Determining Proper Cure Time for Light-Curable Adhesives
To determine the proper cure time of any light-curable adhesive when exposed to light from any light source, there are a couple of different approaches that can help. The greatest tool is a radiometer, which will tell you how much intensity you have at the bond line. The PC-5 is an older model flood lamp, with an intensity of 50-150 mW/cm2 over a 5" x 5" area. The different approaches depend on how you are using the adhesive. If you are using the adhesive between two substrates in a bond-line thickness of 0.002-0.006 inches, then measuring the fixture time should be sufficient. Per the Loctite TDS, fixture time at this intensity should be <5 seconds. If you are potting a deeper section, then depth of cure is important, and you can reach a depth of 2 mm in approx 12 seconds. The Loctite TDS plots the depth of cure at an intensity of 50 mW/cm2. If the adhesive bond line has some squeeze out, or has a surface exposed to air, then a tack-free surface cure may be important. Tack-free time is the point when the adhesive is sufficiently cured that you will not get smearing or residue transfer onto a gloved finger.
With any of the three described situations, measuring this yourself is the best way to figure out the proper cure time, whether looking at fixture time, depth of cure, or tack free time. Set the bond line up at the lowest intensity you can use – say 50 mW/cm2. Do this by increasing the distance away from the lamp until the radiometer measures 50 mW/cm2. (You will want to manufacture your parts at a higher intensity to start, and within a window of intensity and time. This will control your process.) After setting a constant intensity, cure the adhesive for different times. You will see the tensile strength, burst pressure, tack-free time, depth of cure, durometer, or other datapoint climb to a max value and then plateau. Once you have identified the start of the plateau, add a safety margin, and you have the foundation for your process. You can also set the time constant, vary the intensity, and record the same datapoints. You want to define your process by knowing the minimum and maximum intensity and time needed to cure the adhesive.