Collapsible UV LED Lamp

This tutorial goes over the making of a collapsible UV light, made from UV LED strips, and a flexible-but-rigid foil + air backer.

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This is a DIY UV LED exposure unit that can be made for under $50 in supplies. This UV lamp is malleable, collapsible, and incredibly light weight.

I made this bendy UV lamp to fulfill my need for a UV 'fill light' that I could use for cyanotype printing. It turns out this lamp would also be perfect for UV resin curing. 

I am starting to use cyanotype chemistry more often in my art practice for custom commissions of textiles. Cyanotyping is an analog photographic process that relies on a chemical reaction activated by UV light coming into contact with the photo-sensitive cyanotype chemistry soaked medium like paper or fabric . You may be familiar with our the earth's main source of UV light - the sun. The sun is a great way to expose cyanotypes, however, pesky clouds and wind can interrupt the exposure of your plate. 

Looking at the Field Ready design challenge for the 2020 Hackaday Prize, this lamp also makes for a pretty handy UV resin oven!

Check out this project log that goes over how to set up this lamp as an easily deployable UV Resin curing oven

I used mylar + air pack insulation as a backer for the LED strips. I know this material could be rigid, but also collapsible - when it's ready to be stored it quickly rolls up and can be put away in a compact shape.

The frame in the pictures and videos is made from 8x 24" PVC struts and joined with 4x 3-way elbow connectors that don't use cement. The upside of using pressure fits is that the lamp can collapse quickly and be reconstructed easily when needed. 

If you're working with small parts or don't want to store the frame - no rigid frame is actually necessary to use this resin oven. Since the insulation material is flexible and rigid, you're also able to use clips to create a custom malleable shape that suits your needs.


The above photo was taken with my phone's camera in 'night mode' I figured out that this is a great way to determine if there are light leaks in the curing oven, I promptly readjusted my setup, and capped the ends to protect myself from UV rays. Another safety tip before working with UV leds is to apply sunscreen on your hands, arms, neck and face  - even for brief exposures, it is like going into a sun-tanning booth and it's important to protect your skin. (I am particularly sensitive to UV and working with this PPE, I didn't experience any problems or see any symptoms of UV exposure on my skin.)

Thanks for looking at this project! I'm excited to keep making more resin projects with this lamp - I'll keep updating with new logs as it gets updated. 


If you want to see what else I'm up to in my workshop, follow along with me on InstagramTwitter, and YouTube.

Thanks for taking the time to read about this project.

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  • Pricing + Portability

    audreyobscura2 days ago 0 comments

    I have been doing further product research to see how this UV curing lamp could become more portable and work with easy to find off-the-shelf components that require minimal tools or easy-to-execute fabrication. 

    Pricing for 24"x24" flexible, portable UV curing lamp

    • Bubble foil backing - $10.50 (this is enough for multiple UV curing ovens and reflecting surfaces)
    • UV LED Strip - $13.00
    • 12V 5A power supply -  $12.00
    • PCB - $1
    • Foam core boards/light barrier $6 (optional - even cardboard could work!)
    • Binder clips or A-clamps - $3

    Total - $45.50


    Optional portable battery pack to make this resin oven more field-ready brings the cost to ~$80

    The portable battery pack linked above is ready to be paired with the flexible UV lamp design right out of the box. The battery pack is listed at supporting a 6000maH charge - which would equal 72wH. Since this UV lamp uses 24W, you could get 3 hours of UV exposures with this particular battery pack. 

  • Resin Working Tips

    audreyobscura08/04/2020 at 08:21 0 comments

    I don't have access to a resin 3D printer that uses UV to create models, but I do undersand that models made with this kind of technology to require some post-processing in a UV curing oven. This collapsible + flexible UV lamp emits a ~385nm wavelength that makes it ideal for curing UV resin and post-processing resin 3D prints.

    The following details my experience in applying the resin and establishing a workflow for curing + cleaning.

    Working with the resin

    I have found that it is best to work the resin with silicone tools and place them under the curing lamp between uses. The resin hardens on the silicone tools and can be easily pulled off and quickly cleaned with isopropyl alcohol before using with liquid resin again. All of these tools can be found at a kitchen store, but if needed, you can find smaller silicone brushes at art supply stores. 

    Upside down silicone cup cake liners as bench dogs to support the tool under the lamp to harden the resin for cleanup. 

  • Small scale testing for UV resin curing

    audreyobscura07/21/2020 at 18:08 0 comments

    I recently had some really excellent feedback on this project and was prompted to create some resin curing experiments.

    Here's a short vid explaining how I tested this $50 DIY UV lamp for resin curing, and I hope to continue to share updates

    Things that could effect exposure time:

    • Light density: how close the LEDs are arranged next to each-other and number of lights used.
    • Projection distance: see inverse square law for how light is exponentially darker as you move away from the source
      • The strip is this 12V 24W Black Light Strip that emits light at 395~400nm wavelength according to the product description. In looking through the reviews, an intrepid customer shared their results of what happened when they took a spectrometer to the LED strip: "The spectrogram shows this is truly a UV-A light with a maximum at 385 nm"
    • Direction of the light: I think if you flexed the light it could help diffuse the light in multiple directions, which could improve cure times and overall hardness throughout your pour.

    The second test completed replaces the rigid PVC frame with simple A-clamps and more bubble-foil material. I shaped the lamp into a loaf like shape, and secured it with clamps to an additional small piece of bubble foil.

    Since the light was being emitted and reflected from multiple directions this time, I did notice that the resin was a bit stiffer and didn't require a wipe-down with IPA to chemically remove stickiness.

    Here's a video demonstrating using the lamp in this flexed configuration with diffraction grating.

View all 3 project logs

  • 1
    Tools and Materials

    Tools and Materials

    Here is everything I used



    Notes on materials:

    A lot of this I had lying around. This may not be the most practical solution, but I made it practical for what I had. If you want to check out why I had so much PVC - check out my free class on PVC construction!

    I used the foil insulation as a backer for the LED strips. I know this material could be rigid, but also collapsible. If you can think of another way to back this project with a different material that you have lying around, by all means, use that. I will say, the foil insulation is surprisingly tough, and stands up great to manipulation and rolling!

  • 2
    Cutting, Spacing, and Marking the Backer

    Given the length of the roll of LEDs, and the width of the roll of insulation, I decided to cut 9x 21" strips of UV LEDs. I did some math and figured out I would want to space them about 2.75" apart - I was concerned if they were any further and it may begin to affect the quality of the light being emitted.

    From experience, I know that the LED strips WILL NOT stick well to the mylar sides of the foil insulation, but the adhesive backing on the strip does stick to masking tape.

    I measured out the distance I could span with the 9 strips, and made some marks as to where I wanted the tape backer strips to be placed.

    I ended up with a pattern for a 21"x21" square of LED strips made.

  • 3
    Cutting and Placing the LED Strips

    Cutting apart the LEDs is SUPER EASY. The roll has designated spots to cut every 3 LEDs. Where you slice the LEDs also becomes the soldering junction.

    Next up was removing the strip for the LEDs adhesive backer and pressing the strips into the lamp's surface.

    I really squished the strips down quite a few times to make sure that the tape and the LED strips were completely bonding and I wouldn't have to worry about strips slumping off while I was trying to use the lamp.

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