Automated Xray film developers (summary of responses)

John Nash nash at
Mon Dec 6 14:49:39 EST 1993

Last week, I posted a question asking for comments from netfolk about
automated Xray film developers.  Here is the summary of responses.
Hearty thanks to those who took the time to help me out, your efforts
are much appreciated.

The query:

We're looking for advice on automated Xray film developers.

We have three or four labs, each with their own small darkrooms for
developing Xray films from autoradiographs (esp. sequencing).  A
couple of us would like our section to buy us a small X-ray developer
because tray-developing is a pain.  We would probably not want an
expensive "high-throughput" machine, but something small, perhaps
benchtop size, requiring low maintainence, etc.

Any suggestions?  Would do folk here use?  Please include approximate
running costs, if you have them.


The responses:

From: TOM BICKLE <bickle at>

We've had a Fuji RGII since about 10 years. It was the first in the building 
and has since been joined by 3 others. Each machine services 4-5 medium sized
groups with no problems.

Costs: I can't give figures here, but in the first year of operation we
found that costs for developer and fixer went down. The machines use very
little reagent at high temperature and produces a fixed, dry film after 4-5
minutes. We clean the machine twice a year. Other than that we have had
no maintenance apart from one unscheduled cleaning when a grad student
filled the developer container with fixer.

Tom Bickle
Microbiology Dept, Biozentrum, Basel University
Klingelbergstrasse 70, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland
+ 41 61 267 21 20       bickle at

From: dudleyd at (Dave Dudley)

We currently have a Kodak M35A processor.  This processor adequately serves
a group of ~80-100 cellular/molecular biologists.  It sees a fair amount of
sequencing gels, but mainly a lot of autoradiograms from protein gels. 
This unit cost around $7000 about 2 1/2 years ago.  Since that time it has
seen steady to heavy use with no maintainence problems.  Operating costs
for developer and fixer fluids run ~$1000/year.  Is is fairly small, about
3' long, 2' wide and 2' high and sits on a small table in a small dark
room.  You will need plumbing and ventilation run to it.  We also just had
a silver recovery system added to the effluent to satisfy some waste
regulations--I don't know what yours are, but it might be a concern.  

Overall, this is a pretty nice unit and I have no complaints about it.  It
seems rather sturdy, and fairly idiot-proof.

Dave Dudley (dudleyd at   *
Parke-Davis/Signal Transduction   *     Science is a jealous mistress.
Ann Arbor, MI, USA                * 

From: Laura Via <LEVIA at VTVM1.CC.VT.EDU>

 We had just the needs you describe, 8 or so labs and maybe 5 films a day.
 The benchtop model by Kodac was what we requested from our purchesing dept,
 but of course the low bid was a slightly bigger footprint one by Konica.

 Anyway, we like the switch from chemicals and waiting for films to dry etc.
 The mantaince requirements are low, someome to change chemicals every few
 months, someone to check to see the machine is off when they leave.
 installation was expensive here because physcal plant charges the earth to
 run water pipes.

 The Konica (XR-70) cost more after all because of the water pipes and cabnet
 changes required that the Kodac would not have required, so beware.
 Also sequencing films do not fix completely in this model, so they come
 out tacky and cloud up if they are not rinced.  Try to get a trial model!

 Hope this helps. Laura Via

From: szat at ERE.UMontreal.CA (Szatmari George)

We recently (within the last year or so) purchased an AFP "Mini Medical 90"
film processor from Picker.  We have had no major problems with the machine,
other than the odd instance where a student runs a gel through the machine!
The list price is US $ 5500, but Picker may (or may not)sell it for less.
It's a big improvement over their earlier model, the 14XL, which was prone
to having large sequencing films getting stuck in the dryer section
(also heated up the darkroom significantly).

Hope this is helpful,
George Szatmari
Dept de microbiologie/immunologie
Universite de Montreal

From: rlewis at

I recently purchased an Kodak RP X-Omat M35A film processor for our  institute.  To the extent that we have used it I am extremely pleased with its performance and ease of use.  The M35A is a table top model aboutthe size of two large microwave ovens put together.  It is not high throughput; approximately 2 min/film.  We have a service contract, but the processor requires very little day-to-day or week -toweek attention.  I could not be happier withthe quality of the film.  As with all processors the bigge

st problems arise when people run their blots or cardboard from the film box through the processor.  One thing you may want to ascertain from your institute is their requirements for plumbing the processor.  We did not realize at the time of purchase that the university would require that the outflow from the processsor drain to glass waste pipes. This requirement  limited the number of locales to install the machine. The cost of remodeling the plumbing in our original dark room was prohibitive.
We got the M35 for about $7,180 (US) and  a bimonthly service contract  for  $474/year.

Good luck.

Rob Lewis, Ph.D
Assistant Professor
Eppley Cancer Institute
Unversity of Nebraska Medical Center
rlewis at

From: "Fred Boyd, Ph.D." <fredboyd at>

We use a Kodak X0-Mat M35A.  Our annual operating cost spread across about 15 
labs is around $2500 US including service contract ($1200).

Fred Boyd, Ph.D.                                   (612) 624-8150    Voice
Assistant Professor                                (612) 624-8154    Lab
Laboratory Medicine and Pathology                  (612) 626-2444    Fax
Cell Biology and Neuroanatomy                      (612) 626-5765    Office Fax
Box 609, UMHC
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN   55455

From: DAVID MITCHELL <mitcheld at>

saw you question about x-ray developers.  i have worked in labs with both tanks
and machines. There are advantages and disadvantages to both systems (in my

Tanks  Ad: can control development times, don't use up a lot of
fixer/developer, not all that much work to mainatin

        Disad:  you have to stand around with a timer

Machine  Ad: insert film, wait until the red light goes out, walk away, come
back in 5 minutes to a dry autorad.

machines should be taken apart, rollers and tanks cleaned, and reassembled once
a week.  This is regardless of usage, the developer dries on the rollers and if
you leave it too long your film gets scratched on the way through.  Also
machines tend to use a lot of chemicals as they flush a little to waste
everytime you develop a gel.

Summary; I would go for a machine if somebody else is going to clean it.

Hope this helps

David Mitchell

mitcheld at

(also so an Aussie but I don't consider living in Switzerland exile)

From: GIETZ at

by the way, I would like a manual set of tanks like those found on
page 1964 of the Sigma Catalogue (DEV-T) Being a bit of a photographer
I find that I loose too much latitude with the autoprocessors!!!.  I
can usually get a good picture even if the gel (be it a sequencing
autorad or a southern etc) has been not exposed optimally by fooling
around with developer times.  The best pic for an autorad is to over
expose and under develop.  This increases contrast dramatically and
allows salvage bad exposures.  Not so with the autoprocessor down the
hall.  Some days I can't even see the bands from my Sequenase
sequencing, so I have taken to developing everything by hand in small
tanks.  The other alternative is get someone who has an interest in
photography to maintain your auto processor.  I think this may help!

Dan Gietz
R.Daniel Gietz Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Human Genetics
University of Manitoba
770 Bannatyne Ave, Rm 250
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
R3E 0W3
Tel.: (204)789-3458
Fax.: (204)786-8712
"Trying to do the Manitoba Thing"

John Nash                           (nash at
Institute for Biological Sciences,  National Research Council of Canada,
                 Yet another Aussie-in-exile ;-)
      *** Disclaimer:  All opinions are mine, not NRC's! ***

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