Here is another in our continuing series of articles about things going on around Rochester. Enjoy!
There’s no doubt that Eastman Kodak’s business profile has been diminished in recent years. The company — which emerged from bankruptcy in 2013 — still has its 1,300-acre business park in Rochester, but 80 of the original 200 buildings have been demolished and another 59 sold. There are probably few Rochester residents who don’t know at least one person laid off from Kodak in the past decades.
But as a New York Times feature from March 20 highlights, Kodak is now pinning its hopes on technology far more advanced than the film its empire was built on.
In Kodak’s research and development division, scientists and engineers are working on projects few people would associate with Kodak, such as nanoparticle inks and cheap sensors that could tell consumers when meats have gone bad. One lab is working on a new kind of phone screen, made of a mesh of silver wires, that could be better and more affordable than current touch screens.
Using an apt metaphor, Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke told the Times that he’s “mining the history of this company for its underlying technologies” in order to find a future beyond film.
Kodak products are even ending up in high-tech textiles designed to block odors.
Silver has long been known for its antimicrobial properties — there are many types of silver, from pure silver to sterling silver (92.5% silver) to silver nitrate (which has been prepared with an acidic reaction) — and one recent innovation called PurThread uses a silver microbial agent Kodak derives from recycled silver for performance fabrics.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Kodak has completely exited the film industry. Even now, Kodak melts down silver nitrate in large metal cauldrons and uses it to coat a polyester base that, after several other steps, becomes film.
And, as the Democrat and Chronicle reported March 14, falling demand for film has even brought some jobs back to Rochester: Finishing work that used to be outsourced to Mexico was brought home to Eastman Business Park about four years ago.
“People ask me why I’m still here,” Terry Taber, head of research for Kodak, told the Times. “It’s because I see the possibilities.”