Hobbyist film processor working group

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Lowly, May 1, 2012.

  1. Lowly

    Lowly Member

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    Just thinking aloud.

    I've read a number of threads where lots of people have jury rigged their own processing equipment, and I was wondering whether it would be worthwhile having a standard processor specification now that film processing is more of a small scale operation. What I mean by that is a standards committee made up of knowledgeable engineers could specify certain standards, and as long as those standards where met parts could be cobbled together, regardless of the manufacturer.

    eg. Jobo tanks could be a standard (Jobo cog size, dimensions). So all equipment for rotating (whether a manual crank or motor) would need to interface with Jobo reels.

    Tempering bath sizes would be standardised to allow for fitment of the largest Jobo tanks, and specify external dimension so things like lifts would slot in.

    Lift size would be standardised, and position for attachment of rotating, lift motors, chemical pumps and drains could be standardised.

    Motors could be standardised to have minimum and maximum torque and rpm, and obey certain electronic commands.

    This way standard off the shelf components could be used for pumps, motors, controllers as long as they adhered to set standards. Manufacturers may come and go, but since all the specifications are open source, if there is a great demand for a certain part someone could tool up and manufacture and know there is a market out there. Standards would specify how things fit together, but not specifiy the way individual components are built.

    Has anything like this been thought about before? Would it be useful? Should I stop inhaling chemicals?
     
  2. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I'd just concentrate on making parts to keep Jobos running. Motors, electronics, parts for the lift etc. They got it right, why mess with a good thing; just copy it.
     
  3. OzJohn

    OzJohn Member

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    Don't know about inhaling chemicals but a bottle of something helps pass the time in many darkrooms!

    It's an idea that I doubt can be made to fly.

    As far as I'm aware there is little still being made for film based photography apart from a few cameras, film, paper and chemicals. I don't think Jobo or Paterson reels and tanks are still made (don't know about SSteel though) so what's out there is all there is and all that there is likely to be since there is no economic imperative let alone a workable business case to again make any of this stuff. As others have pointed out in other threads on other topics, eventually a market that depends exclusively upon second hand stock is not only deprived of continuing product improvement but it must inevitably run out of stock not least because much of the stock that does exist today in basements and sheds will be unceremoniously dumped tomorrow without ever coming to market.

    But, as someone will no doubt point out, there has been an announcement recently that Jobo processors are on the way back. I just say that's all it is yet - an announcement - a bit like the fabled Polywarmtone project. I own a Jobo processor and IMO they are poorly engineered using flimsy plastics and under-specified components like the motors and I would not base a standard on them at any cost but even in their heyday they had little competition because there was not a big enough market for anyone to come up with something better. Today, sadly, there is almost no market compared to even 15 years ago. Cheers OzJohn
     
  4. Lowly

    Lowly Member

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    Yes that's what I was thinking about - the economic imperative isn't there at the moment but if demand picked up what would be the best way of getting more film processors out there cheaply?

    As technology improves wouldn't it be nice if new advances could be incorporated into older processors. If someone came up with an iPhone application that followed the APUG rotary processor protocol, they could remotely turn on the bath so it was all ready when you came home with a load of film. Or if someone made a bulk tank loader, which allowed you to load up a whole load of tanks, and it fed/removed it automatically into the processor. And because it followed the APUG rotary processor protocol, everyone could upgrade regardless of who made their other parts without having to start again.

    I currently have a rinse bath made from components off ebay, accurate to 0.1 degree. Open source is good in this day where we can't rely on a particular manufacturer staying afloat.
     
  5. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Just get a monkey and train them to do it for you.
     
  6. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I trained my daughters to do the processing at my house.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    As I read the OP, I think he is suggesting something akin to an "open source" approach to the question.

    The closest existing parallel are the Paterson developing reels - both Phototherm processors and the commonly found generic AP/Arista/?? tanks work with them.

    IMHO, not a bad idea, if there are enough users.

    Unfortunately, the number of users is actually the problem.
     
  8. CatLABS

    CatLABS Subscriber

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    Jobo are in fact going to make a new processor. It will be available in some time, and will be expensive, but IT WILL BE AVAILABLE none the less.
    As time went by the Jobo processor design ironed out some of the quirks and issues of the earlier models bringing the last production models of manual machines as close to perfect as the design allows.
    The new processor should be even better.
    The automatic machines is another story completely.

    That being said, seeing as how Jobo is its own standard and machines and drums are readily available, new and used i am not sure what else the OP would want to see done.

    Sourcing Jobo processor components is generally easy, and when in need finding the source, manufacturer or OEM parts is possible.
     
  9. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Lowly,

    First, I agree with your feelings and built my Jobo work alike (no lift, I don't see the need unless that was automated and I'm too cheap and lazy to bother) based on off the shelf parts just so there would never be an issue with getting them. Second, there really is no need to limit how such a device might be made as there are so many options available. Personally, I built mine in such a way that matched my limited electronic capabilities. Timer relays, a large synchronous motor, a small fountain pump, and a cheap temperature controller off ebay did the trick for me, but someone with real skill in electronics I'm sure could build something quite a bit more sophisticated. It's really pretty easy to build a one off, and very hard to build one at a production price that can turn a profit.

    I would be interested in a thread showing how folks with real capabilities were able to solve the problem.

    Neal Wydra
     
  10. Lowly

    Lowly Member

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    Thanks Neal, your type of situation is exactly what I was thinking of. Something modular in approach, but integrated. You start out not needing a lift, but you eventually want some help with big drums so you want to include a lift. You search out other people who have made a DIY lift, and because it was all built to a certain specification you could buy their unit and couple it to the unit you had built.

    So a progression could be someone wants a temperature bath, so they start out with that.
    They then add a rotary processor, doing it by hand.
    They then think this is too much work, I want it automated, so they buy a electronic control unit and motor that drives the rotary processor, and the electronic controller seamlessly integrates with both the temperature bath and motor.
    They then think I want more automation, so they buy an automated lift and a chemical pump unit which pumps chemicals into the drum.
    Then they shoot more film and want to go to a higher volume operation, so they buy a unit which automatically reclaims the chemicals, replenishes those that are needed, and then pumps it back into the system.
    Then... etc, etc.

    And all these components can be built by different companies, but since they can all be controlled by the central controller and mechanically fit together, you can add parts as needed and swap between different builders. People building these units can specialise in what they are good at (some can build great controllers, while others are good at building the replenishment systems). As better controllers are made with cheaper electronics and with touch screens, you can replace that old controller with one that has the latest 3D screens. With the Jobo you are locked into the upfront cost, and then if you want to change anything you are locked into their way of doing things.

    Thanks for the discussion.
     
  11. graywolf

    graywolf Member

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    If I were going to design a processor it would be a small robot dip and dunk line. It would be very easy to control such a processorer with and old computer. It ould only take 2 servos, one to raise and lower the rack, and one to move it from one tank to the next. Put the film/paper in the hangers, close the lid, turn it on and walk away until a beep tells you it is done. A temperature controlled bath would be optional, as would an automatic replenishment system. I see no reason why a 3 bath system would need to be bigger than about 1-1/2 cubic feet. The basic system should only cost about $300 to build, as long as some currently available off the shelf tanks are still available.
     
  12. Lowly

    Lowly Member

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    You've had the same thoughts I had Tom! I was doing the dip and dunk in the dark with stainless reels and tanks listening to a recording on my iPod for timing, and started daydreaming about the same thing.

    What I'm coming round to thinking is there are many ways to actually process the film and prints, but the first thing to develop would be a way of making things work together. I play in a band where I control my lights using DMX - regardless of what the lights can do and who manufactured them (dim, change colours, rotate) the controller can control them because they follow the DMX protocol. New devices can be added, the controller can be changed as required, or it can be controlled manually with footswitches that issue DMX commands. I wonder if there are other process control protocols that could be easily adapted. Time to start hitting google.
     
  13. graywolf

    graywolf Member

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    Lowly, I was thinking in terms of CNC (computer numerical control) machines. There is an immense hobby presence about that on the web. Parts, controllers, and software is readily available. Look up "CNC routers", to get an idea. A temperature bath tub with a simple gantry above it. A servo to move the rack along the gantry, and another to move it up and down.

    You load the rack in the dark, close the cover and hit run on the computer. The gantry servo moves it to the developer tank. The lift servo lowers the rack into the developer, and jiggles it up and down a few times, then jiggles it a couple of times every 30 seconds or so. That is you agitation. When the developer process is done the rack is lifted and moved to the stop bath, then to the fix.

    And then to the rinse. If you want to get fancy you could rig the rinse with a solenoid controlled dump valve and do a few automatically controlled fill and dump cycles, and then move the rack to a hot air film dryer section. There you have a fully automatic processing line, although I was only thinking of the develop, stop, fix set up when i wrote that post, it would be fairly trivial to design such a system.

    Optional would be a light tight cover for the line, that would mean the only thing that would need to be done in the dark is load the film into the rack, and hang the rack in the processor. Need a 9 bath transparency processor? It would be easy to add stations to the basic design, and reprogram the computer for the additional stages.

    By comparison, a rotary processor is complicated as heck.