Sunday, November 29, 2015

Kickstarter Text from 2014

Quite a number of new people have arrived and we are glad you are here!  The New55 Project is chronicled here in this blog from the beginning of the project, so please do go back and read it to get an understanding of how it evolved.

Missing from the blog is the actual Kickstarter text. Kickstarter is discussed several times during the course of the blog, mostly about whether or not to attempt a Kickstarter effort. Many people insisted on it, and I mostly resisted until later.

So here is the text and after reading it over for the first time in some months I get the feeling that we were looking into the future more accurately than we could have imagined, at least with respect to the risks and other things that could go wrong that we told supporters and would be supporters about. Many of them didn't seem to worry and instead urged us on,  and I suppose knowing up front what the risks were we were able to confront them together in mostly good spirits. Now that we are over halfway through fulfillment the mood is changing again!

Here it is for your reading pleasure, uncluttered and in words-only just as you read them. The somewhat odd order of subjects is due to the template Kickstarter provided - sort of a fill-in-the-blanks approach, so keep that in mind.



As a contributor to this Kickstarter project at the higher reward levels, you will receive boxes of first-run manufactured New55 FILM "First Edition" (5 sheets per box).

Shipment will likely be no earlier than 8 months after a successful funding. Shipping is included for United States backers. Backers outside the United States are charged an additional fee to cover shipping costs (see Reward details at right) and will be responsible for VAT in countries where it is applied and collected.

This is not a pre-sales initiative. New55 FILM's Kickstarter campaign is a collaboration of artists coming together from all parts of the Earth to fund the manufacturing capacity of an important creative material. The fulfillment of boxes of that material at the end of the project can be thought of as icing on the cake.

If this project doesn't reach it's financial goal, then New55 FILM will not go forward as a manufactured product.

As a New55 FILM backer you will be making history. But you will also be constructing the future of Post-Digital professional darkroomless analog photography. Here, we -- a group of artists (from every continent) -- will take up the means of production. Where large-scale industrial capacity has failed to adapt to the major technological and behavioral shifts from the rise of digital photography, a small-scale factory that is modular, scalable, and humane in its flexibility will begin manufacturing an important and necessary photographic material -- New55 FILM. We now have the opportunity and the responsibility to make it happen.

Although New55 FILM is based on a similar single-shot architecture as old Polaroid type 55, New55 FILM will trade upon its own unique tonal characteristics.


To make a long story short, it was a lot of hard work and also a lot of fun. (This is Bob speaking ...)

“The initial motivation wasn't anything glamorous: I just noticed that The Impossible Project said they were not going to work on 4x5, and so I said, on Twitter, that I would look into it.

"The gamut of my inventions runs though all things that detect something such as heat, radio and light waves, or sound. In this case, lightwaves through a lens appealed to my inventor's instinct, along with the knowledge that a new era was opening up in materials science and nanotechnology -- which is plainly evident in the diffusion transfer reversal (“DTR”) process that Andre Rott and Edith Weyde invented for Agfa just after World War II."

"Like any project, New55 FILM started with researching patents and papers, buying the important books that exist in any field, and contacting people with knowledge who are willing to talk. After establishing a basic understanding of the technology, I set out to locate the pieces: industrial resources, vendors and others who could supply the materials - often materials that nobody has made for a long time - in some cases things that nobody makes anymore. That job isn't done and there are more places to explore after a successful funding effort.”

All of this transpired out in the open on the New55 FILM blog where, from 2010 to today, you can read about the research, experiments, epiphanies, dead ends and insights that bring us to this Kickstarter project.


We will use the proceeds of this Kickstarter project to fund the final component specification work, the acquisition of assembly machinery, pay for hired engineering, general and assembly help, cover material costs and the purchase of the parts inventory for the "First Edition" manufacturing run of New55 FILM instant peel-apart 4x5 film.

We estimate that the machinery sourcing, development and qualifications alone could account for about $250,000, and the parts inventory connected with the 25,000 assembled sheets of New55 FILM (that's 5,000 boxes) will cost a minimum of $75,000. The remaining $75,000 is needed for overhead and general expenses.


We've already contacted several potential suppliers to get quotes on parts and line up specification and delivery steps, but there is more to do.

The 4x5 sheet film component -- the negative -- could come from any one of five potential suppliers including Kodak, Ilford, Foma, Adox or Shanghai. We still need to determine through more testing which negative works the best with the receiver sheet and developer that is finally chosen. The plan is to use a cubic grained emulsion, since this is known to have rapid processing capability and fast transfer to the positive.

The receiver sheet -- the positive print -- requires significant research and development. Most of the New55 FILM examples you have seen used 20x24 Studios' coaterless receiver sheet. We hope to work with 20x24 Studios to create a reliable supply of receiver for this project and the future, if possible, as coaterless sheets are also compatible with the 20x24 camera. But, that type of sheet is very complex and has at least 8 layers to it. A coater-type receiver sheet, more in keeping with "Old T55" is also a possibility and may be a necessity if we are not able to make the coaterless type. Coater type sheets are somewhat less complex to make, but still have 6 layers. The coating is only one of several important requirements for the receiver: It must have just the right stiffness, thickness and be free of curl. It also has to be light proof, and not swell and shrink during processing. Quite a set of requirements for what looks like just a piece of paper.

An "edge taper" is a machine that we will investigate to assemble the top and bottom of the sleeve together into a peelable assembly. It is assumed that some kind of inking or printing needs to go on this piece so that users will know which is the "lens side". This machine will have to be designed from the ground up, then built on the premises. It is a significant amount of work and expense.

Each envelope also needs a "stop" which is a thick paper bar bonded to the outside. The purpose of the stop is to prevent the user from pulling the sleeve out too far during exposure. A cutting tool and assembly fixture, and adhesive applicator are required. At this moment, we think that a thermal adhesive and thermal press can apply this strip, using a guide tool, and also perform some of the final thermal bonding on the end of the envelope to allow easier peeling. Two machines/fixtures are needed, at least.

The metal clips that slide into the 545 holder are important and have to be made carefully. The old T55 clip was made with soft steel that had been painted. Painting adds a lot of cost to a sheet metal part and we think it will be easier and better to use a stainless steel clip of a lighter and stronger gauge. Either way we will be buying a tool for use in four-slide machines, and have that part supplied to us by one or more vendors. Our hope is that we do this once, and not have to modify the tooling. If we have a problem, we will possibly have to make new tooling and do other things.

Once we have clips, they must be securely attached to the tongue - a part that holds both the negative, and the chemical pod. The tool used for crimping and thermal adhesive steps has to be designed, built, and tested, and then we have to make sure it can be assembled repeatably and reliably.

The "pod" is a critical component. It has to be sealed and yet also has to burst in just the right directions with just the right amount of pressure. As of this writing, 20x24 is offering to produce these for us at a per-unit cost. Not only is the assembly of the pod critical, what goes in it is also crucial, as it contains developer, fixer, solvent, thickener and toners, along with pH boosting ingredients needed for rapid diffusion transfer reversal to take place. 20x24's formula for their black and white film is the starting point, and may have to be reformulated depending on the final negative stock and the characteristics of the receiver sheet. Production of the chemical pod is a major undertaking and will happen in parallel with development of the other components.

The entire process of development and manufacturing New55 FILM, and shipping the completed boxes of film to Kickstarter contributors is risky, and estimated to take eight months from the initial funding, but it could be delayed for a variety of reasons as there are long wait times for certain processes and materials to be made, cut, formed, coated etc.

Bob Crowley, Founder (CV)
Sam Hiser, project CEO (CV)

Risks and challenges

The principal challenges for getting New55 FILM to contributors on time include component uncertainties and the usual management risks facing complex manufacturing projects. At worst, the project could deliver late or quality could be well below expectations, or the project could fail to deliver at all.

Mitigating these risks is Bob Crowley's long experience as a materials research scientist and inventor. Bob has a track record of success in commercializing intricate new products in the medical devices, sound reinforcement and wireless communications fields. This is a source of confidence in the team's capability to achieve its goals. The unusual innovations achieved in New55 FILM's product development phase are a strong indicator of the project's chance of success, but various things could go wrong, especially where new materials are involved. It is possible we could engage in a months-long course with a paper coating vendor, for example, and still end up with an unusable part requiring us to start again.

Sam Hiser's decades of management experience in finance, software and start-ups will be applied to the smooth conduct of our business affairs. This is crucial for a Kickstarter project of this magnitude.

New55 FILM has had the benefit of advice all throughout its product development from wise heads in the instant film industry and we particularly appreciate the valuable ongoing support we receive from the folks at The Impossible Project, 20x24 Studio, Soundwave Research Lab and from a growing group of accomplished photographers who -- like us -- are really eager to have a fine, professional, darkroomless, analog 4x5 film in steady supply. As practitioners of the art, they know that instant film is a complex product with many stringent requirements.


Technical problems might prevent the timely production of the receiver sheet.

The project may be under-funded and require additional capital to proceed.

Important supplier agreements for film stock could be delayed.

The supply of pods and reagent may be interrupted requiring a start-from-scratch effort.

The performance of the product could be lower than we expect.

Access to facilities and tools could be interrupted.

This Kickstarter project is not a pre-order initiative. It is an attempt to fund the manufacturing capacity and product design effort for a new photographic film.


Assuming this campaign is successful, will the cost per sheet reduce once you are set up to sell independently?

The money pledged from Backers in this Kickstarter campaign is going primarily to manufacturing capacity. This Kickstarter campaign is not a pre-sales initiative.

There will be no future price and no manufactured film unless the Kickstarter campaign reaches its $400,00 goal.

(New55 FILM will not likely survive in the regular market at per sheet prices in excess of what old boxes of Old Polaroid Type 55 film trades for today on an auction website.)

Will New55 FILM work in the exact same way as Type 55, i.e. shoot, wait, peel, yielding developed print and developed neg that needs fixing?

Yes, handling is quite similar to old Polaroid Type 55.

The holder is the same (Polaroid 545 Land Film Holder).

During the late prototype phase, development time was 2 minutes. It may differ in the final product.

We are not sure if the print will require the acetic acid coater or not. That will only be determined later in the selection of the receiver sheet material; but the negative does require fixing right after development.

We used Ilford Rapid Fixer with highly satisfactory results. The old sodium sulfite bath is optional.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"It's easy" Fun with New55 PN (and a tip from Bob)

New55 FILM scan of negative
C 2015 Robert J Crowley
Today I decided to have some fun and shoot a box of New55 PN that I bought online.It is not unusual for a company to test its fulfillment system by buying some of its own product. I even paid full price.

Using the trusty Speed Graphic I shot this of some "sawbones" which are anatomical models made of foam that look realistic, along with Charles Fendrock's glasses and a cheap Halloween wig from Rite-Aid.

We like to say "A superb negative and a positive print too" and I do consider this negative superb. It's sharp, and good, and scanned in easily.

I see some results online that are not as good: Fogged, mottled, solarized - generally "Foggled". Not this one. Why? Because I followed the instructions which are:

1. Process for the time on the box
2. Immediately at peeling immerse the negative in fixer
3. Use only Ilford Rapid fixer 50/50 with water.

Peel the positive with the negative on the tongue face down and put the peeled negative and the tongue right into the fixer. That's right, just drop the whole tongue with negative face down.

This works like a charm and makes it easier (in my humble opinion) to remove the goo and any tape. Toss out any paper now wet with fixer. After a couple of minutes of fixing, wash the negative in clear water for five minutes and dry.

Don't use "some other fixer" or sodium sulfite, or water and don't let the negative dry. Don't peel it and wave it around because just like old T55, it will solarize in sufficient light.

That's all there is to it. It's easy!  Click on the image to see it up close.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Rubicon

You are probably as tired as we are to hear about all the coating problems we have had with the receiver sheet. To recap, the receiver sheet is an essential component of New55 PN, as it produces the positive print.

New55 went through a huge R&D effort to formulate a safer formula for the coatings that works well and eliminates the need for solvent coating, which is bad for the environment. Scaling the process up has been difficult. We spent over a quarter of the Kickstarter funds at various vendors with little result, and today coating receiver sheets, by hand, takes us half our total week.

That means we could double the amount of New55 built if we did not have to hand coat them. It was never our plan to become coaters of anything. It was always assumed that there are coating companies capable of coating the materials, but we now have run out of time and money to keep trying to do something that doesn't look like it is going to ever work.

So out of desperation, we decided to try another way. The new way is to outfit our little production floor with a special coater made specifically for New55. This is also not without risk and entails spending more money than we currently have. We never planned this. We never planned to take it so far.

I added additional funding to New55, both before and after the kickstarter effort. Sam and the team have kept at it, steadily, laboriously. Despite all the difficulties, floods, supplier errors and setbacks, we have achieved 50% fulfillment of Kickstarter rewards. Repeat: We have achieved 50% fulfillment of Kickstarter rewards!  Photos from supporters look good with some superb shots being made. But we are stuck in an endless loop of hand-to-mouth production where every day hand coating is done, and that is very, very slow. We can't keep doing that, because we'll be out of business if we do. Something has to change.

The Thing

In the back, away from everything, I started on building a new machine. It isn't pretty, and in fact it is big and ugly and I call it The Thing. The Thing uses a long, curved ramp to bias the paper to help keep it taught on the surface, and it has drive and return wheels that allow the coated paper to pass through a long channel of heated blowing air to dry it just fast enough so it emerges dry at the end. A special newly invented vacuum slip system was added just yesterday to maintain a firm hold down. Everything on the Thing is made of wood, screws and tape.

Yesterday Charles and I did a dry run of a stuck-together plywood and tape coater Thing.  Charles, a real engineer, made many suggestions and pointed out some real risks that the Thing might not do what we need, but he spurred things forward. The entire team stood with apprehension as we flipped the switch. Would it work? It had to. And as that switch was flipped, a long roll of our special paper started to move. Slowly it traveled along a track to see if it would stay in position as it was wet with coating materials, rather than curl into a mess. The result: It worked. Paper stayed flat, driers dried, and still the paper moved forward, a few cm at a time. We then knew it could be done!

Now we are working at a hurried pace to make this new machine practical for manufacturing this necessary part of instant film. As we do, we suddenly realize that we have crossed over the 50 percent mark in our thinking too. We are a real photographic materials company now, still shaky in its legs and depending on support through early sales to the most devoted, but it is now all very real. New55 is real. Every day the pace quickens and the team of six dedicated people work better and harder as we all learn how.  We have passed the rubicon.