Quite recently Messrs. Marion & Company, London, began on their own account to manufacture sensitive photographic plates by machinery, and the operations are exceedingly delicate, for a single minute air bubble or speck of dust on a plate may mar the perfection of a picture. Their works for the purpose at Southgate were erected in the summer of 1886, and were designed throughout by Mr. Alexander Cowan.

Manufacture Of Photographic Sensitive Plates 647 plates1 Fig. 1.

Buildings of this kind have to be specially constructed, because some of the operations have to be carried on in the absence of daylight, and in that kind of non-actinic illumination which does not act upon the particular description of sensitive photographic compound manipulated. Glass and other materials have therefore to pass from light to dark rooms through double doors or double sliding cupboards made for the purpose, and the workshops have to be so placed in relation to each other that the amount of lifting and the distance of carriage of material shall be reduced to a minimum. Moreover, the final drying of sensitive photographic plates takes place in absolute darkness. Fig. 1 is a ground plan of the chief portion of the works. In this cut, A is the manager's private office, B the counting house, C the manager's laboratory, and D his dark room for private experiment, which can thus be conducted without interfering with the regular work of the establishment. E is the carpenter's shop and packing room, F the albumen preparation room, G the engine room, with its two doors; the position of the engine is marked at H. The main building is entered through the door, K; the passage, L, is used for the storage of glass, and has openings in the wall on one side to permit the passage of glass into the cleaning room, M; this room is illuminated by daylight.

The plates, after being cleaned, pass into the coating rooms, N and O, into which daylight is never admitted; the coating machine is in the room, N, and three hand coating tables in the room, O; both these rooms are illuminated by non-actinic light.

Manufacture Of Photographic Sensitive Plates 647 plates2 Fig. 2. Manufacture Of Photographic Sensitive Plates 647 plates3 Fig. 3.

The walls of N and O are of brick, to keep these interior rooms as cool as possible in hot weather, for the making of photographic plates is more difficult in summer time, because the high temperature tends to prevent the rapid setting of the gelatine emulsion upon them. At the end of these rooms and communicating with both is the lift, P, by which the coated plates are carried to the drying rooms above, which there cover the entire area of the main building; they consist of two rooms measuring 60 ft. by 30 ft., and are each 30 ft. high at the highest part in the center of the building; these rooms are necessarily kept in absolute darkness, except while the plates are being stored therein or removed therefrom, and on such occasions non-actinic light is used. After the plates are dry, they come down the lift, Q, into the cutting and packing room, R, which is illuminated by non-actinic light. In the drying rooms the batches of plates are placed one after the other on tram lines at one end of the room, and are gradually pushed to the other end of the building, so that the first batches coated are the first to be ready to be taken off when dry, and to be sent down the lift, Q. The plates in R, when sufficiently packed to be safe from the action of daylight, are passed through specially constructed openings into the outside packing room, S, where they are labeled.

The chemicals are kept in the room, T, where they are weighed and measured ready for the making of the photographic emulsion in the room, U. The next room, V, is for washing small experimental batches of emulsion, and W is the large washing room. The emulsion is then taken into the passage, X, communicating with the two coating rooms. A centrifugal machine in the room, Y, is used for extracting silver residues from waste materials, also for freeing the emulsion from all soluble salts. Washing and cleaning in general go on in the room, Z.


The glass for machine coating is cut to standard sizes at the starting, instead of being coated in large sheets and cut afterward - a practice somewhat common in this industry. The disadvantage of the ordinary plan is that minute fragments of glass are liable to settle upon the sensitive film and to cause spots and scratches during the packing operations; any defect of this kind renders a plate worthless to the photographer. When any breakages take place in the cutting, it is best that they should occur at the outset, and not after the plate has been coated with emulsion. The cutting when necessary is effected by the aid of a "cutting board," Fig. 2, invented by Mr. Cowan, and now largely in use in the photographic world. This appliance is used to divide into two equal parts, with absolute exactness, any plate within its capacity, and it is especially useful in dimly lighted rooms. It consists of four rods pivoted together at the corners and swinging on two centers, so that in the first position it is truly square, and in other positions of rhomboid form, the two outer bars approaching each other like those of a parallel ruler. The hinge flap comes down on the exact center of the plate, minus the thickness of the block holding the diamond.

By this appliance plates can be cut in either direction. Fig. 3 represents a similar arrangement for cutting a number of very small plates out of one large one; in this the hinge flap is made in the form of a gridiron, and the bars are spaced at accurate distances, according to the size of the plate to be cut, so that a plate 10 in. square, receiving four cuts in each direction, will be divided into twenty-five small plates.