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Publication numberUS3868715 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateFeb 25, 1975
Filing dateSep 10, 1973
Priority dateSep 10, 1973
Publication numberUS 3868715 A, US 3868715A, US-A-3868715, US3868715 A, US3868715A
InventorsJames A Slavin
Original AssigneeNoltac Corp
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
System for chemical processing
US 3868715 A
Abstract
A system for use in a variety of chemical processes having a programmed nature includes a chemical processing tank, sources of various processing solutions, and a selectively operable valve for enabling the filling of the tank with one or more solutions and the removal of the solutions from the tank. An automatic control device are provided for controlling the operation of the valve, as well as for controlling a pump directing the flow of fluid to and from the valve. The system is particularly adaptable for the processing of photographic film.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent 1191 Slavin Feb. 25, 1975 1 SYSTEM FOR CHEMICAL PROCESSING [75] Inventor: James A. Slavin, New York, NY.

[73] Assignee: Noltac Corporation, Jericho, N.Y.

[22] Filed: Sept. 10, 1973 [21] Appl. No.: 395,664

[52] U.S. Cl 354/298, 137/625.47, 251/159,

259/D1G. 41, 354/324 [51] Int. Cl. G03d 13/00 [58] Field of Search 95/89 R, 93, 96, 97, 98,

95/99; 251/159; 137/625.1 1, 625.47; 259/DIG. 41, DIG. 42; 354/297, 298, 299, 323, 324, 328, 331

[56] References Cited UNlTED STATES PATENTS 2,229,037 1/1941 Boldman 259/D1G. 41 2,945,760 7/1960 Ostergaard 95/99 X 3,000,288 9/1961 Winnek 95/89 R 3,344,809 10/1967 Smith l37/625.11 X 3,508,483 4/1970 Weider et a1. 95/96 3,538,270 11/1970 Buechner 95/89 R x 3,559,555 2/1971 Street 95/89 R 3,707,991 1/1973 Shapiro 137/62511 FOREIGN PATENTS 0R APPLICATIONS 1,213,058 10/1959 France 251/159 Primary Examiner-Fred L. Braun Attorney, Agent, or Firm--Nolte and Nolte [57] ABSTRACT A system for use in a variety of chemical processes having a programmed nature includes a chemical processing tank, sources of various processing solutions, and a selectively operable valve for enabling the filling of the tank with one or more solutions and the removal of the solutions from the tank. An automatic control device are provided for controlling the operation of the valve, as well as for controlling a pump directing the flow of fluid to and from the valve. The system is particularly adaptable for the processing of photographic film.

16 Claims, 14 Drawing Figures PATENTEB FEB251975 SHEET 1 [If 5 Jge T11 EH.

r I l I I I I I llllllllllL P ATENTED FEB2 51875 SHEET t Of 5 SYSTEM FOR CHEMICAL PROCESSING This invention relates to chemical processing systems, and is more particularly directed to a system for automatically controlling a chemical process of the type in which a plurality of solutions are sequentially employed in the process. While the invention is particularly directed to the processing of photographic film, it will be understood that the invention is applicable to other forms of chemical processing subject to automatic control of the various processing parameters such as the amount of time required for the process in each of a plurality of sequentially applied solutions.

There are many known continuous chemical processing systems of a commercial nature for the development of photographically exposed material such as sheets, films and the like. Being of a commercial nature, however, such systems are generally very compicated and expensive and adapted primarily to the development of large quantities of material in order to render their use economically feasible. Such a system generally employs multiple baths and means for directing the material to be processed sequentially through the baths. The baths of course require the use of large amounts of the various chemicals, as well as control systems for assuring that the solutions had the required strength and temperature. Control systems are also required for assuring that the processing of the material in each bath is in accordance with the required treatment.

Such systems are not readily adaptable to small scale chemical processing techniques, in view of their expense, size and the complicated control systems required. In addition, particularly in photographic development, the entire processing system must be enclosed.

Low volume processing systems have also been provided. Such systems generally, however, are lacking in versatility since they are directed primarily to a single processing cycle, such as the development of color prints. In addition, such systems are not frequently fully automatic, and require the continuous control of an operator.

It is therefore the object of this invention to provide a programmed chemical processing system readily adaptable for use in any of a number of different individual fluid processing methods, the system being particularly adaptable to low volume chemical processing of materials.

Briefly stated, in accordance with the invention, a chemical processing system is provided including a processing tank and a plurality of additional tanks adapted to contain solutions necessary in a given-chemical process. A multiple position valve is provided and connected to selectively direct the flow of fluid between the processing tank and each of the solution tanks. A reversible pump is further provided to control the direction of fluid flow between the processing tank and the solution tank. If desirable, the reversible pump may be replaced by two one-way pumps, each directing fluid flow in the opposite direction from the other.

A control system as provided for controlling the operation of the multiple position valve and the pump in accordance with a timed sequence. The sequence control, which may, for example, be in the form of an endless belt having coded information thereon, is readily replaceable to enable the adaptation of the processing system to any desired processing method.

In order that the invention will be more clearly understood, it will now be described in detail with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a simplified schematic illustration of a processing system in accordance with the invention;

FIG, 2a is a top view of a processing tank which may be employed in the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 2b is a side view of the tank of FIG. 20;

FIG. 20 is an end view of the processing tank of FIG. 20;

FIG. 3a is a side view of an individual hanger which may be employed in the tank of FIG. 2a;

FIG. 3b is an edge view of the hanger of FIG. 3;

FIG. 4a is a top view of a manually or automatically controlled selector valve which may be employed as a component of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4b is a cross-sectional view of the valve of FIG. 4a taken along the lines 4b4b;

FIG. 40 is a cross-sectional enlarged view of a portion of a modification of the valve of FIG. 4a;

FIG. 5a is an end view ofa primary control apparatus which may be employed in the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5b is a side view of the primary control apparatus of FIG. 50;

FIG. 5c is a top view ofthe primary control apparatus of FIG. 5a;

FIG. 6 is a schematic view of a control circuit which may be employed in the system of FIG. I; and

FIG. 7 is a prospective view of an embodiment of the chemical processing system in accordance with the invention.

Referring now to the drawings, and more in particular to FIG. I, therein is illustrated a chemical processing system in accordance with the invention, particularly adaptable to the processing of photographic film. The system 10 comprises a multiple port selector vavle 11 having a line 39 connected by way of a reversible pump 13, preferably a selfpriming pump, to the processing tank 12. Selected ports of the valve 11 are connected by way oflines 39a, 39b and 390 to tanks 14, 15 and 16 respectively adapted to contain the various chemical solutions employed in the process. Additional lines 39d, 39a and 39fmay be connected from other selected ports of the valve 11 to a tank 17, containing an additional processing fluid. If desired, the tank 12 may be connected by way of a line 19 to a sump 19a for the disposal of fluids which are functionally exhausted in the specific process under operation. As an example, in the development of photograph film, and assuming that the valve 11 is rotated in the direction of the arrow to sequentially connect the line 39 to the lines 39a, 39e, 39c, 39d, 39b and 39f in that order, the tanks l4, l6 and 15 may contain chemical solutions to be employed in that order sequentially in the processing of the film, with each processing step being followed by a washing step with water from the tank 17. The rotor of the valve 11 will in this case be rotated to permit each step in the process to occur for the desired length of time. At the beginning of each step the pump 13 is actuated to withdraw fluid from the respective solution tank to fill the processing tank 12, and at the end of the step the motor 13 is reversed to withdraw the solution from the processing tank 12 and return it to the respective solution tank. While only a limited number of solution tanks are illustrated, it will be apparent that any number of such tanks may be employed as will be required in a given process, and that the washing steps, with water from the tank 17 are employed only as needed in the chemical processing of the film, and hence not necessarily following each processing with a solution. While the control of the flow of fluid by line 19 to the sump 19:: will not be further discussed herein, it will be apparent that this function of the system, if provided, may be either automatically or manually controlled in accordance with the following disclosure and with respect to the requirements of the chemical processing method employed.

As is will known, many chemcial processing methods require a close control over the temperature of the solutions. For this purpose, the tanks 14-16 of solution and the processing tank 12 may be mounted by suitable means in a bath 18, for example of water, thermostatically controlled to maintain the desired temperature. While the tank 17 is not illustrated as being in the bath 18, it will be of course apparent that this tank may also be located in the bath 18.

It is further to be noted that it is not absolutely necessary that the valve 11 be adapted to select only a single port at a time, so that if desired a more concentrated solution than necessary from a supply tank 14-16 may be mixed with water of a desired proportion for application to the processing tank 12. In addition, it is apparent that the number of ports on the valve 11 may be varied as desired. It is preferable, of course, that the number of ports provided be at least equal to the maximum number of-steps in a chemical processing method expected to be employed with the system.

While any suitable processing tank may be employed in the system of FIG. 1, an advantageous form of a tank that may be employed in the development of sheet film is illustrated in FIGS. 2a-2c: It is considered desirable, in order to achieve more effective control of the temperature within the tank, by providing a tank that is long and slender, and has substantial depth. As illustrated in FlGs. 2a-2c the tank 12 has a pair of adjacent sides 22 and 23, ends 24 and 25 and a bottom 26, The bottom 26, as illustrated in FIG. 2b, slants toward one end of the tank, and as illustrated in FIG. 20, slants toward one side of the tank. With this arrangement, by inserting the lead 39 in the lowest corner of the tank, it is possible to drain the tank as nearly as possible in the removal of the solution from the tank, in order to avoid contamination of the solutions in the sequentially processing steps. The tanks are further provided with inwardly extending projections having grooves 31 and positioned adjacent the upper edges of the ends 24 and 25 of the tank.

Film holders, suitable for use for holding sheet film in the tank of FIGS. 2a-2c are illustrated in FIGS. 3a and 3b. These film holders are comprised of frames 27 having tops 33 with V-shaped grooves for receiving tilmv Widely spaced wires 27a are provided on each side of the frame for holding the film in place therein. Projections 29 extending from the top edges of the frame are provided to permit placement of the frames in the tank 12 of FIGS. 2a -20 with the extensions 29 engaging the grooves 31. a

It will be understood. of course, that other forms of tanks may be employed, depending upon the type of film that is to be processed. For example, in developing roll film, a round tank may be provided having an insert with spiral grooves for holding the film, as in the con ventional roll film developing tanks.

In addtion, the system in accordance with the invention is readily adaptable to processing techniques in which the solution is used only once and then discarded. In this case, the tank may be of any suitable dimensions for holding the desired amount of fluid and for holding the film in place. If photographic paper is being developed, the tank may be suitably designed to hold the paper from buckling during the chemical processing. For examples, the tank may be formed with a curved surface against which the back of the paper to be developed is placed, with suitable edge holding clamping means for holding the paper in place. Other variations of tanks may of course be employed, depending upon the photographic material to be developed.

FIGS. 4a and 4b illustrate one modification of a selector valve 11 that may be employed in the system of the invention. This valve is comprised of an outer ring 62 having a plurality of radially extending ports 61 into which the solution ducts 41 from the solution tanks are affixed, for example by threading. The ducts 61 may be equally circumferentially spaced about the ring 62, although any suitable spacing may be employed depending upon the programming of the system. A rotatable valve member 60, in the form ofa disc, is positioned for rotation within the ring 62, with the outer circumferential surfaces of the member 60 having a loose enough fit within the ring to enable rotation of the member 60. An inwardly extending flange 63 on the bottom of the ring 62 engages an annular mating groove in the member 60 to inhibit downward displacement of the member 60. An upper flange 64 is affixed to the upper edge of the ring 62 and extends inwardly to engage a mating annular groove in the upper surface of the member 60 so that the member 60 is held within the ring 62. A central port 35 is provided at the access of the member 60 the port communicating with a radially extending port 37 alignable with the ports 61 depending upon the angular displacement of the rotatable member 60. A pipe 38 is affixed in the port 35, for example by threading. to permit connection to the common line 39 of the system, as illustrated in FIG. 1. The flange 64 may be held on the ring 62 by any conventional means, such as the screws 64a illustrated in FIG. 4a. While the valve illustrated in FIGS. 4a and 4b is shown as having only one radially extending duct 37, it will be apparent that, depending upon the programming system employed, two or more such ducts may be employed.

In the modification of the valve illustrated in FIG. 40, the radially outer portion of the duct 37 has an enlarged diameter radially outer end portion 130. A tube 131 is mounted within the duct 37, the tube 131 extending from within the lesser diameter radially inwardly portion 132 thereof to the vicinity of the port 61. The outer radially end portion 133 of the tube 131 has an enlarged outer diameter to slidably fit within the portion of of the duct 37, the length of the portion 133 being less than that of the portion 130, to accommodate a spring 134 surrounding the tube 131 between the facing shoulders of the duct 37 and the tube 131. The spring 134 urges the tube 131 toward the duct 60, and a seal, such as O-ring 135 may be provided at the end of the tube 131 to insure a fluid tight seal between the duct 37 and the port 61 when the spring 134 urges the tube 13] toward the duct. A solenoid 136 may be mounted on the member 60 for magnetically influencing a projection 137 of magnetic material affixed to the tube 131 and extending through an aperture 138 in the member 60. When the solenoid is deenergized, in the position illustrated in FIG. 4c, the spring 134 assures the fluid tight connection between the duct 37 and the port 61. When the solenoid is energized, however, the tube 131 is pulled radially inwardly by means of the projection 137, to relieve any frictional contact between the member 60 and the ring 62. By this technique, it is possible to rotate the member 60 in a substantially friction free manner while the desired port is being selected, with the solenoid 136 energized, and to insure a fluid tight connection to the port 61, with the solenoid deenergized, for the passage of solutions through the valve.

FIGS. 5a, 5b and 5c illustrate an arrangement for programming the arrangement of FIG. 1 for one or more varied fluid chemical processes. As illustrated in FIG. 5a, a bank 43 of a plurality of photocells 7177 in linear array are positioned adjacent a complimentary plurality bank 45 of light sources 81-87 respectively. The light sources may be lamps or other suitable light sources such as light emitting diodes. Each of the photocells in the linear cluster are provided with a substantially light proof enclosure, such as the enclosure 46, with provision for the receipt of light only from a specific and complimentary light source in the adjacent cluster or bank 45.

A control loop 47, in the form of an endless belt or tape 49, is positioned in an intermediate positional rela tionship relative to the two heretofore described banks 43 and 45 of interfunctional elements, i.e., the light sources and the respective photocells. The belt or control loop 47 is supported by two or more rollers 51 and 52, each of which is in linear spaced relationship to the other. The rollers are provided with drive means, such as a timer motor 70 (FIG. 50), and means for engagement of the control loop or belt, such as sprockets or the like on the rollers. In order to insure synchronous movement of the two rollers, pulleys 140 and 141 may be provided on the rollers 52 and 51 respectively, with a suitable belt 142 extending therebetween.

The body 55 of the loop is provided with an array of transparent control regions, in spaced relationship, each of which is designed to allow light from a specific light source to pass therethrough to actuate the respective adjacent photocells. For this purpose, for example, the control loop may be formed of a film having an opaque background, and light transmitting control spots. Such a tape may be readily produced, for example in flat form by conventional photographic techniques, with the end thereof being joined to form the control loop. The control loops thus formed may of course be designed with light transmitting regions to control any desired photographic developing process.

While the rollers 51 and 52 are illustrated as rigidly holding the control loop in place, it will be apparent that suitable means may be provided (not shown) to move the rollers toward each other to enable the ready dismounting and mounting of control loops thereon.

The photocells are utilized to energize or place in operation specific elements of the system. Thus, the overall control of the system may be changed merely by changing the above described control loop to one having a varied or different arrangement of the transparent regions to actuate the elements of this system in an altogether different pattern. As illustrated in FIG. 50, a basic pattern of timing windows 56 are provided for utilization in the control of the system, to cooperate with the photocells 71 and 73-77 respectively, and a substantially continuous light window 57 is provided to cooperate with the photocell 72. The window 57 is provided for controlling the timer motor 70, as will be apparent in the following paragraphs, and thus this window will have only a small opaque gap between its ends for terminating the control process. In order to start the process, a knob 143 may be provided on the roller 51 in order to enable the operator to manually rotate the control loop until the end of the window 57 is aligned with the photocell 72. Typical functions of the remainder of the photocells will be described in the following paragraphs. The direction of movement of the control loop is indicated by the arrows in FIGS. 5b and 5c. It is thus apparent, in the arrangement of FIGS. 511-50, that the timing windows 56, which are of varied lengths and positions in accordance with the desired process, actuate the various elements of the system in timed sequence, such as the operation of valve positioning means, a light source for reversal exposure of color film, the operation of the pump 13, and a buzzer for signalling either the completion of the entire process or the completion of a given step thereof.

A circuit which may be employed in the automatic control ofthe processing system of FIG. 1, and in combination with the control apparatus of FIGS. 541-50, is illustrated in FIG. 6. In this circuit, one terminal of a suitable power source is connected to ground reference, and the other terminal of the source is connected by way of a manually operable start/stop switch 91 and a fuse 92 to a line 93. The switch 91 provides for the overall energization of the circuit.

The photocells 71-77 are operatively connected to control relays 101-107 respectively, for applying encrgizing power to their respective control elements as will be described in the following paragraphs. Alternatively, the photocells may operate the control elements directly.

Thus, relay 101 is connected to apply power from the line 93 to an audible alarm device such as buzzer 110 upon the alignment of a window 56 in the control belt 55 of FIG. 5 with the lamp 81. The belt 55 may thus be programmed to enable energization of the buzzer 110 at any time during the processing cycle, for example at the end of the cycle or at any suitable time during the performance of any given step of the cycle.

The relay 103 is connected to apply power from the line 93 to a vibrator 111 positioned on the processing tank, upon alignment of a slot in the control belt with the lamp 83. The belt 55 of FIG. 5 may thus be programmed to enable the activation of the vibrator 111 to agitate solutions in the chemical processing tank 12 at any desired time during the process.

The relays 104 and 105 are connected to energize the self-timing reversible pump 13 to pump fluid in opposite relative directions upon the selective alignment of slots of the belt 55 with the lamps 84 and 85 respectively. The belt 55 is thus programmed to direct the flow of chemical solution to or from the processing tank at the correct times in the processing cycle.

Relay 106 is connected to apply power to a reversal exposure light source 112, upon alignment of a slot of the control belt with the lamp 86. Thus, if a processing sequence is being employed which requires a reversal light exposure, such as a process for developing color reversal film, the belt 55 will provide with a slot alignable with the lamp 86 to enable energization of the light source 112 at the proper time during the sequence.

The relay 107 is connected to apply power from the line 93 to a valve actuator motor 113 and the solenoid 136 upon the alignment of a slot in the control belt 55 with the lamp 87. The valve actuator motor 113 is coupled to control the rotor of the selector valve 11 to rotate the member 60 of this valve to the proper port for introducing or removing the desired solution to or from the chemical processing tank. In this arrangement the length of time of operation of the motor 113 is of course dependent upon the length of the corresponding window in the belt 55, and such window enables the proper alignment of the rotor of the valve 11 with the port 61 to perform this step of the process. If desired, however, a more positive alignment of the rotor may be achieved by providing suitable switches on the rotor corresponding to the various rotor positions, the switches being connected in parallel with the relay 107 so that the relay 107 affects the initiation of rotation of the motor 113 and this rotation is continued throughout the given step by virtue of the control switches. In this instance, the length of the window for controlling the operation of the rotor of the valve 11 is not critical.

The timing motor 70, which drives the belt 55, is controlled by the relay 102. As noted above, the window 57 alignable with the lamp 82 is substantially continuous, whereby the timing motor 70 will be energized during the entire processing cycle.

If desired, an additional control unit, identified by the dashed box 120, may be provided for special control operations of the cirucit. For example, this unit may include a normally open switch 121 connected to direct the control operation of the vibrator 111. The cirucit may further include a normally open switch 122 for permitting direct manual control of the pump 13 to fill the chemical processing tank, and a normally closed switch 123 for deactivating the lamp 84. In addition, a timing motor cut-out switch 124 may be provided, connected to the lamp 82, for selectively deenergizing the timing motor.

The control functions above described with respect to the automatic processing are typical of controls that may be employed in photographic processes, and it will be apparent that additional functions may be included in the circuit of FIG. 6 for any specially desired purpose in the control of the chemical processing cycle. Alternatively, of course, if any given process does not require the particular control function, then the corresponding control loop will have no timing windows for controlling this function.

The processing module 120 enables the adjustment of the programmed cycle, for a given programming process, in order to meet special conditions. For example, it is well known that on occasion it is desirable to process a film developer solution for a longer or shorter time than that normally employed, as a result, for example, of exposure conditions for the film deviating from the normal exposure values. In order to enable such varying procedures to be followed, the control loop will be provided with windows for actuating the buzzer 110, for example at the start of the step of the cycle that may be so controlled. If, for example, it is desired to develop the film for a lesser period, the switch 123 is opened, so that the developing tank will not automatically be filled with solution at the normal time, Upon hearing the buzzer at the initiation of the cycle according to the normal procedure, the operator will time the period of shortening of the cycle, and then manually close the switch 122 to effect the filling of the processing tank at such later time. Upon closing of the switch 123, the process can continue for the remainder of the cycle according to the program on the control loop.

On the other hand, if it is desired to extend the time in a given solution. for example in a developing solution, upon hearing of the buzzer indicating that the processing tank has been filled at the start of this step. the operator will open the switch 124 for a period equal to the desired extension of the developing period. Thence, upon closing of the switch 124, the cycle will continue according to the normal program. In such period of extended development, it may of course be desirable to provide further agitation of the solution in the tank, in which case the switch 121 may be controlled as desired.

It is further apparent that, in order to program the automatic operation of the system, the windows 56 are provided in the belt 55 alignable with the lamps 81-87 in selective manner so that the desired operations occur in the proper sequence and for the proper duration of time in the processing sequence.

FIG. 7 illustrates the physical embodiment of one form of processing system in accordance with the invention. The system is provided with a tank of suitable dimensions for containing the solution tanks 14-17 and the processing tank 12. The tank 150 contains a fluid, such as water 18, and includes conventional thermostatic control means for controlling the temperature of the water. The solution tanks 14-17 are immersed in the water 18, as is the processing tank 12. As will be apparent, at times during each cycle the various tanks will be empty of solution, and their immersion in the water 18 will thus tend to make them more buoyant. Any suitable means may be provided for holding the tanks in position during such periods. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 7, suitable clips 151 may be provided on the rim of the tank, engageable with suitable extensions 152 on the various tanks. As an alternative to this arrangement, and in order to avoid the necessity of providing a tank with clips 151 affixed thereto, the various tanks may be provided with tabs (not shown) having apertures, through which an extensible rod (not shown) may be extended for engagement with the inner walls of the tank 150. It will be apparent, of course, that any other suitable arrangement for holding the tanks in position may be employed.

The control functions for the system may be enclosed in or mounted on a control unit 160, which may be separable from the tank 150, and which may include the programming device on FIGS. 5a-5c and the circuit controls ofFIG. 6, as well as the valve 11 and motor 13. As illustrated in the figure, the ports of the valve 11 are connected to the respective tanks by way of flexible plastic tubes 161. These tubes are adapted to be changed on the valve 11 as desired, in order to adapt the system to any desired process.

As further illustrated in FIG. 7, the valve 11 is mounted with its actuating motor 113 on the upper side thereof, and the tube 39 extending downwardly to the reversible pump 13. With this arrangement, and by providing a self-priming reversible pump for the pump 13, it will be apparent that the tubes will drain themselves whenever the pump 13 is not in operation. This reduces possible contamination between the chemicals resulting from solution which would otherwise remain, for example, in the tube 39, and it also removes liquid pressure from the valve 11 at times when the pump 13 is not in operation. As discussed above, with reference to FIG. 40, a particularly suitable selector valve is provided with the movable tube 131 to provide substantially friction free rotation thereof. It will of course be apparent that when the tube 131 is retracted, a gap will exist between the end of the tube and the ring 62 of the selector valve. In the system of FIG. 7, however, this is not of significance, since at such time that the selector valve is being rotated, there is no liquid in the tube system, and hence the tube 131 can be retracted without danger of loss of solution or solution contamination.

The tank 12 is illustrated as being provided with a cover 162. This cover may be of any conventional form, and of course is necessary if the processing is to be effected outside of a dark room. The tank 12 may thus be loaded in a dark room, with the remainder of the processing occurring outside of the dark room, or with the lights on. It must be noted, of course, that the reversal exposure lamp described with respect to FIG. 6 may be provided within the cover 162, so that removal of the cover 162 is not necessary during the processing of a reversal film. In this case, of course, the cover 162 may be enlarged from its configuration shown in FIG. 7. If desired, the solution tanks may also be provided with covers 163 to prevent evaporation, and to prevent possible contamination between the solutions of adjacent tanks.

As illustrated in FIG. 7, the various control switches, such as the switches 91, and 121-124 may be mounted in any suitable position on the control unit 160. The programming unit may extend from the front of the unit 160, in order to render the control loop 47 readily accessible for interchange when a different processing technique is to be employed.

In the foregoing description with respect to FIG. 6, it was noted that a vibrating means may be employed for agitating the solution, for example, in the processing tank 12. The vibrating means may be any ofa number of different forms, and may be rigidly affixed to or otherwise attached to the processing tank, and electrically connected to the control circuit of FIG. 6. In a particularly advantageous form of the agitating means, as illustrated in FIGS. 211-20, the vibrator 111 may be in the form of a buzzer or other suitable mechanically vibrating element suitably sealed for use underwater, and affixed to the side ofthe developing tank by removable means, such as a rubber suction cup 171. In this arrangement, the agitating means may be readily detached from one tank and placed on another so that only a single vibrating device is necessary. It is further preferred that the wall 23 of the tank onto which the vibrator is affixed, is flexible, to thereby transmit the vibrations of the vibrating unit throughout the developing tank.

As an example of one form of the apparatus of FIG. 7, the tank 150 may have dimensions of inches by 17 inches, and be 7 inches high. The control unit 160 may be 16 inches long, with a square cross-section of 6 inches on a side. The processing loop may be 12 inches long, and held on 3 inch diameter sprocket rollers. The control loop may be approximately 5 inches wide. It is apparent that this arrangement is compact and hence readily adaptable to home use and even portable use when desired. The system may be readily adaptable to any conventional processing technique, depending upon the selection of the control loop, and since it is automatically operated, it is readily handled and controlled by an operator. The adjustments required, such as the replacement of the control loop and the correct alignment of the tubes 161 are readily effected. The components of the system are inexpensive while retaining the versatility of a multi-purpose device. As is further apparent from the foregoing description. the present invention provides a system which may be varied for use in a plurality of individual chemical processes, and although it is particularly adaptable to the processing of exposed photographic sheets, films and the like, it is of course adaptable for other uses. The various chemicals in the desired tanks may be supplied to the processing tank, in the required sequence. merely by adjustment of the selector valve.

While the invention has been disclosed and described with respect to a limited number of embodiments thereof, it will be apparent that many variations and changes may be made therein without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. It is therefore intended in the following claims to cover each such variation and modification as falls within the true spirit and scope of the invention.

What is claimed is:

1. A system for use in a fluid process comprising a processing tank having a flexible wall, a plurality of solution tanks, a selector valve means having a first port, a plurality of second ports, and means for selectively interconnecting said first port with said second ports, reversible pump means connected between said processing tank and said first port, and conduit means separately connecting said second ports to said solution tanks, whereby solutions may be selectively supplied to said processing tank from said solution tanks and returned to said solution tanks from said processing tank, and further comprising vibrating means removably affixed to said wall, and means for energizing said vibrating means for agitating liquid within said processing tank.

2. The system of claim 1 wherein said pump means comprises self-priming reversible pump means.

3. The system of claim 1 further comprising program control means connected to selectively control said selector valve means and said pump means.

4. The system of claim 3 wherein said program control means comprises a removable programmed medium, sensing means, means for moving said programmed medium relative to said sensing means, and means responsive to said sensing means for selectively controlling said pump means and said selector valve.

5. The system of claim 4 wherein said programmed medium comprises a belt having programming marks thereon, and said sensing means comprises a plurality oflight emitting means positioned along a locus extending transversely of the belt, and a plurality of light sensing means positioned in alignment with the light emitting means on the opposite side of said belt.

6. The system of claim 4 wherein said program control means further comprises means for manually controlling said pump means and said means for moving the programmed medium relative to the sensing means, whereby variations in a programmed process may be manually effective.

7. The system of claim 6 wherein said program control means includes means for controlling the operation of said agitating means, and said system further comprises means for manually controlling said agitating means.

8. The system of claim 6 further comprising audible alarm means operable by said sensing means for indicating a processing step in accordance with the program on said programmed medium.

9. The system of claim 1 wherein said selector valve means comprises a ring having said plurality of second ports extending radially therethrough, a valve disc positioned coaxially within said ring and rotatable with respect to said ring, said valve disc having a central port extending along its axis and constituting said first port and a duct extending radially from said central port to the periphery thereof for selective alignment with the ports of said plurality of second ports upon relative rotation of said disc and ring.

10. The system of claim 9 wherein said selector valve means further comprises a tube within said duct and coaxial therewith, and means for selectively biasing the radial outer end of said tube into fluid tight contact with the inner surface of said ring to form a fluid tight connection between said duct and a port of said plurality of ports.

11. A system for use in a fluid process comprising a processing tank, a plurality of solution tanks, a selector valve mounted at a level higher than said processing and solution tanks, and having a first port, a plurality of second ports, and means for selectively interconnecting said first port with said second ports, separate conduit means connected to said second ports and ex tending downwardly therefrom through the tops of separate solution tanks to terminate adjacent the bottoms of the respective solution tanks, a further conduit means connected to said first port and extending downwardly therefrom through the top of said processing tank and terminating adjacent the bottom of said processing tank, a reversible self priming pump in said further conduit means, said pump being disposed at a level higher than said processing tank, said valve, pump and said separate and said further conduit means being positioned to drain said separator and further conduit means by gravity when said pump means is not operative, whereby solutions from said solution tanks may be selectively supplied to said processing tank and returned to said solution tanks from said processing tank.

12. A system for use in a fluid process comprising a processing tank, a plurality of solution tanks, a selector valve means having a first port, a plurality of second ports, and means for selectively interconnecting said first port with said second ports, reversible pump means connected between said processing tank and said first port, and conduit means separately connecting said second ports to said solution tanks, whereby solutions may be selectively supplied to said processing tank from said solution tanks and returned to said solution tanks from said processing tank, said system furdium comprising a belt having programming marks thereon, said sensing means comprising a plurality of light emitting means positioned along a locus extending transversely of said belt, and a plurality of light sensing means positioned in alignment with the light emitting means on the opposite side of said belt, said valve means including a selector disc, and further comprising motor means connected to rotate said disc, and agitating means for agitating liquid in said processing tank, said sensing means being connected to control said agitator means, said pump means and said means for moving said programmed medium.

13. A system for use in the processing of photographic film comprising a processing tank for holding said film, said tank having a flexible wall, a plurality of solution tanks for holding solutions for a given photographic process, a selector valve having a plurality of first ports and a second port selectively interconnected with said first ports, means connecting separate ones of said first ports to separate solution tanks, self-priming reversible pump means connected between said processing tank and said second port, said valve being mounted above said solution tanks and processing tank whereby fluid substantially completely drains from said selector valve and the connections to said processing tank and solution tanks upon deenergization of said pump means, and program control means for selectively operating said selector valve and pump means se quentially to empty solution in said solution tanks into said processing tank and to return solutions from said processing tank to said solution tank in accordance with a programmed sequence, said program control means comprising a pair of parallel rollers, a program belt removably mounted on said rollers, means for rotating said rollers, sensing means mounted to sense program control indicia on said belt for controlling said valve and said reversible pump, said system further comprising agitating means for agitating liquid in said processing tank, said agitating means comprising vibrator means removably affixed to said wall of said processing tank, means for selectively actuating said agitator means, and manual override means for controlling the operation of said agitator means, pump means and means for moving said rollers.

14. The system of claim 13 wherein said sensing means comprises a bank of light emitting means positioned to extend transversely on one side of said belt, and a plurality of light detecting means positioned on the opposite side of said belt in alignment with said light emitting means.

15. The system of claim 13 further comprising a thermally controlled tank adapted to maintain the temperature of a liquid therein at a predetermined value, and means for mounting said solution tanks and processing tank in said thermally controlled tank for maintaining the temperature of solutions in accordance with a given photographic process.

16. A multi-port selector valve comprising a'ring having a plurality of ports extending radially therethrough, a valve disc positioned coaxially within said ring and rotatable with respect to said ring, said valve disc having a central port extending along its axis and a duct extending radially from said central port to the periphery of said disc for selective alignment with the ports of said plurality of ports upon relative rotation of said disc and ring, tube means within said duct and coaxial therewith, and means for selectively biasing the radial outer end of said tube means into fluid tight contact with the inner surface of said ring to form a fliud tight connection between said duct and a port of said plurality of ports, said means for selectively biasing said tube extensions means affixed to said tube means and extending through the aperture, and solenoid means positioned to magnetically influence said extension means comprising aperture means in said disc extending into externally of Said discalignment with said tube means, magnetically actuable

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4185912 *Jun 27, 1977Jan 29, 1980Theodore F. SchwartzPhotographic developer and printer
US4350429 *Feb 22, 1980Sep 21, 1982Noltac Corp.Material processing apparatus
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Classifications
U.S. Classification396/570, 366/114, 366/601, 251/159, 366/166.1, 396/626, 137/625.47
International ClassificationG03D3/06, G03D13/00
Cooperative ClassificationG03D3/06, G03D13/007, Y10S366/601
European ClassificationG03D13/00P, G03D3/06