The Dunkbot: An automated film processing machine
If you have ever tried developing film at home, you know the joy this magical process brings. You probably also know that while processing one, two, or even five rolls is relatively easy, going large volume is not trivial. This is where the Dunkbot comes in.
The appropriately named Dunkbot is a Kickstarter project that, well… dunks! Dunks rolls of film.
[Related reading: Processing film with coffee and other supermarket ingredients]
Automatic film processing
The Dunkbot uses a robotic crane to move canisters loaded with undeveloped film from one chemical bath to another. You can use up to six chemicals set in six different stainless steel canisters. For example, you can set one bath with a developer, one with a stop bath, one with fixer fluid, and two with pre-soak and rinse waters. The Dunkbot will monitor the temperatures of each tank, along with the needed time for each step of the process. Once a step is done, the arm will move the film into the next bath.
Having six available baths, the Dunkbot can support managing the times, temperatures, and agitation cycles for the black and white, C-41, E-6, or ECN-2 processes.
How much film can the Dunkbot handle?
Automating a process only makes sense if the automation saves more time than it consumes. Sizewise, the Dunkbot can handle multiple rolls of film in one shot:
- Three rolls of 35mm
- Two rolls of 120 film
- Six sheets of 4×5 film
You can also prepare more tanks to run a series of batches.
Sadly, the gear needed to handle different amounts of films is not part of the kit, and you would need to buy it separately. The good news is that those are standard parts that you can easily obtain from your local store or even cheaper on second hands markets.
Setting up the Dunkbot
The Dunkbot comes in one of two forms, as a kit, or (almost) pre-assembled. If you’ve dealt with 3D printers before, you would be very familiar with the concept. Prices range between 950 CAD for the kit and 1,220 CAD for the semi-assembled kit. Once you’ve put the kit together, there is a series of steps you need to follow. Nothing too complex and you have an LCD to configure and track progress.
- Load your film onto the developing reel and put it into the lightproof developing tank (this must be done in complete darkness, either in a dark-bag or in a completely dark room).
- Fill each of the six pots with the appropriate chemicals or water.
- Attach the developing tank to the end of the arm.
- Configure the Dunkbot for your film process using the colour touchscreen. You can customize any parameter, such as time, agitation rate, temperature, sequence order, etc. or pick from one of the presets.
- Press start. The Dunkbot takes care of the rest.
- Once the Dunkbot signals that processing is complete, remove your film and hang to dry.
- For cleanup, pour the chemicals back into their respective bottles for re-use. Dispose of the rinse water down the drain. The pots are food-grade stainless steel and everything is easy to clean to prevent cross-contamination.
My Kickstarter outlook
This is not Matt’s first Kickstarter. He ran a very successful Spot Meter Kickstarter before. That one was overfunded at 124,342 CAD. I love the idea of the Dunkbot. It hits a sweet spot between my love for 3d printing and photography. Sadly, I am not optimistic. The Dunkbot has about five weeks to go, and only 11% of the funding needed.
The Dunkbot also set a very aggressive funding goal of about 300,000 USD which is possible but seems a bit high for projects of this type. Kicktraq foresees low funding of about 50%. Of course, trends may change, and I hope that this article will help to bring awareness to the project. What do you think? Is this project even relevant in 2023?
Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.