Saturday, August 17, 2013

Soundwave Research skunkworks and New55

Most readers who have been following along know that New55 is a skunkworks project - one that exists in a back room of another enterprise.   Skunkworks as a term generally means "unfunded" or side funded, in other words, not a formally funded program, but something that is allowed to go on sharing other resources. In the case of New55, that sharing hasn't been free, but has amounted to quite a big expenditure in time, travel, materials, chemicals, clerical, paid help and legal fees to bring it to the near-ready for commercialization state that it is in.

The concept and feasibility phases are over: New55 has shown, without a doubt, that a high quality instant 4x5 PN product can be produced, and in doing so we made important discoveries and even invented what could be the next phase of instant large format (and any other format) photography. Two very valuable patents are pending, also, which is surprising to those who thought everything in film photography had already been invented.

It's quite an accomplishment for a skunkworks.  About a year and a half ago, we had an agreed to commercialization route that would provide the necessary funding level to bring all this to market. The cost of bringing new products to market is high and that's what we specialize in, both at http://soundwaveresearch.com and http://www.rfvenue.com, as well as other places.  So far we have not secured that funding, and do not feel we should further fund it ourselves (especially after reviewing expenses to date!)

Meanwhile the crowd of people who say they want New55 has grown and some, but not all, are accepting of the likely $6 plus per sheet cost. This is a real concern because our research shows that people will spend thousands on cameras and lenses, only to limit their purchases of the consumables.  But I am most interested in the new Direct Positive material invention, and see it as a way to advance photography - real photography - well into the post-digital age.

Over the course of the last two years we have seen EFKE close, KODAK bankrupt, Fuji discontinue its best instant films, and we wonder when the bottom of this hill will be reached. I think we are nearer to that now as KODAK claims sales have leveled off. Also, silver prices have been reasonably stable, and Harmon appears to be steady.  TIP has had its ups and downs but we have to admire the color protection products and what went on there.

So what will happen next? Look for us on Kickstarter soon, when you will have your chance to be in on the creation of the first new 4x5 film of the 21st Century.

17 comments:

Shane Cox said...

Oh no! So wish you had been able to secure the funding for this awesome project.
Personally I have started tinkering with making my own peel apart instant film with the idea of making a large (~11x14 - 16x20") version for my own personal work when (if) I can get things working nicely. You blog has been an inspiration to me a a valuable source of information too.
Cheers Shane C.

Tutejszy said...

hmmm, it doesn't seems like we gonna buy new55 anytime soon... Ok guys! I just keep my fingers crossed for you to make good money on it! And for you to rush with funding and then production..

Bob Crowley said...

We're not done yet. And success is assured to those who use their own film and monobaths!

cafe selavy said...

What happened with this?

http://www.20x24studio.com/?p=1829&fb_action_ids=4142348073976&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

Tutejszy said...

I was thinking if there's a way to workaround for this financing bottleneck. If you could replace most expensive stuff by forwarding manual work to buyers - is it possible? You could sell partially DIY product on small scale. Like the raw sheets of ready P and N material, and separate clips partially bent and chemicals capsule. Like IKEA does. This trick wouldn't assure financing for whole project but could be enough to put some more time to project or a person who would organize financing. And this will be really fantastic promotion! Not mentioning testing possibility, and possibility to soft-ramp up the project. What do you think? is it possible to make your material partially DIY?

Bob Crowley said...

You could have workshops and that kind of thing with this technology, but few people would be able to put it together on their own. We can't put much of it together without machines and we also need to make large orders of new materials and parts, all cost a bundle.

Thanks for the note though - I've wanted the Eastman house to consider a DTR workshop since it is such an important historical process. It would be possible to make one or two by hand and I think if some clever person wanted to really work at the process and how to teach it some people would be interested.

Bob Crowley said...

We are facing these choices I think:

1. Open source the whole project. That is, publish the remaining materials and manufacturing info and leave it to a few practitioners to roll their own.

2. Crowd fund it after hiring people to administer such an effort on Kickstarter or some other crowd fund site.

3. Put it into a further investable form for sale to any of the three or four remaining enterprises interested in growing their existing related businesses. Impossible/InovisCoat, Kodak, Ilford, and Carestream.

4. Assemble a new group of investors locally and spin out a new company to develop next generation photochemical materials including New55 and industrial and scientific silver based indicators.

Unknown said...

Speaking of indicators... Could this tech be usable for rural health care or industrial/field x-ray use; instant low tech results with minimal weight or complication.

Unknown said...

And following up.... If it could be commercialized for life-saving purposes, and had artistic photography purposes on the side, we wouldn't complain.

Bob Crowley said...

Yes, but it is a limited application. We visited and spoke with the Mass State Police bomb unit about this a while back. The larger applications are in any process requiring a mask, a negative, or a pattern on a transparent surface.

Tutejszy said...

Soon people will be able to kill for Polaroid 55 material: http://www.ebay.com/sch/Film-Photography-/69323/i.html?_from=R40&_nkw=polaroid+55+-fuji+-instax. It's not going under $150 nowadays. If I would be on same continent as you guys I would make you hire me for this crowfunding manager position :) Now seriously: Even if you opensource the formula there has to be a guy/company who believe in the product and start it up. Or at least is crazy enough to put it under production no matter what income it brings. That's why I believe crowfunding is quickest way to the market. I don't know if best for you guys, but sure it's best for the market.

Bob Crowley said...

With the money in hand, it would only be 6 to 8 months to release the product. I say 8, to be conservative. Most of the money would go to tooling, and startup of supply agreements. The trouble of crowd funding is that it requires rewards which in this case would be "the ability to buy the product at full price at a later date along with everyone else". Naturally there can be credits, or discounts, etc.

Angus Parker said...

What is the amount of money you need from investors? It would be nice to have an idea of what we are talking about. How much of the business would you be selling for the investment and what are your cash flow projections per year... simple back of the envelope stuff. Bet there are a couple of people who might pitch in.

Bob Crowley said...

Hi Angus,

We've published expected expenses (tooling, time, materials) in several places here. Scroll down and you will see about a $230K itemized production expense mentioned in various places.

I haven't spoken of capital value so that isn't here, and we aren't soliciting investors - however, please feel free to contact me through the contact page at http://soundwaveresearch.com if you want to discuss and are a qualified investor. I am open to various forms of participation as I prepare to double down. The presumed cap with patents, know how, trade secrets, vendor development, infrastructure, tech and designs, marks and lists is a nominal $1M today - low for a nanotech post-seed enterprise with proof of principle in hand. You might know that well over a dozen pioneering nanophotonic or nanomaterial patents have either issued or are pending, widely cited, and aimed at post-digital photography, industrial scientific, and medical applications, with light, which is going to grow over the next 20 years into a $2B+ industry.

Angus Parker said...

Thanks Bob for some specifics. Best, Angus

cafe selavy said...

Again. . . what happened to the 20x24 collaboration on the 8x10 negative?

http://www.20x24studio.com/?p=1829&fb_action_ids=4142348073976&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

Bob Crowley said...

That was a one-off Nafis and I did. It was based on efke and I think we could put a kit (not a complete assembly) together so you might be able to roll your own. If we get 4x5 for sale, some 8x10 might follow.