Monday, July 14, 2014

July Update

Note: This identical text may appear in the Kickstarter update section as well, but may not contain links or images. We had the pleasure of a visit by Steve Herchen of The Impossible Project, and a great lunch at Stone's Public House which is highly recommended. TIP, and Inoviscoat, are a partly combined entity and are interested in doing synergistic work that could lead to OEM arrangements, which we will consider as we move along.  We'd like to hear your opinion on us working more closely with TIP going forward.

In general, progress has been steady and a number of important milestones have been met. These include:

The Sleeve Machine is operating and produces usable assemblies. The system still needs to be calibrated, mounted on a rigid base, and the feed system needs to be built. One problem is the motor control which is too coarse so we will have to replace the servo with a stepper. Another problem are the tape guides which are too wide and need to be redesigned. None of these problems require discovery.

The Receiver Sheet design has progressed considerably but is not near completion.  A new reduced-step formula has been experimented with by Ted McLelland and Jake Kellett, and a number of test impressions have yielded fair Dmax and image formation, with some evidence of color control. We discovered that the neutralization scheme used by Polaroid to stabilize their receiver sheet is not very aggressive. We also saw using scanning electron microscopy the original receiver sheet which has lower porosity than imagined from the literature.  This is a puzzle.  An intensive discovery experiment plan will remain underway for this important component. The versatility of silver and its many forms astounds us!   I like the Ag2S the best, personally.

The Secondary Operation Tools - ten or so of them - are being designed and the next one is the cutoff tool followed by the corner notcher. We need to invent a method of heat bonding or using another adhesive step for the sleeve formation, and this is ahead of us for August, in all likelihood.

Test Samples of paper bases from an important vendor have arrived in small quantities. This is just the first step in what looks like a circuitous chain of events including laminating, rerolling, converting, coating, and further converting, in at least three location widely separated by geography.  Still, it all seems possible.

Our first film supplier agreement was finalized by Sam and there is now a production, shipping and payment schedule in place which will - if all goes right - result in about a third of our first production order arriving at our dock in August. The hot weather at that time makes us worry about heat damage so some heat sensors will travel along with the first shipment.  Sam will be visiting this vendor along with our importer/agent to assure that there is a proper understanding and commitment in place as we progress to production quantities.

The infamous clip tooling has finally been ordered. There was a lot of back and forth on this deceptively complex part regarding dimensions and tolerances, surface finish, base material, and edge radii. The clip is still about 7 weeks out due to a delay in the tooling order, but that is now in place and the vendor appears to be getting to it this week.

The air conditioning in the upstairs lab now works well, which means we can operate in the safer environment with a good fume hood and not melt.   I can't imagine what the electric bill will be like this Summer.

I am also still running after acquiring our own scanning electron microscope. There are dozens of these surplus for under 10K, so one would think we could get one in here and operating for 25K or less.  It is not clear we can, but I am still trying.

In general, much progress has been made but there are many things yet to be done, and some discovery in the form of coatings technology that still will require attention, possibly up to product release - and perhaps beyond.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Machines and their complexity

A lot of times during the course of the project we are asked if there are specific machines already available for production that we can buy, perhaps as surplus.  A brief answer to this is no, there aren't any, but there are a few types of paper and web handling machines that do perform many of the operations needed.  We do not have any folding or creasing steps in the process, and that's intentional, but we do have adhesive steps, and the application of adhesives can be a messy business if not handled right.

Shown are some envelope making machines that produce ordinary envelopes that you might use to mail a letter or more likely, pay a bill with.  The principle of the system is to take a roll of paper and cut, fold, gum and shape, which should be simple.  But look at how complex these machines really are, with their many stages and sections devoted to certain operations.

The paper rolled out into a sheet is referred to as the web in the paper industry. Webs have coatings put on, get rolled and rerolled, cut and converted, laminated with other webs, and more. The world of paper and sheets is a vast one.

Polaroid did have some machines used for the production of the sheet film. For instance, the sleeve making machine which we have designed our own version, is an obvious example. You can see some of them in this video.

Monday, June 30, 2014

New55 at 10,000X

The world of the really small, too small for us to see unaided, is the province of the microscopist. The microscope, as you surely know, allows us to see details that we could never imagine and has had countless uses in medicine, industry and science.  There are dozens of types of microscopes, optical, acoustic, fluorescent, field emission and scanning electron, to name but a few.  Today we used the scanning electron microscope (SEM) to look at the edge of a receiver sheet - that's the white paper where instant positive photographs form, and it is quite a complex thing.

The receiver sheet as described by Andre Rott and Edith Weyde contained nuclei - mainly of metals and metallic salts - suspended in the top layer of paper, or any substrate.  When contacted by the processing chemical, and an exposed negative, the interchange of ionic silver, solvents, and sulfides occur in a rapid, battery-like process.  Electrical charges, yes. The "electrolyte" is not that different than most alkaline batteries, except that is a developer and a fixer, too.

The silver halide in the exposed negative represents one "terminal" of the circuit. What is the second? In the fast-paced world of Diffusion Transfer Reversal, otherwise known as instant photography, it is the receiver paper, or more exactly, minute metals or metal salts and precursors, that form the second "electrode".  Those who are familiar with battery technology are sure to ask "which is the cathode, and which is the anode?" It depends.

Below are two SEM images obtained just today that show the various receiver sheet layers. Stacked like a cake, but made of paper, then a baryta coat, then acid layers, a timing layer, a nucleation layer, and finally a top, or release layer (to prevent sticking).  New55 FILM needs to make this or something like it. It's a daunting task as there are no recipes and even if there were, perhaps from patents and scientific papers, there'd still be a lot of process information. So we have over the last month started on the development of these layers, beginning with our visit to Colorado, where coaters capable of coating so-called "solvent coats" meaning, not water-based, but instead based on alcohols, acetone, or some other solvent. That was just the start: Now, every day, the coating team formulates at least one or two experiments, tests them, and decides on the next experiment.

The value of an SEM is hard to overestimate, and I would like to have one close, in our lab.

Baryta, then cellulose acetate, acid layer and other layers

The nucleation layer. We barely see the tiny nanoparticles.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Brief update on first month

June 17, 2014: The last four weeks have been hectic: We are still getting banking and credit accounts squared away so we can disburse the Kickstarter money more efficiently and get quicker responses from vendors. Everything takes longer than you'd like, when you are in a hurry.  A number of important things have happened since the actual transfer of funds for the project one month ago:

We now have an agreement in place with Soundwave Research to use its facilities at a reasonable rate, and also use its existing insurance, bookkeeping, and heat, light, and rent. A portion of Soundwave's facility has been reallocated to New55 FILM, including "the back lab" where I sit, and the upstairs lab and office areas.  This saves having New55 try to rent its own space for now, which would take about three months to accomplish, and a lot of money that is more urgently needed to work on product development.

I have cleared my schedule, and have been working full time on the project, and Sam has too.

Sam has negotiated a reasonable starting price for our film while leaving our options open. Having choices in the film supply is a goal, and probably a necessity considering the changeable nature of photographic film suppliers. The global nature of film suppliers and the logistics costs, such as shipping and import duties, are significant, too.

Ted and I flew to Kodak Park in Windsor CO to discuss a contract where the coating machines can be used for making our receiver sheet. This trip also resulted in a big bill from Hertz car rental. The coating machines in Colorado might be able to do the solvent coating development we need, and possibly more. This is going to be an ongoing and intensive part of the New55 FILM project, and will have to occur in parallel with all the machine design efforts and everything else. It is our number one risk area as there are financial, technical and timing risks throughout this portion of the project.

A number of new machine designs have been drawn up, the process flow chart is done, the product configuration tree is finalized, and a portion of the Sleeve Machine is already nearing completion. The Sleeve Machine is a key piece of equipment and will - if it works right - assemble some or all of the Sleeve assembly, which is fairly complex and requires precision, and several steps in rapid sequence. We've hired an automation engineer who is going to design and have build cutters, possibly rotary die cutters (for speed) and various crimping and bonding tools, and install the Sleeve Machine on the first floor, in the back lab area which will become a dedicated production area. The plan is to use that space for any process that may create particulates, then clean and perform final assembly in the upstairs lab where we can better control dust.

We've finalized the clip design (but still subject to the last design review), and have quotes from four sources. None are cheap and all require fairly large tooling charges, which are a one-time thing.  I think we will pull the trigger on the order for 25,000  clips this week, probably. The clips we are going to order will be made of a different steel than previously and they will be stronger, more supple, and less prone to deformation. The new clips will also not require paint, which is a very expensive thing to get on a clip that has to cost less than a quarter. Some of you may be alarmed to see a shiny clip instead of a black one, but it is nothing to worry about.

With clips and some machines expected to be here within 8 weeks, we've ordered surrogate papers from a paper converter slit to our dimensions. This is necessary so we have something to work with while we source the real papers. Surrogate papers are just about any paper that has the right thickness and width that can be put up on rolls.

And much much work hunting down papers has gone on. This mystery still leaves me with the impression that if we had an expert we'd find what we need off the shelf. But so far we have made modest progress with some of Polaroid's old vendors, slowly. The supply of paper materials has been identified as our number two risk. I've already traveled to paper mills and plan to go to more of them soon, and we are looking to hire a genuine paper expert, in case you know one.

We hired a very sharp Summer Intern who is a Chem-E undergrad from UMass Amherst to do a lot of the test coatings, pH and timing layer experiments, and several other important experiments that we think we need to do to finalize our own receiver design. This simplified design will use materials that didn't exist until recently and stems from my work in nanotech. We are fortunate to have Ted McLelland from 20x24 Studio guiding much of this R&D and leading the coating efforts.

Sam has established contacts with important logistics and shipping, fulfillment and customer tracking firms we will need to ship the product. He has also started to plan the fulfillment process, plant tours, and schedules, though it is quite early for that.

This list is by no means everything. We've purchased some lab equipment we needed, such as a viscometer, and have performed some basic experiments that point to next generation DTR in the process.  We are just getting organized and it seems to me, at times, like pushing a very heavy boat off of a dock. Over the next month we hope to have at least one key assembly machine up and running with surrogate materials, and also have progress in the receiver sheet design.

An important lesson - a reminder - from this first stage is how important materials and suppliers are, and what a minor role machines really play, despite all their complexities. New55 FILM is materials-intensive. Each part has special properties that you can't just go out and buy, even though they look simple. You can get a hundred samples of "opaque paper" and none will actually be opaque, for instance.  So that's what we are on right now, and today we are going to clean the upstairs lab and install full spectrum lamps and do a little painting. There are many other things to do.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Paper in New55 FILM

New55 FILM is made mostly of paper. You would think that paper of the type, thickness, opacity and stiffness would be easy to get - there are so many papers in the world. But Fujifilm, Polaroid, Kodak etc all use(d) custom-made papers for their products. They could do so because they needed so much of it, and the paper industry is scaled for very large production orders.

We need more than a dozen kilometers of paper for our first run. This sounds like a lot, but it is puny compared to what the paper manufacturers want to run.  "OTS" means Off The Shelf, referring to commercially available things. We are fortunate that some 4x5 sheet films are OTS items, because the cost to develop and run new ones would be enormous.

Over the last four weeks I have spent nearly every day researching "lightproof paper" and "baryta paper" to see if I can find any OTS papers that fit our needs. I've visited paper mills and contacted others, and still do not have a complete answer to what we need. I'll continue to look for the perfect paper that is ready to go, but anticipate that we have to contract custom runs.

For the Reciever

A 7 or 8 mil, totally lightproof baryta paper is needed. One excellent company named Felix Schoeller of Germany made such a thing for Polaroid in the past, and we have contacted them. Since there is nothing OTS about this paper, I have found an alternative lightproof coating that can be applied to ordinary baryta paper if needed. But the extra cost of doing that is something I prefer to avoid. The Receiver paper has to be respooled and then converted to the right width for our Sleeve Machine.

For the Cover

Any color, as long as it is completely lightproof, thin, perhaps 5mil, and available converted to long rolls for the machines we are building. Another European company, James Cropper of UK, has made these types in the past.

The "Tongue"

Long rolls aren't needed as this is a die-cut part, but it still should be reasonably opaque, lubricious and stiff enough to allow support of the 4x5 film sheet, pod, and clip attachment.

This is not even a large roll of paper, by most standards

Paper Experts

I have not found a product engineer who is a paper expert, though I assume such a person exists somewhere in the paper industry. Each manufacturer has their own experts who know the details of what they make, but I would like to hire a person experienced in sourcing and specifying "technical papers, as a consultant. The right person will have direct experience with buying papers for industrial applications - preferably in North America.


A box and other papers are needed to put the product in including labels. I think we can get these easily, but it will take some work, and have a cost associated with it too.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Proposed Sleeve Machine

The Sleeve Machine, shown in schematic form
The Sleeve Machine is a device to join a receiver sheet and a cover sheet together at the edges, perfectly flat, and with a controlled overlap of tape rails that space the rollers during processing.  This sets "the gap" which is the distance between the negative and the receiver sheet that the processing gel resides in during the 120 seconds of development.

Shown are the two "pancake rolls", referring to their narrow width-to-diameter ratio. A roll like that requires flanges (not shown) to keep the layers from telescoping and making a mess. Sort of like magnetic tape, but much bigger.  The construction of the receiver surface is even more complex than magnetic tape, so while that conundrum is being pursued, we are moving ahead with the design and construction of the Sleeve Machine.

The Sleeve Machine is designed to produce 200 to 400 sleeves per day, in accordance with our steady state manufacturing plan. We will need to sell that many to keep New55 FILM in production after the Kickstarter rewards are filled.

Since paper is flexible, rollers are used to pull the two sheets through the machine, where the edges are taped, followed by a cut-to-length operation, possibly with a rotary die.  This cutter will need to produce the curved fishmouth at the open end, and the corner clipped closed end, designed so that a user can pull the sheets apart after processing.

There is much to do with the Sleeve Machine and many other automated and semi automated tools in the plan, which is being aggressively  scheduled ahead of the supply of materials.

Without the materials we can't make the product, but having a machine at least lets us use surrogate materials to fine tune the assembly specs, train people, and design and add safety guards, along with the necessary electronic measurement and control systems.

I'd also like to print on the sleeve during this operation and save having to do it beforehand.

Getting the right sized rolls of the exact needed material is the hardest part: Much wider rolls have to be custom run, then slit and rerolled. The hub cannot be too small or the curvature of the material will be too great, and the outside diameter cannot be so big that an operator cannot lift it into position.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Opening for a chemist or chemistry intern

We have an opening in the Ashland, MA lab for a chemist or chemistry intern with some laboratory experience. Duties will include designing, setting up, and running experiments, ordering materials, keeping lab records of results, producing summaries of results for the decision-making process, and research into various forms of nano-sized phenomena used in photography. This will initially be a part time position, and/or a temp position, and we would like to fill it immediately.

To qualify you must be local to Ashland MA and have relevant skills which we can determine from your CV, a phone call, or both. Our working hours are 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.


C/O Soundwave Research Laboratories, Inc
72 Nickerson Rd
Ashland MA 01721 USA
508 231 4515

Film types that work best in the instant mode

Some films with cubic grained emulsions
What film shall we use, and can we use an off-the-shelf sheet film (to get started) or do we have to have one custom made?

These are important questions for New55 FILM. Polaroid used a material known as SO-139 for T55, supplied by Kodak. We know today that SO-139 is a dye sensitized cubic grained medium speed emulsion similar to Kodak's Panatomic-X, supplied in long rolls for processing.

One of the problems with old T55 was that the negative was too big: It's size was a poor fit in many scanner and enlarger carriers.  We want to avoid that.

Another problem with custom made anything is lead time and start up cost. Could be too much in our case.

A better way is to find, if possible, something already available that works well. For those of you who have been following along, we started with EFKE because their film worked great in the DTR process, and we were quite disappointed when EFKE ceased production.  I really liked it for everything: monobaths, DTR and conventional processing, but I had to get over it.  Since that time we have purchased and done experiments with nearly every available black and white 4x5 film, and we have learned a lot of interesting and valuable things about them.

Most of the cubes are near the surface,
and that's good.
Cubes and Tabs

In the days when DTR was invented and developed by Agfa, and Polaroid, the only emulsions used were so-called cubic-grained emulsions.  A cubic grained emulsion is, as the name implies, composed of silver halide grains shaped like cubes of salt, though smaller, often suspended in just a single layer of gelatin.   Tri-X is a good example of a cubic grained emulsion. It can look sharp, and grainy too.

The "tabs" are well below the surface.
Fujifim and others do a much neater
job than this picture shows.
To make a very long story short (that includes probabilistic photonic theory and advanced, multilayer coating technology), the tabular, or tab-grained emulsion was developed to overcome the graininess, yet maintain the high speed, and there are other advantages to tab grains, such as less silver used and somewhat lower cost of materials.  In order for tab grains to show their flat face to the light, which improves film speed, they ought to be laid down flat and close, like a tile floor. One way to do that is to first coat with a very thin layer of tab grained filled liquid emulsion in such a way as to get a lot of the tabs to lay parallel, and down on the surface of the film base. Then an overcoat of clear gelatin may be applied to provide durability. The result is a smoother look and less grain yet good film speed.

The flat plates need to lay flat on the film base
and this requires special coating tricks.
But there is a downside to the tab grain scheme that some of you already know about: Because the grains are well below the surface, it takes more time for processing chemicals to get in and do their job. Developing, fixing and washing all take more time with tab grains. Not enough to bother anyone - much, except anyone in a hurry, like us.

Instant photography utilizes the rapid processing of the negative and formation of the positive image. This process is slowed down by multilayered tab films, and they are not what we want right now for our New55 FILM negative.

We want the "rocks" to sit right next to our processing reagent and be available as quickly as possible so that the DTR process can proceed without delay. If you take a look at Fujifilm's FP-3000b negative, (out of production) which processes in 15 seconds, you can see the remaining silver grains with the naked eye!

Only one of Land's list of cubic grained emulsion films survives today. Note that he also experimented with papers, such as Kodabromide, as the "negative".

Land's list of films tried. In those
days they were all cubic
grained films and papers.
But there are at least a dozen remaining cubic-grained emulsions if you look around, and some of them are very close to such classics as Panatomic-X in their operation.  Each have their own advantages and disadvantages, and costs.  Logistics, shipping, and import duties also contribute to the cost and risk of sourcing the films, and then there is the reverberating market for analog films in general, which tends to rule out weak hands in the long-term.

In some respects, the cubic grained emulsions we need for New55 FILM production are simpler and more widely known than our receiver sheet! Sobering, but also intriguing: Could we make film, too? If we want to do that, as a strategic move, where would we start?  It's too soon for all that, as we are very busy with all the other things - items that are no longer made.

So we can be grateful for the likes of our existing film makers who have kept at least a few traditional emulsions alive and available, and we have learned that, in total, more cubic-grained emulsions are sold today than tab grain emulsions.

The final emulsion for New55 FILM production has NOT been set. That gives us some lateral maneuvering room as we plan the other parts of the system such as the processing chemicals, and the all-important receiver sheet design.  You can be fairly certain, however, that any film we use will feature a cubic-grained emulsion.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Coatings, and economy of scale

All film-related technology relies upon advanced coating technology.  This week we traveled to the old Kodak Park in Windsor, Colorado to attempt to line up the necessary coating services and know-how needed for New55 FILM production.  The campus is many hundreds of acres/hectares big, and the companies have coaters that can coat materials at rates of up to 500 meters per minute.  That means we could get everything we need in about five minutes!  But not really, as the preparation and setup time can take months. New55 FILM is a tiny customer, but we hope to be a good one for these types of services.

Kodak Park in Colorado
Since we are planning to use an off-the-shelf 4x5 negative emulsion, if possible, the focus is on the even more complex coating of the Receiver Sheet, or just "the receiver".  This is the white shiny paper that the positive print forms on.  But it isn't just paper: This is the special material that was first formulated by Weyde and Rott and then improved by Polaroid over many years.  The function of the receiver is to take a portion of the processing negative and, via diffusion transfer, form a reverse, positive image with tone characteristics that are similar to conventional continuous tone photographic printing.

And, since Polaroid kept much of the receiver design a secret, the only book-form reference we have is the Focal Press book by Andre Rott and Edith Weyde entitled, "Photographic Silver Halide Diffusion Processes", and certain of the early Edwin H. Land essays, such as published by McCann, particularly Volume 1, "Polarizers and Instant Photography".  Then there are several patents, long expired, that hint of certain tips, tricks and practical implementations of "the receiver".  These are, by far, the most valuable to us, and it is good that the companies concentrated on patents, which as you know have a limited lifetime, so anyone, including you, can now use them.

Very small clumped and dispersed nanoparticles
This technology detective story becomes even deeper when we start to analyze the materials used to make the receiver.  For instance, both aqueous and solvent processes are used to coat the receiver and further processing is needed to convert metallic salts put down into a properly distributed network of metallic nanoparticles. The nanoparticles act like seeds, or electrodes/catalysts, which form the various grades of tones from black to gray.  I will post more about this fascinating area of nanotechnology that has been going on in the photographic industries for a long time, unseen.  The importance of having just the right mix of metals, and the right number of particles over a certain area is high, as that sets the tone scale, and there is also a cost per unit area of materials to consider.  Weyde, and Land, both wrote about how each particle ought to be for its intended use.

Aqueous Coatings vs Solvent-Based Coatings

There are thousands of coatings and many techniques for coating sheet products such as paper, plastics, films and fabrics. We need to coat baryta paper - the paper that is normally used for photo prints - with the special materials mentioned previously to form the receiver sheet, and produce the positive print. Aqueous coatings, as the name suggests, are water-based. Water is a good and environmentally safer solvent for paints, for instance, and for things such as gelatin emulsions, candy, food, and printing.  But solvent-based coatings have their own advantages: Oil paints use a solvent (volatile petroleum oils) to maintain a sticky, adhesive and semiliquid state. The solvent evaporates into the atmosphere. Other solvent-based materials contain alcohols, or light oils similar to paint thinner. Oil paints can be stronger, and tougher, and have other chemical advantages, but industrial coatings with solvent-based materials also require additional steps to capture and clean the evaporated solvents. Often this is termed "solvent recovery".

Our detective work tells us that traditional receivers are made of both aqueous (water) and solvent based materials, which have to work together to form the nucleating layer. Sounds complex? Yes it is. We are fortunate to have the experience of coaters, some who were with Kodak, Polaroid and other important firms in the coating business, to help us understand the manufacturing tradeoffs as we near decision points on the processes needed to produce New55 FILM.  Even they, however, find this field of coated nanoparticles something they will have to learn about, too.

Secrecy is needed in industry, this we understand, and trade secrets are essential to keep. But when companies die, the knowledge can, and often does die. Look at the many industries and technologies from the Roman Era until today - medicine, surgery, navigation, pigments, gold plating, and many many more - that were lost because nobody dared write down how to do it out of fear of copying. It was not until the 18th Century when patents allowed inventors to bring forth their ideas for public review in return for 20 years of exclusivity, and look at what happened since then. But not everything to be known is written, and it certainly is not on the internet, or google searchable.

So that was the subject-of-the-week, amid many sourcing and vendor efforts, phone calls, visits, quotations and buying the things we need to finalize the design. Onward.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Summary of the net proceeds from Kickstarter

1. There were $33,805 in fees

2. Failed payments were pledges that had failed credit card information

3. The final number is reasonably within the minimum funding goal.

4. New55 will remain active in fundraising at

5. Before this Kickstarter effort, substantial sums were already spent on the R&D

6. We hope that the total go-to-market number will be less than $1M US.

7. Extreme gratitude for the supporters who believe in post-digital photography like we do!

8. Some of the proceeds became available on May 22, 2014.

9. Now that we have some of the money, we can begin to make expenditures aimed toward the 2015 production goals.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Industrial mass, and some trash

Over the last couple of days I have gone through piles of old microphone patents, broken musical instruments, magazines and a lot of other bits that were cluttering up "the back lab" and threw them out.

Doing so gives us about 6 X 10m of floor space which is already filling up with hotplates, scaffolding, the IR chamber, and several items needed to design and develop the semi-automated machine I have in mind for the center of this area.

This tool requires some electronic controls and feed motors, and a rotary cutting die.  I'm going to try to save a lot of money by building some of it here.

The edge tape machine will bond the top and bottom sheets together, very precisely, very evenly, and cut each sleeve to length.  The current design calls for a feed rate of 200-400 units per day over about 1 to 2 hours of run time, after setup.

We don't want to create an overcapacity.  Just the right amount that we can make, and sell, if we have a steady flow of manufacturing, packaging and sales once we hit the steady state.

The object to my right is the trash container, and that's our old blue warehouse behind me.