Ilford Roll Film Processors


The BJA for 1960 in the "New Goods" section illustrates and describes the "Ilford Roll Film Processor." The text and the photograph would have been created in 1959 or before. The machine illustrated differs from the machines I saw and operated in 1964 and 1965. I assume this processor is a proto type; there are no guards fitted. Compare it with the image bellow of the processor being used by a young woman. This machine had to used in total darkness and to use it without the guards fitted was very dangerous. A patent application was filed for the lifting and transfer mechanism of this machine in 1962 by George Martin Brown of Ilford Limited. These processors were badged as Ilford machines and were designed and made by Ilford Ltd. However in Jack Coote's "Photofinishing Techniques" he describes a later Ilford Dual Track Colour Processor as a Kennington. This  colour machine was a development of the original Ilford design by K&B, it used the same but scaled up lifting mechanism and the hanger bars are similar but much smaller only hold three films on each bar.

Here is the text from the BJA 1960 "New Goods" section. The machine cost £750 with 50 hanger bars and the recirculation and replenishment units. A big investment in 1960. I am not sure if the word "Photomation" has ever made it into the Oxford English Dictionary.

(Ilford Limited. Ilford. Essex)

A big step on the road to complete " Photomation ". the new Ilford Roll Film Processor is a fine machine, planned in detail for the rapid production of standardised negatives. and built from carefully selected materials. Withal, it is moderately priced. The processor works on the 'dunking ' principle. the films being carried eight-to-a-bar through developer, rinse. fixer, three washes and a final carry-over tank to which wetting agent may be added. The complete cycle takes about 16 minutes,of which 4 minutes each goes to developing and fixing. Maximum capacity of the machine is' 480 films per hour. The interval between each lift is regulated by a built-in timing unit. Optional extras include automatic re-circulation and replenishment of the developer and fixer, and a 600 watt controlled temperature tank heater in each system.The processor throughout is constructed from materials either in themselves, or in their durable finish impervious to the action of photographic chemicals. Tank units are of resin-bonded and impregnated plywood with housed joints screwed and cemented with epoxy-resin glues; all woodwork is finished with three coats of acid and chemical resisting epoxy-resin paint. Hard plastics and toughened PVC are used for water pipes and the recirculation system. Metalparts in contact with the solutions are of stainless steel-the film clips, it should be noted, do not touch the solutions when kept to the prescribed level, so there should be no danger of dryingmarks from this source. Careful design has allowed large capacity (31 gallon) tanks to be used without making the machine unduly bulky-in fact its height of 87 in. is its greatest dimension, its overall length being only 60 in. and width 56 in. A 4 ft square flat concrete base is all it needs for installation and a 230 volt, 10 amp single-phase supply of current. Water economy is achieved by carrying the final wash water back through the preliminary washes and the rinse. The price of the machine, complete with temperature control, fixer and developer, recirculation and replenishment, and 50 transport bars, is £750. Extra bars are available at £1 4s Od  Without.recirculation and replenishment units the cost is £610.

As well as the hanger bars the finisher needed film clips; a double clip at the top to carry the film and its identifying ticket and a weighted bottom clip. The top clip had to be an Ilford one but the bottom clip was not critical as long as it was of the weighted variety. Often a finisher would recycle the bottom clips that they had been used for deep tank processing and a variety of types would be in use. The "Kodak Self Draining Bottom Film Clip" along with the Kodak Double Clip had been around probably from before WW2. The double clip was a milestone in photofinishing history as it attempted to overcome the ticket-film crossovers that had plagued the industry. A W Richardson of Kodak Limited invented the double clip.

The Ilford Roll Film Processor needed a dedicated Ilford top clip with a single hole to attach it to the hanger bar. Ilford also supplied a weighted bottom clip of a crocodile type. Lead weights were clipped into the stainless steel clips when manufactured. I do not know who manufactured the Ilford clips but Kayfro Limited of Sheffield did manufacture stainless print tongs for Ilford in 1946 and may have made these clips.

These bottom clips made their way into the colour era through the continued recycling. With the Kodak C22 colour negative process the clips continued to give sterling service. However by the mid 1970s Kodak Process C41 had been introduced and although the Kodak clips continued to perform well the Ilford ones developed problems. The chemistry of C41 was corrosive to the lead weights and eventually the reduced in size weights would fall out.

For more information about film clips click here.

The Ilford Roll Film Processor was used in conjunction with a companion drying tunnel. Light traps allowed the films to drop out at the other end of the tunnel in daylight. The hanger bars would drop onto retaining arms and a bell would ring if more than  three bars were at the end of the tunnel.

The processor was reliable up to a point. At Chadwicks in Great Yarmouth in 1964 I used one of  these processors and the rule was not to put hanger bars onto every lift but to use alternate lifts to avoid hangers bumping into each other. In addition chemical could drip onto the side tracks and some times a rod would stick and lay at an angle. The lifting arms could then collide the offending bar and the arms would break. The arms breaking off was a safety device fitted to prevent severed limbs. At the time I was 15 and on reflection these machines were quite hazardous as they were operated in total darkness. Trying to sort out a jam with the machine still running was not recommended.