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16May/121

A trip to the Impossible Polaroid factory

We were lucky enough to be one of the few people who get to see the Impossible (former Polaroid) factory from the inside. If you don't know what Impossible is, they are a company that emerged after Polaroid closed down their last factory and they're trying (and succeeding) to develop all-new instant film that is compatible with Polaroid cameras. It's a very exciting project and it was awesome to get an insight how they do it.

The Impossible factory building in Enschede, Netherlands

The Impossible factory building in Enschede.

We arrived at 13:00 at a very regular-looking factory building and waited in the cantina for a bit, then Andre (the managing director) came and gave a short introduction about the short company history. Then we got split into 4 small groups and walked through the whole factory, getting explanations on how the machines work and how they managed to get everything up and running again. Almost all of the machines are old Polaroid machines that got saved from the dumpster, so it's even more amazing they managed to reassemble everything and produce this amazing new film. The film works completely different than the original Polaroid film as the chemicals weren't available anymore and Polaroid still owns the patents. Impossible is quite literally re-inventing instant photography.
The first machine we saw was a machine that produced 8x10 film, they recently assembled it and got it up and running. Instead of peel-apart film this is integral film in a special cartridge. Since Polaroid discontinued the film, there was no way to get any new film. Our guide said they will soon begin selling the new film, so far they only sold it to specific clients, also the FBI.

Our guide talking about how they are making new Impossible 8x10 film. Unlike the old peel-apart film, the new type is integral.

Our guide talking about how they are making new Impossible 8x10 film. Unlike the old peel-apart film, the new type is integral.

This machine assembles the 8x10 integral film in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

This machine assembles the 8x10 integral film.

This machine produces the negatives for the 8x10 film in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

This machine produces the negatives for the 8x10 film.

A Polaroid camera for 8x10 inch film in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

A Polaroid camera for 8x10 inch film.

This machine spreads the developer paste on the 8x10 integral film. In the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

This machine spreads the developer paste on the 8x10 integral film.

The next stop was a giant camera producing the biggest photos I've ever seen. There are only 2 cameras like this in the world, it's basically a giant SX-70, even with big rolls to automatically eject the film and spread the paste. The new film is integral as well.

The biggest Polaroid photo ever in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

The biggest Polaroid photo ever, the amount of detail is incredible!

The most giant polaroid camera ever in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

The most giant polaroid camera ever.

Next stop was the reactor chamber, where the developer paste gets made.

The reactor room in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

The reactor room where the developer paste gets mixed.

Then we went to the assembly line for the small film cartridges, almost everything happened there. Most machines were stopped. Some had to operate in darkness, so it was very interesting to see those from the inside. People who operate these machines have to work in complete darkness, any light would destroy a whole batch of film.

The Impossible project emerged out of a few truckloads of junk that they bought from Polaroid. Most of the machines were reassembled out of this.

The Impossible project emerged out of a few truckloads of junk that they bought from Polaroid. Most of the machines were reassembled out of this.

The assembly line in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

The assembly line. In the non-lit part are spare machines.

Developer pockets are made in this machine in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

Developer pockets are made in this machine.

Machine in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

I don't know exactly what this machine does, it seems it feeds the materials into the machine that assembles the film.

The Impossible film gets assembled here, usually this part happens in the dark in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

The film gets assembled here, usually this part happens in the dark.

Boxes full of film in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

Boxes full of film.

After that we went to the laboratory where developer paste gets developed and tested. They're currently working on a new formula which will be used in the next released film.

Impossible employees talking about new film in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

Impossible employees talking about new film.

The laboratory where the developer paste gets developed in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

The laboratory where the developer paste gets developed.

Test photos of early Impossible film where the uneven spreading of the developer paste was an issue in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

Test photos of early Impossible film where the uneven spreading of the developer paste was an issue.

The test photo setup in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

The test photo setup.

The warehouse was the last stop, they had a special cooling room for storing the film before it gets shipped. Next to it was an office where they refurbished and repaired old cameras. You can get your SX-70 fixed there, they have the parts and knowledge!

Cameras get repaired/refurbished there. They have lots of SX-70s.

Cameras get repaired/refurbished there. They have lots of SX-70s.

SX-70 spare parts in the Impossible Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands

SX-70 spare parts.

 

Signed Impossible Polaroid photo by André Bosman.

André was nice enough to sign a photo I made of him using PX680 First Flush film. (hence the funky colors)

Back at the cantina we talked to the employees and other people, of course it was nice having so many people interested in instant photography in one place. We had an interesting chat and then went to meet André in his office. He is an awesome guy and took his time to talk with everyone who came there. I showed him my little cartoon art badges I made using Impossible PX70 film and he really liked them! We talked about the future plans and just how great the whole project in general is and I got a nice signed photo on first flush film. Before leaving, we stocked up some discounted film at the factory outlet store and went back home.

To anyone interested, doing that tour is definitely worth it if you're interested. Unlike other companies, they went out of their way to show us everything and there was no place where we weren't allowed to take photos. (I doubt they have to fear much competition in this sector though)

 

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  1. It is great to see that TIP is even MORE energetic than when I visited exactly one year ago, and that steady progress is being made. The reformulation of the old Polaroid materials is a huge undertaking that has required a lot of expertise and skill, and much investment.


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