LED vs. Fluorescent bulbs
I get asked about this a lot, with the most common question being "Aren't LEDs better than fluorescent bulbs?". The short answer is no, although there are plenty of situations where LED works better, and at least as many where fluorescent bulbs work better. Keep in mind, Solacure does more than fluorescent bulbs, we engineer LEDs for other companies and are constantly testing them for our uses as well. We haven't offered a lot for sale yet because they haven't met the cost/performance goals we have set. Let me explain....
In general, an LED diode does one thing and one thing well, which is to efficiently produce one band of light. If you want 385nm and 385nm ONLY, then LED is pretty good and will beat fluorescent. Most situations aren't so simple, however. For example, when curing UV resin, we have proven that adding some extra frequencies work. Our SG-1 lamps, for example, have about 2% UVB in the 313nm region, which accelerates curing and makes the final cure harder. Yes, I know, the manufacture will tell you that they only need 365nm (where over 90% of the output of the SG-1 is), but we also have lights that are narrow band 365nm, and the SG-1 beats them. Also note, every batch of UV resin is a little different, with center frequency drift that can be as much as 10nm (355nm to 375nm). Since fluorescent lamps, by their nature, have a wider output range, they are more consistent from batch to batch of your resin. You can always use a LED system that has multiple frequencies, but that ups the complexity, removes their "efficiency" and raises the price. Plus no one makes them.
When it comes to cannabis cultivation, there is no LED solution that is proven effective and is cost effective. Trust us, we want one, but no one is making the diodes. UVB diodes are hard to make, very expensive, and not very effective. Part of the problem is that if you get a UVB diode at 285nm (about $400 for just a single diode as I write this), it doesn't produce the other bands of UVB and no UVA. This "silver bullet" approach just isn't effective. Cannabis wants UVB in the 280s, but it also uses the other bands of UVB and UVA, which is why we designed the Flower Power to produce a fairly smooth curve from 280nm to 380nm. This was no small feat, and no one else does this, but we are convinced that every part of the UV band serves a purpose to the plant, and the feedback and results we see from this design speak for themselves. Compared to an LED solution (which doesn't exist as a whole), it is a fraction of the price. Compared to other fluorescent bulbs, Flower Power simply beats them, hands down.
Certain uses, like curing resin on fishing lures, pool cues and other similar items, fluorescent wins, hands down. The full spectrum UV, with a giant boost at 365nm may not be quite as fast as LED, but it's close and it will cure harder. Other areas, like curing automotive primer in body shops, probably work better with LED, although a set up big enough can be quite expensive. Still, in a busy shop, it pays for itself and makes sense.
Violin finishing is very unique, since it isn't a UV cure finish, but instead a linseed oil finish that not only needs to be dried to a varnish, but the wood needs to be aged down to look vintage. We've tested 385nm LEDs (prototypes) along side our SG-1 lamps, and the SG-1 lamps win, big time. There is no comparison. The LED will dry the finish, but slower, and will not come remotely close to the aging that you get with fluorescent bulbs. The difference is very stark.
If you are talking about speed and high production, honestly, you won't use LED or fluorescent. You would use mercury vapor UV. It's quite expensive but very cost effective for high volume production, such as doing hundreds or thousands of items per day. We don't offer mercury vapor systems ($10k-30k) as that isn't our focus. Our focus is offering that same ability, UV curing, for smaller businesses, at a much lower price.
So LEDs have their place, as do fluorescent bulbs. For us, the key isn't about "efficiency" (electricity used), or even speed as long as the time differences are similar, it's about quality. So far, fluorescent bulbs are winning when it comes to aging material, hardening UV resin, and certainly when it comes to boosting THC in cannabis. LED will get there, maybe in a few years, and you will know because we will offer them. We work with LEDs daily here, but we won't release as a final product until they are competitive with fluorescent technology in both price and quality of use.