Darkroom Modifications

Designers: Jenny Mao and Zach Novak

Client Coordinators: Faye Tripp

Supervising Professors: Richard Goldberg and Kevin Caves

Our client, a professional photographer, had a traumatic brachial plexus injury leaving her right arm paralyzed.  To assist her with her passion for photography, two major additions were made to her darkroom.  The Developing Station gave her the ability to develop her own 35mm film, while the Cassette Loader allowed her to efficiently load twelve large format, 4″x 5″, film sheets into six cassettes.  The challenge of these devices is that most of the operations must be completed in total darkness with only the left hand.

How this project helped
The Darkroom Modifications (Figure 1) include a Developing Station and a Cassette Loader.

The Developing Station is constructed of ¼” Lexan, and it has several custom components that facilitate one-handed operation for developing 35 mm film: a bottle opener on the side to open the film canister, a scissors to cut the film leader, and a custom fixture to hold the film reel. The entire station is attached to the table using a clamp that is easily operated with one hand.

The most difficult aspect of the design was determining the best method to accurately, easily, and safely cut off the leader of the film at a 90-degree angle.  The client inserts the film into a guide slot, which ensures that the film is positioned correctly every time and holds the film in place once inserted.  Then, she cuts the film leader using a pair of scissors with the handles removed, which are attached to the developing station, perpendicular to the guide.  Since the scissor handles are removed, the client opens and closes the scissors by grabbing a thumbscrew that is attached to the bottom blade.  In this manner, the client can hold the film while cutting the leader, while using one hand.

The Cassette Loader is designed to assist the client in loading 4” x 5” sheet film into commercial film cassettes.  Our design is based on that of a commercial CD storage stand that we used for a prototype.  The client can load up to six empty film cassettes into slots on our device.  This holds the cassettes in place so that she can easily load the film each one, turning the unit upside down to load both the top and bottom side.  The cassette loader is constructed of ½” and ¼” Lexan pieces, connected using an acrylic adhesive.  Lycra covered neoprene on the front allows tension to be applied to the front of the cassette, and also helps keep the exposure door open when loading the film. A handle helps the client turn the device over, which is necessary for cassette loading.

The cost of parts for the Darkroom Modifications was approximately $150.

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