An automated ‘dark room’ machineCase

Klant: Agfa Gevaert

Dienst: Automation

Sector: Light-sensitive film - Medical


An automated ‘dark room’ machineCase

Client: Agfa Gevaert

Service: Automation

Sector: Light-sensitive film - Medical

Een geautomatiseerde ‘dark room’ machine

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How do you package a roll of light-sensitive film into robust packs containing easy-to-handle sheets? Until now, the film was packed 100% by hand. As the film is highly sensitive to fogging – both due to pressure and as a result of over-exposure – you cannot simply take a firm grip of the stack to align the edges. That is why placing it manually in the special aluminium bag without causing the corners to crumple, or without piercing the packaging, is far from easy.

The client was also looking for a way to efficiently process a variety of formats. Moreover, the process had to take place in a dust-free, dark environment, as light-sensitive film is no longer usable once it’s been exposed to light. So there were challenges aplenty here!


By automating the packaging process, we succeeded in developing a solution for each of the challenges outlined above.

The roll of film is cut into the desired formats and stacked using a machine. Then comes the packaging process, which IMA has fully automated. In the video you see how the stacks of film are assembled and perfectly aligned. The pressure has been regulated here to ensure that there is no pressure-related fogging. Moreover, the individual sheets do not slide around as is sometimes the case when they are handled manually.

YouTube video

Detection is usually done by means of a light signal, but here the light would damage the light-sensitive film. This is why we use the ‘dark room’ principle with special LED-free sensors. This means the operator can only see a minimal amount, but is able to follow the process on the screen and via night-vision cameras.

Not only light, but also dust causes quality problems during the vacuum-packing of the bag. That’s why the machine is set up in a dust-free room and we have ensured that with all the movements that the machine makes, no dust is released that might attach itself to the film.

Next, the stack of film is slid into a flexible aluminium bag with a special coating, before being vacuum-packed and heat-sealed. This is done with such precision that there is no danger of perforation or skewed packs. With the help of a robot, each pack is placed on a conveyor belt for subsequent packing into boxes.

Added value

The automation process eliminates all the risks that are often associated with manual packaging of light-sensitive film. Problems such as creases, crumpled corners, fogging, skewed stacks and perforated packaging are a thing of the past. The process has a higher output and the packs of valuable film are of a higher quality. This represents significant added value for a vitally important medical product!

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