Developing a fully automatic film processor kit?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by losheng, Jun 8, 2011.

  1. losheng

    losheng Member

    Messages:
    39
    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Hey, guys,

    This is a project that I have been mulling over it for sometime, and I want to bounce the idea off you guys: making a fully automatic desktop, phototherm sidekick style film processor kit, open source manner.

    What sparked off the idea was the fact that the only e6 lab in Singapore no longer processes 4x5 trans. This really sucks. As I began to think about how to do by myself, I faced the same challenge every hobbyist have with c41 and e6 processing : a multi step process that requires close temperature tolerances. Kits like job's cpe/cpa/cpp are very expensive, and it doesn't help to know that the jobo factory has closed down several years ago. Phototherm's Sidekick is a great, but it's expensive, and even if I get hold of a used unit, the shipping cost to Singapore would probably double the acquisition cost.

    As I break down the problem in my head, I think it's totally possible to build a fully automatic desktop processor for a few hundred bucks. There are a few parts to the challenge:

    1. An agitation system. Rolling the entire tank is one way, but the system can be made simpler if just the spindle rotates.

    2. A set of fluid control system that pumps in the chemicals and drains them out. There are many automatic cocktail mixers built by hobbyists around the world that have solved this part.

    3. A temperature bath. This is easy - a temperature sensor, an heating element, and you are pretty much set.

    4. A microprocessor to orchestrate the whole set up. An Arduino UNO cost around $30. The Arduino appeals to me because of my software background. An competent electronics engineer can definitely use a cheaper alternative with a bit of self designed circuits.

    I begin to think that a low cost, fully automatic, home use processor might just be the single most important key to extend the life of analog photography - especially color photography! With both professional and minilabs shutting their doors, there are people that are forced to give up, or feel intimidated, to continue shooting film.

    Any of you interested to help the electronics novice here with the project? I'm thinking of putting the entire schematics, and codes on the Internet, to invite the more experienced hobbyists to refine the design. If there are sufficient interests, we can also put up preassembled kits for sale, to help people who do not have the time or skills to build the kits from the drawings. There might be some custom fabricated parts that can be made cheaper if there are more people that want this. Theres probably not much money to be made from this, and that's not the goal either - it's just to scratch an itch that I, and probably many of you, have.

    What do you think? Or perhaps you have already made one of these? And how much would you be willing to pay for one such preassembled kits?
     
  2. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,183
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  3. domaz

    domaz Member

    Messages:
    560
    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2007
    Location:
    Tacoma, WA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You also have to consider your tanks. Jobo tanks are the most modular since they can do 35mm,120 and 4x5 all in the same tank. If you decide on Jobo tanks it's going to be pretty tempting just to get a used CPE-2 for $200. A home built system is going to cost the same and require more effort. Making your own tanks is not trivial and reels even less so.
     
  4. raoul

    raoul Member

    Messages:
    120
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Jobo tanks also have a clear advantage in that they take a lot less chemicals as they lie flat and rotate. This has enormous cost savings.

    Designing a cog/motor to drive a Jobo tank should be simple. Adding a controller and water bath would be trivial.


    But don't underestimate the design of Jobo's - they have been around for a long time because they work very well. Learn from that.
     
  5. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    19,446
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The Jobo ATL-2 already meets your need. You will spend more money and effort reinventing the wheel than if you buy the Jobo ATL-2.

    Steve
     
  6. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,926
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2010
    Location:
    Castle Rock,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think his point is that he WANTS to re-invent the wheel because they aren't making any more wheels.
     
  7. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    19,446
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    They are available for purchase. One only has to look. For example contact joboman@aol.com. I picked up a Jobo CPP-2 with a 1540 tank and all the bottles and graduates for much less than the eBay prices. I bought a Jobo 3010 Expert Tank from FreeStyle. If the OP posted his/her location, someone in APUG could help find local sellers.
     
  8. SkipA

    SkipA Member

    Messages:
    604
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2002
    Location:
    127.0.0.1
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The op implied he was in Singapore. Or at least the lab he cares about is.

     
  9. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    19,446
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    That could affect availability.
     
  10. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,054
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2005
    Location:
    Melbourne Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I believe that the time is slowly coming when the rest of the world outside the USA and Germany, will start looking for something either semi automated, or perhaps fully automated, capable of developing film from 135 through to 8x10" with 135 being the biggest throughput then 4x5" being next with 120 and 8x10" last.

    The ability to use Jobo tanks, or an extremely similar set of tanks and maybe Hewes stainless reels for the smaller formats and the Jobo big tanks for the sheet film if so desired.

    In short, the biggest market will be for 135, 120 and 4x5" film.

    I believe within 5 years my Jobo's will be starting to fail, if not fail before.

    Mick.
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    19,446
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hewes reels will no work in Jobo tanks. The reels must attach to the center rod and rotate with it. Not spin freely.
     
  12. raoul

    raoul Member

    Messages:
    120
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Mick is right - the more people that have other solutions ready the better.
     
  13. Paul Green

    Paul Green Member

    Messages:
    154
    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2007
    Location:
    Hampshire UK
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I believe Hewes made SS reels for Jobo tanks.
     
  14. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,968
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    As an non code writing (not good quality code anyway) electronics and mechanical engineer, If I can help, I will. And I don't want to make any money out of it.


    Steve.
     
  15. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

    Messages:
    4,516
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2006
    Location:
    İstanbul - T
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Try to import from USA within a container with partial shipment. It saves you from lots of expense. Singapore is one of the largest port in the world and they have a big infrastructure. If the shipper send with a forwarder , forwarder can rip you when they give you the bill of lading. So ask the shipper to learn every cost to you. Its hard , time consuming but cheap.
    An Sax cost you to ship from China to Istanbul 125 dollars with UPS but shipment of a motorcycle from sea cost you 15 dollars.

    Umut
     
  16. losheng

    losheng Member

    Messages:
    39
    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Matt: thank you for the reference! I will surely get in touch with Tony to explore the area of collaboration!

    Steve: I'll most appreciate your help! Let me try to put the idea into a drawing to seek your opinion on the feasibility of the approach! I'll PM you as soon as I'm done with a simple drawing. (I could have make the drawing faster if I had paid more attention in the CAD classes!!) I will most definitely need help with the finer points of electronics and mechanical design. Collaboration is a lot easier when profit making is out of the way. My main wish is to help build a platform that will allow film shooters to continue to enjoy the craft. Hopefully that will play a small part to help keep the analog photography art alive.

    Mustafa: Thanks for the tip! I frequently make purchases from the US, and I know that shipping via the normal channels are a lot more expensive than they need to be. I've wondered if there's a way to commoditize shipping via order collation on the internet. But that's a topic for another day :smile: If you know anyone that I can speak to, I would definitely appreciate a recommendation.

    Though I still do keep a look out for a good value CPE/CPP/CPA set, I have slight reservation on the value-for-money part of the system (especially the shipping part), and the 'incompleteness' of the approach. Since both C41 and E6 are standardized processes with tight tolerances, they should really be automated, fully, at a affordable price. So I guess I am really hoping for a $3-500 Super SideKick. Poverty drives ingenuity - can't blame me for dreaming!
     
  17. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

    Messages:
    2,936
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2006
    Location:
    Misissauaga
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am going more manual for my film processing rig.

    I am developing (no pun intended) a sink line to be housed in a DIY insulated tempering box that will indirectly heat the tanks via a circulating, heated water bath. I am planning an insulated lid to sit over the whole thing to cut heat loss, and evaporative loss in the water bath when it is coming up to temp, or when it is not in use.

    The chems will sit in 4x5 hard rubber tanks with floating lids. I plan on using this for combined b&w, c-41 and e-6 processing, mostly for 4x5 film on hangers.

    Processing 35mm and 120/220 films on reels, suspeneded on stainless supports to sit in the hard rubber tanks, when I want to use this instead of daylight tanks is an option as well.

    I already have a vintage Vivitar process timer that can be programmed to run times for c-41 or e-6 or any less than 18 step process, and warns you audibly when to pull and drian, and when to change the load to the next tank.

    I plan to manually agitate, and wash by setting the wash tank under a stream from the sink faucet, or to build a custom wash tank to spray up from the bottom.

    I had pondered something more complex, but the challenges of different processes, and their differeing chems and replenish rates and expiry once used times, coupled with my modest volumes, made me choose this more manual, but simpler arrangement.