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  1. #1
    Ricus.stormfire's Avatar
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    R&D into new films, good for all, or a waste of money?

    Hello all

    I've been pondering this during recent nights of insomnia, and I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

    First off, I don't even know how many companies still invest in R&D.

    Is there a real benefit coming from this? Yes a new film is great, but what's wrong with the ones we already have?
    In colour film I can understand, there is still room for improvement maybe (I won't know, since I don't really shoot colour). But black and white? (Do the producers of these materials still invest R&D into these?) Between what's available on the market, is there still need (in the current market) for newer/improved emulsions?

    Maybe R&D is a good "finger on the pulse" to gauge the "health" of a company, IDK....

    or is making new emulsions akin to the upgrading that is so ever prevalent in the "other" new photographic "medium" and just money not so well spent?

    I'm on the fence on this one......

    your thoughts ladies & gentlemen (roughmen may also give their thoughts )

  2. #2
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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    Well it's not so long ago that Kodak revamped some of their films and Foma have recently had to make changes to Fomapan 200. Fotoimpex in Germany have been working on new versions of APX400 and 100.

    Ilford have introduced new papers and it wouldn't suprise me if at some stage there was a new film. So yes there is R&D still going on, obviously at a slower pace than in the past.

    Ian

  3. #3
    polyglot's Avatar
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    There is always room to push the speed/grain-size/reciprocity/linearity/spectral-sensitivity envelope. Think what you could do with a TMX-resolution film that can push to ISO3200...

  4. #4
    ath
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ricus.stormfire View Post
    Yes a new [xxx] is great, but what's wrong with the ones we already have?
    That can be said about everything.
    Regards,
    Andreas

  5. #5

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    I always think of it this way: What if R&D stopped with the original Kodacolor? We'd have 25 ASA film with the same grain as today's 800, and poorer colors to boot.
    "Panic not my child, the Great Yellow Father has your hand"--Larry Dressler

  6. #6
    segedi's Avatar
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    R&D seems to be a process dependent on profit, where a company spends a percentage on it. Smaller profits would likely mean less. But keen businesses never quit.

    And I hope you can cure that insomnia, which is. Bit more troubling than thoughts on film.
    -----------------------

    Segedi.com

  7. #7
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    People develop favorites over the years, and those who really are in it for the photographs (read prints), value having access to materials that are consistent.
    At the same time photography is also driven by a lot of propeller heads (like me), who like to try new things, and admire innovation. The new Ilford Art 300 paper, for example - it helps to keep the Ilford line of papers fresh. New product introductions may not be important to everyone, but it is to some, and for that reason it's important to at least try bringing news to this almost abandoned way of making photographs.

    If you look at almost any company today, innovation and new products are, for the most part, their life blood. Cars and electronics, for example. While some value traditional things about these things, most people value having something new and exciting to look forward to.

    Look at Ilford, they have been asked to come up with a Delta 25 film, for example, but ended up not being able to justify it. They came out with the Warmtone and Cooltone developers. Only the Warmtone made it due to market demand, but hey - they tried bringing something new, and they did! Kodak came out with the Ektar 100, which (if memory serves me right) is a derivative from movie film, new versions of both Portra 160 and 400. TMax 400 was improved only a couple of years ago, and what a fine film it is! Fuji came out with Velvia 100 (it isn't that long ago), and while they brought back Velvia 50, they still kept the 100 around.

    I mean, why not? I work for a company that has managed to grow around 10% year over year for years now, with a slight dip in 2009 of only 6% or so. In a bad economy, and a highly volatile market (commercial construction), and the reason is attributed to new product introductions, at least as far as organic growth goes. It sends a sign that the company is strong, and worth investing hard earned cash, as well as time in.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  8. #8
    andrew.roos's Avatar
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    R&D decisions are based on return on investment - how much additional profit you can make by selling the new product, against the cost to introduce it. As an engineer in an R&D division (although not in the chemical industry) I can contribute some observations on the cost side.

    In order to introduce a new product, you would need to do the following:

    1. Identify the requirement - where can improvements be made that will result in greater profits (either through greater unit sales or through greater profit per unit).

    2. Do the actual product design. Theoretical analysis and probably computer simulation. Prototype many different candidate emulsion formultions to determine which precise formulation best achieves the objective.

    3. Document the precise product composition - raw ingrediants, analytical measurements of trace ingrediants found in the raw ingrediants since these may affect film performance, precise temperatures and humidities for all manufacturing operations, etc. so that you can reliably reproduce the film.

    Now if one were doing this as a home project, it would be more or less done. But as a potential product for manufacturing, you still need to:

    4. Qualify the product, which means extensive testing to ensure that it will perform as required under all usage conditions. This is a much more complex and expensive process than one might think initially. at a rough guess, I would expect that qualification of a new film would entail:

    4.1 Exposure and development regimes: different degrees of over- and under-exposure, with all likely developers and fixers, over the allowed temperature range for development, and with different process types (small tank, rotary, tray etc). Possibly 5 stops of exposure x 10 developers x 2 fixers x 3 temperatures x 3 process types = 900 rolls/sheets of film to shoot test targets and evaluate. Some of this will have been done during product development, but will almost certainly need to be redone under more controlled conditions during qualification.

    4.2 Storage conditions: extended storage tests of uneposed film, exposed film, and negatives at ambient, high and low temperature, with various degrees of humidity. You probably need an accelerated aging process to qualify a film in a realistic time frame, but the time frame will still be 6 months or more - after all, it could potentially kill the company if say the negatives start to fade after 5 years.

    4.3 resistance to atmospheric polutants of various type.

    4.4 resistance to ultraviolet light.

    4.5 fungus resistance

    4.6 mechanical strength and abrasion resistance including effects of dust etc.

    4.7 test of operational characteristics at temperature extremes - does the film perform the same at +40 C as at -10 C?

    4.8 if you have any critical qualfication failures, then reformulate and repeat qualification.

    5. Field testing - shoot lots of film under various real-world conditions to ensure the results are as expected.

    Are we done yet? Nope, we now have a qualified film, but not yet a qualified production process!

    6. Re-tooling - making any changes to nozzles, dies etc required to produce the film. This may be substantial if e.g. the new film design has more layers than previous films or new manufacturing processes are involved.

    7. Capture product requirements and process stages in MRP system.

    8. Update test equipment, software and procedures to enable automated QA testing of the new film.

    9. Update production flow diagrams and work instructions and train production staff.

    10. Run low volume pre-production. Perform extensive QA testing on resulting film to catch any process errors. Fix errors and iterate.

    OK so we're done now? not quite. Now we have to handle the distribution and logistics.

    11. Update stores inventory control system, assign stores areas,

    12. Packaging design, documentation and qualification.

    13. Data sheets for the new film, and update data sheets for related products (developers etc) to include figures for the new film.

    14. Train internal sales support staff and technical support in new film.

    15. Marketing material, launch events, website.

    I'm guessing that this process will cost in the order of US$ 10 million. So essentially the question facing the company is whether the new film will increase profits (over and above existing products) sufficiently to pay back say US$10 M in a reasonable period - say US$ 2M additional profit per year for the next 5 years in order to break even on the R&D costs. Of course $2M profits probably requires at least $4M in sales, so about 1 million rolls of film a year over and above existing sales.

    One fact that can drive this process is component obselescence - if a chemical that is used in a propular current film becomes unavailable, then the potential future profit for that film line falls to zero unless you can replace it, making the introduction of a new or reformulated film to fulfill the same market niche much more attractive than if it would cannabalise profits from an existing product in the same market niche.
    Last edited by andrew.roos; 05-31-2012 at 12:52 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  9. #9
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Agree it's complicated to understand what products need to be introduced, and making the calculations surrounding return of investment.

    In the ROI calculation, things like market share, synergies coming from existing products, company profile, trends in society, etc are taken into account. Take a mega trend like energy efficiency, for example. It's here to stay this time around, and it would be a wise thing to capitalize on in bringing new products to the market – to make stuff people can’t be without.
    The tough part about photography, and film photography in particular, is that the market has been in decline for many years, all while being highly mature technology with little to no room for improvement. Just how can somebody come up with something new and fresh that is groundbreaking enough to alter or better how the final print is arrived at? I think that small incremental improvements have been the way it's gone for many years, if not decades now, but also, as you mention, consolidating product lines, or replacing old ones with components that become unavailable.
    The only small game changer I have seen is the Ilford Art 300 - bringing back a textured paper to the market for those who mourned the loss of Foma 532 and 542. Variation on a theme, sure, but now we see Freestyle bringing out a textured paper as well, via Fotokemika, so a bit of a new trend has been set.

    A new film? You're obviously a lot more qualified than I in calculating the cost. I work in the product marketing department, and get to be part of discussions surrounding bringing new products to the market, and justifying the cost via market research, and customer interviews. But a new film - I wouldn't even know where to begin to look.

    It's an interesting discussion, especially if you look retrospectively. For example, why did Kodak discontinue Panatomic-X? Or Super-XX? Or Royal Pan? They thought they had something they could make more money on, and release it as something superior. Perhaps new trends could be to bring back old favorites. ADOX with their APX 100 and APX 400 replacements, for example. They wouldn't be doing that unless there was a demand for it, but Mirko has also been on this forum letting us know that the game has changed to a point where less R&D staff can be justified in bringing the product forward. This just proves your point about justifying a project based on return on investment, a composite of demand and cost of all sorts.

    Perhaps ADOX is finding out why it wasn't viable for Agfa to sell the film they sold at the price they did, based on the cost of production, meaning they'll have to raise the price to a level where few will actually shell out for it, APX or not. I'll be perfectly honest and say that I shot APX mainly because I could afford it. Where I lived it was a lot less expensive than Kodak, Ilford, or Fuji, but with comparable quality. Cost matters. Unfortunately, today the cost of developing a new film is likely higher than it was 30 years ago, more restricted due to availability of materials, but then you’re punished with a market that is a fraction of what it used to be, meaning payback time will be much longer, unless price is increased significantly to raise the margin to a sustainable level. You have to make enough money on every sale to make a profit.

    To me, the two most important areas of R&D should be:
    • How to make the product less expensive to produce, while maintaining or improving the performance.
    • How can you make production lines flexible enough that you can run small runs of specialist materials on the same piece of equipment that you also run bulk materials like Tri-X or HP5+?



    Quote Originally Posted by andrew.roos View Post
    R&D decisions are based on return on investment - how much additional profit you can make by selling the new product, against the cost to introduce it. As an engineer in an R&D division (although not in the chemical industry) I can contribute some observations on the cost side.

    In order to introduce a new product, you would need to do the following:

    1. Identify the requirement - where can improvements be made that will result in greater profits (either through greater unit sales or through greater profit per unit).

    2. Do the actual product design. Theoretical analysis and probably computer simulation. Prototype many different candidate emulsion formultions to determine which precise formulation best achieves the objective.

    3. Document the precise product composition - raw ingrediants, analytical measurements of trace ingrediants found in the raw ingrediants since these may affect film performance, precise temperatures and humidities for all manufacturing operations, etc. so that you can reliably reproduce the film.

    Now if one were doing this as a home project, it would be more or less done. But as a potential product for manufacturing, you still need to:

    4. Qualify the product, which means extensive testing to ensure that it will perform as required under all usage conditions. This is a much more complex and expensive process than one might think initially. at a rough guess, I would expect that qualification of a new film would entail:

    4.1 Exposure and development regimes: different degrees of over- and under-exposure, with all likely developers and fixers, over the allowed temperature range for development, and with different process types (small tank, rotary, tray etc). Possibly 5 stops of exposure x 10 developers x 2 fixers x 3 temperatures x 3 process types = 900 rolls/sheets of film to shoot test targets and evaluate. Some of this will have been done during product development, but will almost certainly need to be redone under more controlled conditions during qualification.

    4.2 Storage conditions: extended storage tests of uneposed film, exposed film, and negatives at ambient, high and low temperature, with various degrees of humidity. You probably need an accelerated aging process to qualify a film in a realistic time frame, but the time frame will still be 6 months or more - after all, it could potentially kill the company if say the negatives start to fade after 5 years.

    4.3 resistance to atmospheric polutants of various type.

    4.4 resistance to ultraviolet light.

    4.5 fungus resistance

    4.6 mechanical strength and abrasion resistance including effects of dust etc.

    4.7 test of operational characteristics at temperature extremes - does the film perform the same at +40 C as at -10 C?

    4.8 if you have any critical qualfication failures, then reformulate and repeat qualification.

    5. Field testing - shoot lots of film under various real-world conditions to ensure the results are as expected.

    Are we done yet? Nope, we now have a qualified film, but not yet a qualified production process!

    6. Re-tooling - making any changes to nozzles, dies etc required to produce the film. This may be substantial if e.g. the new film design has more layers than previous films or new manufacturing processes are involved.

    7. Capture product requirements and process stages in MRP system.

    8. Update test equipment, software and procedures to enable automated QA testing of the new film.

    9. Update production flow diagrams and work instructions and train production staff.

    10. Run low volume pre-production. Perform extensive QA testing on resulting film to catch any process errors. Fix errors and iterate.

    OK so we're done now? not quite. Now we have to handle the distribution and logistics.

    11. Update stores inventory control system, assign stores areas,

    12. Packaging design, documentation and qualification.

    13. Data sheets for the new film, and update data sheets for related products (developers etc) to include figures for the new film.

    14. Train internal sales support staff and technical support in new film.

    15. Marketing material, launch events, website.

    I'm guessing that this process will cost in the order of US$ 10 million. So essentially the question facing the company is whether the new film will increase profits (over and above existing products) sufficiently to pay back say US$10 M in a reasonable period - say US$ 2M additional profit per year for the next 5 years in order to break even on the R&D costs. Of course $2M profits probably requires at least $4M in sales, so about 1 million rolls of film a year over and above existing sales.

    One fact that can drive this process is component obselescence - if a chemical that is used in a propular current film becomes unavailable, then the potential future profit for that film line falls to zero unless you can replace it, making the introduction of a new or reformulated film to fulfill the same market niche much more attractive than if it would cannabalise profits from an existing product in the same market niche.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  10. #10
    MattKing's Avatar
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    One shouldn't overlook issues of synergy. As an example, consider Ilford's coating machinery. They are able to use it for coating many things - not just photographic products. So R & D relating to coating issues may also pay dividends in other areas of their business.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

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