkaphoto.com/

  5. #5

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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. #6

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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. #7

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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 . 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!! :o )
    Just kidding, if I can help at all, let me know.
    Mike C

    Rambles

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt miller
    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?
    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.
    Mike C

    Rambles

  9. #9
    smieglitz's Avatar
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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. #10
    Michael Slade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smieglitz
    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
    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.



    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!
    Michael Slade

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