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.

6 comments:

Alpenhause Kamera Werke said...

A Very Bright Future Awaits New55 Film!

Looking forward to someday having color 4x5 instant film from you folks!

Best Wishes from Alpenhause Kamera Werke, Santa Paula, California

Http://Alpenhause.com Light Weight 4x5 Rangefinder Cameras

rlfsoso said...

W O W! Great Progress. Very nice. Wish you all the best in your efforts! R.

Alan Jarvis said...

Sounds like progress! Can we see a photo of the 'thing'? Machinery fascinates me.

Pat Morrissey said...

That is just splendid news.
I'm with Alan above - a photo of The Thing would be great to see.

Lars Jansen said...

Sounds like great progress and very exiting and stressfull times. I just want to let you know I'm rooting for you, and will make sure to buy from you whenever funds allow, even though I sadly haven't got the time or energy to actually shoot the stuff.

Michael Filler said...

Congrats on the progress! Looking forward to you being a major photo material production company. I can't wait until you are able to accept orders again. Happy Thanksgiving, you've made great progress!