Tag Archives: testing

Doming – testing the waters

Id like to try my hand at some doming to learn if it has any real appeal for me. I know others here are doing it. I did a quick search and found minimal information. I think thats because theres not much to it.

I looked at the ultra dome website. They seem to have a decent setup but Id rather not spend $700 to test a few pieces myself.

Is this correct? Where do you recommend purchasing them from?

You can probably find (library, online) plans for building your own UV exposure unit.

Your rundown of materials is correct. The applicator can be a small plastic bottle. Small butane torches are handy for dealing with air bubbles.

Sunlight makes a good source of UV, unless you need to do doming at night. 🙂

There are basically two types of doming epoxy:

1) UV cure, requiring UV exposure for hardening. 20-30 min.

2) Air cure, requiring several hours of curing time.

Doming epoxy also comes in rigid and flexible formulas.

The Rigid variety cures to a hard-plastic consistency, which can crack with impact.

The Flexible variety, has a self-healing characteristic, in that, if you press your fingernail into it, (leaving a dent) in a few minutes, the material will revert to its original shape.

Coast Graphic Supply is a good source for doming epoxy. I believe they only carry the UV cure formula.

David The Stunt Engraver Lavaneri

To: Stunt Engraver (DGL)[2]23 Mar 2005

Thank you for the explanation of epoxy types and the supplier.

Im going to make my own curing box: ($25)

1) Small cardboard box turned upside down. $0 I always have some.

2) Two 15W screw in compact florescent bulbs. $5 each at Spenser gifts.

3) Two sockets with leads attached. $3.28 each home depot.

4) Extension cord, 6. $1.24 home depot.

5) Switch for cord. $3.82. home depot.

6) Two wire nuts. $0 I always have some around.

Wire up the sockets, cord and switch. Make 2 holes in the side of the box near the bottom. Screw the bulbs into the sockets through the holes.

Got the parts; thats the plan; Ill let everyone know how it goes, maybe even post a picture.

Ken , if you look on do a search on doming , you will see I have published a huge amount on it.

Its not actually *that* simple as there are some pitfalls

The best material to use for doming is a 2 part urethane (rather than epoxy) or if you have the money a UV curable one part.

The easiest way to get into this is buy a cartridge system with an applicator gun , tho if you are doing volume , this is very expensive , but for a trial system , its fine.

The biggest problem you will have is bubbling and then yellowing. The materials are hygroscopic (attract water) , that and the mixing action introduces air and thus you start getting bubbles in the dome and if the dome gells before you can release them , the item is ruined. the mixing guns will not introduce air or bubbles and all you have to do is pull the trigger , apply the dome and put the domed item in a level warm dry place – heat will accelerate the curing process but is not essential unless conditions are cold moaist and damp. We actually put the mixture in a vacuum chamber after mixing to de bubble it quickly. We have built drying racks using shelving with incandescent 60 w bulbds screwed to the underside of the shelves to heat the one below , we use industrial builders plastic sheeting as a curtian to keep the heat in and stop dust.

The golden rules and some thought are:

1) Do NOT vigourously mix , it introduces air , fold the mixture and let it stand a few minutes after mixing to de bubble

2)MOISTURE and to an extent cold is an evil in doming , it will cause all your problems , Dry and warm conditions are VITAL to doming

3) If bubbles in the dome dont rise before the dome starts gelling , use a flame waved over the dome , makes the liquid more viscous and expands the air bubbles to rise , do not touch the mixture with the flame

4) Most epoxys yellow and do not have a great adhesion on certain stuff , try avoid them and use urethanes

5) Do not dome huge areas to start with , practice on small stuff like 1 diamater circles etc

6) The longer the pot life (the time the material has befor it gels and is unworkable) the longer the cure time

7) Drying trays MUST be leveled using a spirit level.

8) Urethanes are more difficult to work with than epoxies , start off with epoxy and move to urethane when you are experienced.

9) You can dome just about anything , some papers will get soaked etc

10) Be careful with digital printing and the like , it sometimes bleeds into the dome , plasticisers in vinyl will also be a barrier to adhesion with some epoxies.

11) Epoxies and urethanes in bulk are about $15 per kilo mixed (2.2 lbs) and 1 gram should cover 1 square inch

12) Some uv curables require serious UV sources , not a black light and they can be VERY expensive , the 10 sec UV curable from deco coat is about $210 a gallon.

14) Sharp corners do not dome well , when cutting cut sharp bits with a slight radius.

15) Apply the doming in the centre of the item , let it spread a bit and then draw it out using a toothpick to the edges if it doesnt get there.

16) Only use flexibles on stuff like stickers , badges , key fobs etc use the hard stuff

17) If you get milky depostits on the surface of the dome a few days/weeks later , the conditions you domed in were moist or cold

18) Most resins are toxic to some extent , eye protection and rubber gloves is essential

19) You can use a paper cut and a ice cream stick or tongue depressor to mix and to drip the mixture on the item – drip it , dont pour.

20) if there is a mix ratio , like 1:1 , dont eyeball it , it has to be extremely accurate – a cheap kitchen digital scale will help here

21) The more viscous the mixture and the smaller the part , the higher the dome you can build.

22) dont print too near the edge of anything being domed , the dome acts as a lens and printing or letters right at the edge gets distorted.

Start off , as I say , with a 2 part epoxy that does not require uv curing , coins are a good thing to start doming.

Doming adds huge value to an item and beautifys it , often turning something ordinary into something extraordinary and enabling you to more than double the price.

To: Rodney Gold (RODNEY_GOLD)[4]23 Mar 2005

Very good how to and what not to do post. I am going to copy it and move it to another folder for easy reference to others.

Heres a picture of the $25 UV curing box I made for doming. Now all I need to do is wait for the UV epoxy to arrive.

I decided to line the inside of the box with some metal tape I had. (Note I did not put any in the area where the bulbs are attached.) Not sure if Itll reflect the UV, but it cant hurt.

After I apply the epoxy Ill Put the box over the item and turn it on.

Rodney, you had a very informative post. For the low quantity Ill be doing, 1+ pieces, the convenience of the UV epoxy is worth the cost. Its amazing the difference volume makes. Im also not concerned with the 1/2 hour cure time using a UV light from the local store.

When you said fluorescent bulbs I wondered about how much UV would come out. I know that printers fluorescents had stripes of no phosphor to allow the full spectrum out, but they are dangerous to look at. All wavelengths of UV come out of those.

Now I see that they are UV fluorescents, great. Makes my creative juices run.

To: Harvey only (HARVEY-ONLY)[7]25 Mar 2005

I exchanged some emails with ultra dome. I was told that an ordinary fluorescent black light will work if its within an inch or two of the epoxy. I am hoping a compact florescent will also work. These say 15W; dont know if thats the bulb or unit.

Home Depot has 18 and 24 bulbs. The compact fluorescents I bought are from Spencer Gifts, at the local mall, $5 each. The box I used is 5.5×4.5×3, very thin flute, maybe F.

I ended up buying a small bottle of the epoxy and the applicators from ultra dome. (Theyll be offering a smaller entry level UV system in a few months. Itll probably be good for people who dont want to rig up their own, and dont requrie the size/price of the existing system.) Im not sure if its the hard or soft epoxy David discussed. If my initial tests go ok Ill check out CGS and their offering.

To: Harvey only (HARVEY-ONLY)[7]29 Mar 2005

The light worked well with my first test piece, though it did get a little warm in under the box. I need to think about adding vent holes yet still containing the UV light.

My first test piece saw a laser engraved sticker, the Laser Lights material. I now understand why the video on the Ultra Dome web site used a removable adhesive to hold the stickers; mine cured with a very slight curl.

From: Harvey only (HARVEY-ONLY)[10]

I cannot find the screw in UV lights at Home Depot, where did you get them?

As far as the heat, if it is not too much for the box, it should promote the setting also. It will also tend to thin out the stuff before it cures a bit to make that unseen bubble rise and pop.

If the heat is too much, a hole just above the sockets will allow the least amount of light to escape, and a hole at the bottom of the back will make for much improved circulation.

I forgot to mention in the previous post that the metal tape probably doubles the amount of usable UV inside the box. A shiny metal under the item will also reflect back a lot of light.

To: Harvey only (HARVEY-ONLY)[10]29 Mar 2005

I cannot find the screw in UV lights at Home Depot, where did you get them?

– From Spencer Gifts at the local mall. They carry various novelty items.

My only concern with the heat, and I dont know if its justified, is a noticeably shortened bulb life. I ran it for 25min. Ill have to see how much time is required.

Im considering spray painting the applicator bottle to help help keep the contents in the dark.

Its an amazingly easy process. I ordered a small bottle of the flexible epoxy so I can compare the two and see which I prefer.

To: Stunt Engraver (DGL)[2]29 Mar 2005

Any recommendations when to use rigid vs. flexible epoxy? Im assuming its based on personal preference, with some applications lending themselves more to one or the other.

Does anything happen if its left under the light longer then necessary?

You mentioned in another thread that youll be covering tips and tricks for large items in a class youll be giving. How big of an item is easy to do without knowing the insider tricks?

To: Ken D. (KDEVORY)[12]29 Mar 2005

Too much heat can be a problem. Not only detrimental to bulb life, but if youre doming sublimated items, especially metal, too much heat can cause the image to blur.

Doming larger items (6 discs, as an example) arent much more difficult than smaller items. The trick, and thing to keep in mind when using UV cure epoxy, is the epoxy is curing, albeit slowly, as soon as you begin to work with it.

Instructions dictate working in subdued lighting. Problem with that is, you cant easily spot small air bubbles. Using magnification to spot the bubbles helps significantly. What also helps is working in better lighting.

If you work in more intense lighting, you have to pour it on. Using the small applicator bottle (after curing) will reveal the pattern, on your domed item, in which you applied the epoxy.

Youll learn, through experience, how much epoxy can be rapidly laid down without breaking the surface tension, or capillary action, which creates the dome. That learning curve can get a little messy 🙂

Too much time under the curing lights is better than not enough. Doesnt harm anything.

Flexible epoxy has a handy self-healing characteristic. A dent will eventually return to its original shape. Another trait of flexible epoxy, even after cured, exhibits a tacky feel. If you put such a domed item in a poly bag, it will stick to the bag like Saran wrap. No fun to remove. In fact youll usually end up tearing the bag.

Flexible is somewhat of a misnomer. If you dome an adhesive-backed label and adhere it to a coffee mug, unless the adhesive is extremely aggressive, the domed label will attempt to return to its original form (flat).

Rigid epoxy is just that. Cures to a non-tacky, hard plastic consistency. It can crack with enough impact. Ive used both flexible and rigid epoxy on sublimated namebadges.

My namebadge customers favor the rigid epoxy. Mainly because of the non-stick finish.

For the Full Monty, youll need to show up at Coast Graphic Supply on April 9th, where Ill have examples of sublimated, domed items that are used in applications most people wouldnt expect.

Is it possible to turn a few cents of metal and epoxy into $100 (or more)? If I hadnt already done it, Id say no 🙂

David The Stunt Engraver Lavaneri

From: Harvey only (HARVEY-ONLY)[14]

To: Stunt Engraver (DGL)[13]29 Mar 2005

I am fairly certain that he was talking about no more than 125* to 150* from the bulbs. More than that would be a wiring risk. 150* for 20 minutes should not affect sublimated product unless it will rapidly, (a few days), blur out into the dome anyway.

If you use standard light bulbs you can get a huge amount of light with virtually no UV. One 40 watt fluorescent will output a lot more UV than probably 400w to 1000w of incandescents. (The light starts out as pure multi-wavelength UV in a fluorescent.)

To: Harvey only (HARVEY-ONLY)[14]29 Mar 2005

The heat conductivity of the metal may play a role in the blurring. shrug

I realize the temps brought to bear in a curing unit dont reach the 350+ mark, which would surely reactivate the sublimation dyes.

When doming metal namebadges, I place the items on the glass trays which come with the Ultradome unit. Since the trays themselves conduct heat, I dont use the same tray in consecutive curings.

Laser sublimation is much more subject to blurring than ink jet sublimation. Unless ALL toner residue is removed before applying the epoxy, youre guaranteed a dud.

Could be that if ink jet sublimation isnt driven deep enough into the coating, enough of the dye remains close enough to the surface to be affected by the epoxy.

Probabaly more a reaction between dye and epoxy than anything to do with heat. I dont know. I just know that I have much more success in doming ink jet sublimated items.

David The Stunt Engraver Lavaneri

To: Harvey only (HARVEY-ONLY)[14]29 Mar 2005

Do you know how the output spectrum from the screw-in halogen, Halogena, bulbs compare to the florescent and incandescent?

To: Stunt Engraver (DGL)[13]30 Mar 2005

If the show were here on the east coast, Id love to go as a day trip; Unfortunately I wont be able to make it to CA. Thank you for all the information youve provided here on the forum.

From: Harvey only (HARVEY-ONLY)[18]

To: Ken D. (KDEVORY)[16]30 Mar 2005

No idea whatsoever to the output. But in general a halogen bulb puts out a little more UV than a regular incandescent, but far less than a fluorescent.

An incandescent is usually about 3200* Kelvin in color temperature, a halogen about 3400* Kelvin. I think a fluorescent is about 5800*, (green zone), average output, (30 year old memory from working with film crews). But a fluorescent has many shorter wavelengths also, including a bit of UV.

I prefer the warm white fluorescents, more light output as far as the eyes can see. The others put out a lot of blue which reduces the eyes sensitivity to all colors, therefore less effective light and a bad skin color. I have been told that blue is forbidden in airplane cockpits because it kills night vision. Warships use a dull red in the areas that have people going out to the night when in battle. It prepares the eyes for better night vision. Oops, end of ramble.

To: Ken D. (KDEVORY)[17]30 Mar 2005

I was kidding. I know youre on the East Coast and coming to California for one day wouldnt make sense.

Looks like I may have to begin filming some of these procedures.

David The Stunt Engraver Lavaneri

To: Stunt Engraver (DGL)[19]30 Mar 2005

I meant it more as a general comment that a lot of people would attend more seminars/classes if they were local. It doesnt help that this is a very geographically diverse group. Of course this forum, and business, would not work if we were all in the same county.

Youre also walking a fine line. One side is sharing openly with the forum, the other side has your published articles and classes. Whats the expression about not buying the cow if the milk is free.

Edited to add: I like the video idea. (future forum section?)