Ultrasonic film cleaning w/buffers machine design

Hi everyone!

I was wondering if aside from a scanner, anyone has made their own ultrasonic film cleaning machine? Similar to the Lipsner Smith or Debrie machines.
Those machines are huge, and weight around 500kg. They are capable of distilling the solvent inside too.

I was thinking about a simple film transport running into an ultrasonic bath (the cheap ones on eBay - around 1L to avoid using excessive amounts of expensive 3M HFE 8200 solvent).
It could also run past the buffers, (which I suspect are paint rollers), through a rinse and an air knife for drying, then to the take up.

It would have to be in a sealed cabinet to prevent solvent loss, and I love the idea of adding a refrigeration coil to condense the evaporated solvent which runs back into the tub.

I’d remove the solvent and distill it using a basic chemistry distilling kit.

I’m interested in making a small prototype for 8 and 16mm film to keep things small.


Fascinating post! Perhaps the Kinograph development model could be the example for an altogether new film cleaner development project. Sign me up!

After years of “storage abuse” I rescued a large collection of films. Most of the films require robust cleaning than simply wiping them down with a microfiber cloth and some solvent. The costs of shipping them to California (from Vancouver, Canada) and having them professionally cleaned is inconceivable to me. I never even considered building a much scaled down Lipner Smith-style machine. However, thank you Andyw, maybe its not such an outrageous idea. In fact, some of the technology and film transport knowledge gleaned from the Kinograph project could be utilized in a cleaning machine.

I anxiously await any updates on your endeavor, Andyw. I would love to see images of any setup you come up with. If your prototype is simple enough and not too expensive I would be interested in building one for myself. In fact, cleaning some films ahead of building a scanner makes a lot of sense - so that once the scanner is done the films will be queued up.

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Great idea! I have no idea how those things work or what components are inside of them. If anyone has one and can dissect it for us, that would be a great starting point.

Thanks for jumping with the comments Stuart and Matthew :slight_smile:

There’s a nice diagram in one of the Lipsner Smith Manuals you can find online, I’ll attach it here.
I think the purification side of the machine has changed in recent models. But I’d leave that side out.

I was curious what kind of air pump could supply enough pressure for the air knife, and also be able to operate in the solvent filled air happily (although the HFE seems to be very plastic safe). It seems the air intake is within the sealed environment so there’s no air in or out.

I wasn’t sure what would be an affordable fully sealed cabinet. I was thinking an old medical fridge with a glass door, or maybe an electrical circuit breaker box with a clear inspection window, similar to what they use in dusty mines were they need to inspect meters and also protect them.

Ultrasonic Cleaning Machine Diagram|587x500

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I think as Stuart says, having a film cleaning system is crucial to a successful scanning setup.
I’ve been using the universal MKii for scanning home movies. The films I recieve are sometimes very dirty from projecting or mould growth. Hand cleaning is very slow, especially allowing the solvent to dry along a rewinding table with a fan. It’s also downtime when I can’t be scanning, and you don’t really get paid to clean.

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We have a Lipsner-Smith Excel 1100, which is a non-immersion cleaner (uses isopropyl alcohol). I believe the air knife is a squirrel-cage fan that’s ducted past a heating coil to warm it up. Since the output of this thing is basically through a small slit, you probably don’t need a super powerful fan. Basically you’re constricting the flow into a kind of funnel, and that would increase the pressure on the output side.

But the basic design of these isn’t especially complicated: feed and takeup with tension hubs, a bunch of PTR and buffer rollers (they are high quality paint rollers, basically) and a mechanism to lower one of the rollers down into the immersion bath while it’s running.

The big thing with the HFE machines is the cost of the solvent, and how easily it evaporates. I’ve heard horror stories about barrels of the stuff that weren’t properly sealed and basically just vanished.


Thanks for the input, that fan design does seem very appropriate, easy to connect it to some ducting.

Maybe my first model should just be a non immersion cleaner… are you very happy with the results?
I was hoping the HFE would solve my issue of isopropyl alcohol affecting some films. I’ve had some Kodachrome loose yellow dye from isopropyl. Also apparently it can’t be using on mag stripe? (according to NFSA)

I’m glad to hear my suspicions about the paint rollers were right! I saw a seller on ebay selling replacement rollers for one of the machines, and you could see the hacksaw marks on the tube haha!
I was wondering if they might just be microfibre, I was curious is lambswool might be less abrasive. I’d have to buy a few and do some tests.

It’s quite amazing how much the 8200 solvent is. I got a price here in Australia for 1 x 27.3kg drum - $2,605.50 + gst
I guess they know only film archives buy it, so 3M can charge what they like.