US 3875861 A
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United States Patent Stackig Apr. 8, 1975  PHOTOFINISHING AND IMPRINTING 3.64S 9ll 3/1972 Pekrnl o. 226/30 PROCESS Primary E.\'uminerEdgar S. Burr  lnvemor' Sven Goran Stacklg m Assistant E.\'aminerWilliam Pieprz  Assignee: Photo Marketing Systems Company, Attorney Agent, or FirmElliott l. Pollock Beltsville, Md.
221 Filed: Oct. 4, 1973 ABSTRACT [2 I] App]. No: 403,369 A photofinishing process, of the type operative to produce an elongated strip of print paper having a plurality of photographic images on one side thereof demarl l l/235; 3; cated from one another by spaced indicia used to con- 229/928; 355/28 trol the cutting of the strip into individual photol l 4lf 19/00 graphic prints, is modified to include an imprinting opl Field of Search 29/ -3; 355/28, eration which successively imprints the nonimage- 355/41; 101/224, 221, I80, 181, 235; bearing side of the strip with information in a prese- 226/288. 30 lected format. The imprinting operation is conducted prior to the cutting step and uses the same indicia,  References Cited later used to control the cutting step, to control the UNITED STATES PATENTS location of each imprint relative to the edges of the 2.682.2'2 (M954 Knobe I 10mm individual photographic prints subsequently formed by 2 735 335 3 Shaw-mun: 355/28 the cutting step. ln the preferred embodiment, the im- 3 |9s,\ |4 3 19 5 Jones et ai U n4 printing operation produces a postal card representa- 3.259,304 7/l966 Tichnor 283/56 tion on the nonimage-bearing side of each photo- 3.386,637 6/l968 Green et al..... lUl/lSl graphic print. to adapt each photographic print for in- 3,454,336 7/l969 Wick et al. 355/29 dividual direct mailing. 3.5l0.036 5/l970 Lewis et al i .i 226/30 3.536.550 10/1970 Von Hofc 10mm 9 Claims, 3 Drawing Figures Printer I5 .7 Dev Bl. Fix Wosh Stub. Dry
'6 7 7 7 0 o q i f l I I J E Vim. G I r'\ I"\ ("t Negative I |||l Processor 1;: HHW ll I I k I i i 2 r4 ls 22 m g m r; a *gy lmpnntmq 32 3 Rolls-42 o Sens orAnd Cutter lrnprinter-37/ PHOTOFINISHING AND IMPRINTING PROCESS BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The present invention is concerned with an improved photofinishing process wherein legible information is imprinted on a photographic print. preferably on the nonimage-bearing side thereof, at a preselected location relative to the edges of said print.
ln known photofinishing processes. after a strip of negatives has been developed, it is supplied to an oper ator of a printer or exposure mechanism who manually intiates the printing of each negative. The negatives are exposed in succession. in enlarged form, on a continuous strip of print paper. and the printer mechanism customarily marks the trailing edge of each exposure with an indicium, such as a small hole, a graphite mark on the nonimage-bearing side of the strip, or a photo graphic mark on the image-bearing side of the strip, to demarcate the locations of the successive exposures from one another for purposes of subsequently controlis then normally inspected visually to permit an operator to mark off bad prints, and is then passed to a cutter. which includes a sensor responsive to the printersupplicd indicia, and which operates to cut the strip at the location of each indicium into a stack of individual photographic prints.
Upon occasion. prior art photofinishing processes have made provision for imprinting additional information, such as a trademark and/or the date of processing, on the reverse or nonimage-bearing side of the strip of photographic prints. It has not been considered feasible to attempt to locate such imprinted information at any particular or predetermined location relative to the edges of the ultimate individual prints. More particularly. since the print paper commonly employed to prepare photographic prints exhibits a certain dimensional instability. ie. it can stretch to some extent. and since extremely long strips of such paper, having a length in the order of 500 to 700 feet. are normally processed at a given time. if an imprinted message is properly or accurately located relative to the first print in the strip by carefully positioning an imprinter relative to the strip, the position of the printed message would shift progressively away from the edges of subsequent prints in the strip. By reason of these considerations. the imprinting of information on the nonimage-bearing side of photographic prints has, in the past, been effected in two possible manners: (a) the imprinting has been effected on individual photographic prints, one by one, after the cutting operation has been completed, which is a tedious, time-consuming operation, inconsistent with the comparatively high-speed Operations which characterize other steps in modern automated photofinishing processes or (b) when it has been desired to avoid the time delays resulting from individual imprinting of photographic prints, the strip of print-bearing material has been imprinted on its reverse side continuously with information provided in a repetitive pattern having a repeat less than the length of each final photographic print. and without regard to the positions of the eventual edges of those prints, so that. after the cutting operation, at ieast one complete printed message appears somewhere on the reverse side of each photographic print.
The prior art imprinting operations discussed above are not applicable to the photofinishing process of the present invention. More particularly, comparatively recent developments in print paper technology have min imized the curling tendency which has been considered an inherent characteristic of earlier photographic prints and. as a result. one of the basic concepts of the present invention involves the recognition that. if the reverse or nonimage-bearing side of each print is imprinted with information having a postal card representation, the physical and imprinted characteristics of the resultant imprinted photographic print would adapt the print to direct mailing. An effort to imprint the reverse side of a strip of photographic prints by use of one of the prior art imprinting techniques discussed above, however, would be totally unacceptable due either to the time required to effect an individual print imprinting operation. or due to the indeterminate location of the imprinted information if the prior art continuous imprinting technique were employed. The present invention is based upon an entirely different approach. therefore, wherein imprinted information in a desired format (e.g., a postal card representation and/or a trademark and/or a date) is accurately positioned relative to the edges of each final photographic print, and wherein these precise imprint locations are achieved automatically and at high speed while the photographic prints are still in strip form i.e.. prior to the cutting of the strip into individual prints.
SUMMARY OF THE lNVENTlON In accordance with the present invention, a known photofinishing process of the type employing a negative processor, a printer. and a photographic film processor operative to produce an elongated strip of print paper having a plurality of photographic images on one side thereof demarcated from one another by spaced indicia used to control subsequent cutting of the strip into individual photographic prints, is modified to include an imprinting operation which is effected subsequent to the film processing step and prior to the cutting of the processed strip into prints. The imprinting operation is achieved by an imprinter which is controlled by the same indicia that are subsequently used to control the cutting operation, and the imprinter monitors the print strip in the direction of its length to determine sequentially the location of successive ones of the indicia, and operates in response to each detected indicium to imprint the nonimage-bearing side of the print strip with printed information located at a predetermined position relative to the detected indicium. In its preferred form, the imprinter includes a rotatable platen disposed adjacent the print strip, and associated with a photoelectric sensor which controls the imprinter to cause a single revolution of the platen, operative to imprint desired information at a predetermined location relative to an indicium, upon detection of said indicium by the photoelectric sensor.
By this arrangement, the improvement of the present invention operates, in effect, to monitor the location of each photographic image individually. even though the images are still in strip form. and operates to imprint the reverse side of each photographic image at a proper location relative to the eventual edges of the photographic print bearing that image. The photographic images need not be regularly spaced from one another on the image-bearing side of the print strip. as often occurs when the printer operator in the photofinishing line intentionally skips a portion of the print paper due to an apparent fault or imperfection in the paper. Nevertheless. since the printing operation produces an indicium associated with each photographic image. and since the same indicium is thereafter employed to control both the location of the imprinted information and. thereafter. the location at which each individual print is sev ered from the strip of prints. the imprinted information is always accurately located at a desired position relative to the edges of the print regardless of the position of the print on an elongated strip of print paper.
It will be understood from the foregoing. and from the subsequent description. that the terms print and printer" are used in relation to the production of a photographic image on the image-bearing side of the print paper. whereas the terms imprint and "imprinter" are used in relation to the production of added information. in desired format. on the reverse or nonimage-hearing side of the print paper.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. I diagrammatically illustrates a photofinishing process. and the apparatus employed in that process. including the improvement of the present invention;
FIG. 2 diagrammatically illustrates a print strip pro duced by the method and apparatus of FIG. 1. prior to the imprinting and cutting operations; and
FIG. 3 represents the imprinted side of a single photographic print produced by the method and apparatus of FIG. I. in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS In accordance with the present invention. a standard photofinishing process is modified to include an imprinting operation on the print strip prior to the cutting of that strip into individual photographic prints.
More particularly. exposed negatives from individual rolls of photographic film are fed. at 10. into a negative processor 11 of known type. and the strips of processed negatives are spliced together. and stored on a spool 12. When convenient. the spool I2 is transferred. as at 13. to a photographic printer l4. and the various negatives are fed from supply spool 15 passed an exposure station I6 to a storage spool I7 in synchrony with a supply of print paper fed from a supply spool 18 past exposure station I6 to a storage spool 19.
The printer 14 may take any of a variety of known forms. and is normally under the manual or treadleoperated control of an operator who views each negative and the corresponding portion of the print paper as the negatives and print paper are fed past exposure station I6. Printer 14 conventionally operates to impress an indicium on the print paper coincident with the exposure operation. which indicium is ultimately employed to control the cutter which severs the print strip into individual photographic prints. Such equipments are described. for example. in Ferguson U.S. Patv No. 3.537.790 and Knobel U.S. Pat. No. 2.682.2l2.
Each indicium may take the form of a hole which is physically punched into the paper to register with an edge of the photographic image. e.g.. as is commercially effected by the Kodak 2620A Color Printer. or it may constitute a graphite mark placed on the nonimage-bearing side of the print paper. as is effected by the Gretag 31 I7 Color Printer. or it may constitute a photographic mark on the image-bearing side of the paper. Any of these equipments can be employed for the printer 14 used in the system of the present invention.
The spool 19. bearing an elongated strip of latent photographic images. is transferred when convenient. as at 20, to the input of a commercially available film processor 21. and is fed through the several tanks thereof in sequence to effect developing. fixing. washing. and drying of the print paper. The processed material emerging from the processor 21 is stored on a spool 22 and. at this point in the operation. normally takes the form shown in FIG. 2. i.e.. a print strip 23 bearing a succession of photographic images 24. 25. 26. etc.. thereon demarcated from one another by indicia such as holes 27 each of which operates to eventually control a cutting operation which severs the print strip along the broken lines designated 28. 29 to cut the strip into individual photographic prints while. simulta neously. removing the portion of each strip which contains the indicium thereon.
After the film strip has been processed. storage spool 22 may. if desired. be transferred to a scanning station 30 where the photographic images thereon are individually inspected by winding the strip from supply roll 3] to a new supply roll 32. During this scanning operation. an operator may mark-out poor prints by use of an appropriate marker pen. and. as is well known. a blower mechanism may be provided adjacent the strip traverse between spools 3i and 32 to quickly dry the marker ink and thereby increase the speed at which the scanning is effected.
After the scanning operation has been completed. or after the film processing operation has been completed if no scanning operation is employed. the print strip is normally transferred from the locations designated by either spool 22 or spool 32 to the input spool location designated 33 at the input side of a sensor and cutter mechanism 34. Such mechanisms are in themselves weil known and include a photoelectric sensor which monitors the strip on spool 33 throughout its length as the strip is fed through mechanism 34. and which operates to actuate a cutter mechanism. in response to detection of each indicium. along lines 28. 29 (see FIG. 2 As a result. a stack ofindividual photographic prints 35 is produced at the output of the sensor and cutter mechanism 34. and these prints are thereafter packaged and returned to the customer along with strips of the corresponding negatives severed from spool I7.
In accordance with the present invention. the elongated print strip at storage spool location 22 and 32 is. instead of being fed to the input of sensor-cutter mechanism 34. first fed to an input spool location 36 at the input of an imprinter 37. The imprinter 37 includes a photoelectric mechanism comprising a lamp 38 and sensor 39 disposed on opposing sides of the strip path of travel to monitor the print strip in the direction of its length as the print strip is transferred from input spool location 36 to output spool location 40. Sensor 39 operates to produce a signal whenever one of the holes. graphite marks. or photographic marks. comprising the indicia demarcating photographic prints from one another. is detected; and the signal produced by sensor 39 in turn controls a drive mechanism 41 associated with imprinting rolls 42 to initiate rotation. of the normally nonrotating rolls 42, through a single revolution thereby to imprint the same preselected information in a desired format on the reverse. or nonimage-bearing side. of the print strip at a preselected location adjacent each detected indicium i.e.. on the reverse side of each photographic print in the elongated print strip at a precise position relative to the utlimate edges of each such print.
The indicium-controlled imprinter may take the form shown in Jones. et al.. US. Pat. No. 3.l98.l 14 or Baumgardner US. Pat. No. 2.963.965. However in its preferred form. the imprinter comprises a commercially-available imprinter marketed by Avery Label Co.. Azusa. Calif. under its trademark Golden Touch Super B" imprinter. modified to include a photoelectric sensor of the general type employed in mechanism 34, to control initiation of the desired single-revolution of the rotary imprinter rolls, and further modified to include imprinter rolls capable of transporting photographic print paper without imposing cosmetic marks or blemishes thereon.
After the imprinting operation has been completed. to successively imprint the nonimage-bearing side of the print paper with information accurately located with respect to the demarcating indicium associated with each print. the spool 40 of imprinted photographic print strip material is transferred to the input of sensorcutter mechanism 34. and is severed into imprinted individual photographic prints by the technique already described. Since the same indicia are used to control sensor-cutter 34 as had earlier been used to control the operation of imprinter 37, the information imprinted on the reverse side of each print in stack 35 is accurately located at a predetermined position relative to the edges of that photographic print.
In the preferred embodiment of the present invention. each single revolution of the imprinting rolls 42 operates to imprint a postal card format on the reverse side of each print. as shown in FIG. 3. As a result. each imprinted print in stack 35 is immediately adapted for direct mailing. The format shown in FIG. 3 includes a trademark identifying the photofinishing company. and also includes the photofinishing date; and since these types of information have significance in themselves. the imprinter 37 may. in accordance with alternate applications ofthe present invention. be arranged to print either or both of these types of information without the postal card representation. Even when so modified. however. the imprinted trademark and/or processing date information appears at a preselected position on the reverse side of the print. accurately located with respeet to the edges of each print.
In the system shown in FIG. I, the imprinting operation is performed by a separate imprinter adapted to receive a process print strip. and to imprint information thereon for subsequent supply to the sensor-cutter mechanism 34. This represents the preferred embodiment of the present invention since it does not require that any other equipment already in use in the photofinishing process be modified. and permits an existing photofinishing system to be readily improved to include an imprinting capability. However, if desired, the imprinter 37 can be combined with and made a portion of one of the other stations. e.g.. scanning station 30 and imprinter 37 could be combined to effect the imprinting operation while the processed print strip is being scanned for faulty prints. or imprinter 37 could be combined with cutter 34 to effect the desired imprinting operation and subsequent severing of the imprinted prints in a single mechanism.
While I have thus described preferred embodiments of the present invention, many variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art. It must therefore be understood that the foregoing description is intended to be illustrative only and not [imitative of the present in vention. and all such variations and modifications as are in accord with the principles described are meant to fall within the scope of the appended claims.
Having thus described my invention. I claim:
I. In a photofinishing process of the type operative to produce an elongated strip of print paper having a plurality of photographic images on one side thereof demarcated from one another by spaced indicia located respectively between said images and used to control subsequent cutting of said strip into individual photographic prints. the improvement wherein the other side of said strip is imprinted prior to said cutting operation to imprint the same information in a given format on the reverse side of every photographic image throughout the length of said elongated strip of print paper. said imprinting operation comprising the steps of monitoring the strip in the direction of its length to detect sequentially the location of successive ones of said indicia. successively imprinting the other side of said strip at predetermined positions relative to each of said suc cessive indicia to provide an imprint on the nonimagebearing side and at a preselected location relative to the edges of each photographic print subsequently formed by said cutting operation. said imprinting operation being effected by an imprinter apparatus having a normally nonrotating imprinting roll the rotation of which is initiated and thereafter automatically terminated in response to the detection of one of said indicia. and. following said imprinting operation. again monitoring the strip in the direction of its length to again detect sequentially the location of the same indicia. and initiating a cutting operation. in response to the second detection of each indicium. operative to sever the portion of the strip containing said indicium away from the remainder of the strip thereby to produce an individual print having a complete photographic image on one side thereof and a single imprint of said format on the reverse side thereof as well as a severed portion of said strip containing said indicium.
2. The process of claim 1 wherein said monitoring step comprises photoelectrically sensing said strip to produce signals representative respectively of each of said indicia, and couping each signal to said imprinter apparatus to initiate rotation of the imprinting roll of said apparatus through a single revolution.
3. The process of claim 2 wherein each of said indicia comprises a single aperture in said strip located inwardly of the opposing elongated edges of said strip between a pair of said photographic images.
4. The process of claim 2 wherein said indicia comprise marks on the image-bearing side of said strip.
5. The process of claim 2 wherein said indicia comprise marks on the nonimage-bearing side of said strip.
6. The process of claim 1 wherein said imprinter apparatus is operative to imprint a succession of identical postal card representations on the nonimage-bearing side of said strip at a precise location relative to each of said photographic images, said subsequent cutting operation being operative to produce a plurality of individual. separated photographic prints each of which has one of said postal card representations on the nonimage bearing side thereof properly located relative the edges of said photographic print to adapt each said photographic print for individual direct mailing at the conclusion of said photofinishing process 7. The photofinishing process of claim I including the step of processing said strip of print paper to produce a plurality of stable, dry. visible, photographic images on said one side thereof. said imprinting step being conducted subsequent to said processing step and prior to said cutting operation 8. A photofinishing process comprising an exposure step operative to project successive images from a continuous strip of negatives onto a continuous elongated strip of photosensitive paper to produce a succession of latent images along the length of said paper strip said exposure step including the step of forming a succession of indicia along the length of said paper strip to demarcate said latent images from one another. said exposure step being followed by a film processing step operative to convert said succession of latent images in said paper strip into a plurality of visible photographic pictures appearing in succession on one side of said processed paper strip said processing step being followed by an imprinting step operative to successively imprint the entire length of the nonimage-bearing side of said strip with the same information applied to said strip repetitively and in a preselected format said imprinting step including the step of detecting the position of each indicium in said processed strip and using the detection of each indicium to initiate operation of a normally deactivated rotary imprinter apparatus which then operates to imprint said format on the reverse side of said paper strip opposite to one of said visible images. said indicia being detected successively to initiate operations of said imprinter apparatus at a succession of locations along said paper strip dependent respectively upon and responsive to the positions of said indicia, and thereafter cutting said paper strip into a plurality of photographic prints each of which includes one of said photographic pictures and one of said imprinted formats on the reverse side thereof at a predetermined accurate location relative to the edges of said print. said cutting operation being effected by again detecting the positions of the same indicia previously employed to initiate operations of said imprinter and in response to the detection of each indicium during said cutting operation. initiating operation of a cutter apparatus which functions to sever said strip in a direction transverse to its direction ofelongation at a position between two of said photographic pictures.
9. The process of claim 8 wherein said imprinting operation is operative to impress a postal card representation on the nonimage-bearing side of said strip to adapt each of said photographic prints for individual direct mailing.