Using LEGOs to Develop Your 35mm Film Automatically

Here’s a really neat DIY idea for those of you who shoot and develop your own film, and also happen to love playing with LEGOs (that’s everyone right?). Using LEGOs and a bit of ingenuity, Dutch photographer Jan van den Broek built a semi-automatic film processing rig.

Of course, as you might have already guessed, these aren’t your standard LEGOs. To build his rig, van der Broek used LEGO Mindstorms, which come equipped with motors, sensors and gears, and can be programmed to do your bidding via a ‘brick computer’ known as the RCX.

Using these programmable LEGOs, van der Broek programmed a little car to move above five containers full of developing chemicals — a pre-soaker, a developer, a bleach tank, a fixer and a stabilizer — and slowly dip and agitate the attached film in each of the five baths individually.

Here’s a look at van der Broek’s contraption in action:


Unfortunately, van der Broek realized shortly after putting the first version online that an automated system like this wasn’t really viable for him given how infrequently he shoots film. As such, the contraption you see in the video at the top is still at “version 1,” so to speak.

Still, for the DIYers out there, there should be enough info in the video and on van der Broek’s website to get you started. And if you do build your own, shoot us a message on Facebook or in the comments down below with a link — we’d love to update the post and show off your creation!

(via DIYPhotography)

  • Alan Klughammer

    Very cool, but not sure if it would be better than some of the commercial machines available…

  • Jim Noetzel

    Love it. I use a DIY lego rotary roller contraption for the fixer step when diafine processing.

  • Thomas Casey

    Lego is plural, there is no need to add an ‘s’.

  • Andrew F

    Please remove the erroneous s at the end of Lego, the plural of Lego is Lego.

  • Gary O’Brien

    Looks like 120 film to me…

  • Kris Ilich

    doesnt look like the film gets agitated.. I’m not sold.

  • Neoh Soon Hueng

    In Malaysia, most people are already shooting digital. There is hardly any commmercial machines available to develop negatives. If needed, will have to find specialty shops to get it into prints.

  • Alan Klughammer

    I stand corrected. I moved to digital quite early and never really looked back at film for my personal use (still processed film for customers). Back in the day there used to be many automated film development machines, from simple home machines from Jobo, Patterson, Ilford and others all the way up to commercial machines by Noritsu. I thought the Jobo or Patterson machines would still be available, apparently not. I guess Lego is the only way to go now…

  • Aaron Link

    I inferred from the text comments at the end his first go-around had the crane mechanism “agitate” by simply moving the spindle up and down, and as a result he got vertical lines. He said he needs to change that. I can’t imagine how he could get a Lego Mindstorm to do the more thorough hand-over-hand-and-twist method. Also, no mention of dispersing air bubbles…

  • isthereanybodyoutthere


  • Ken Elliott

    Both 120 and 135 are shown in the video. Look at the sprocket holes at 1:30.

  • Ken Elliott

    I once considered building something like this (a less creative design than the one above.) After I thought about it, I bought a Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. I’d rather develop film than vacuum the house.

  • Gary O’Brien

    I suppose you are right. Didn’t take the time to look at the video.

  • Richard Ford

    Sheeps maybe?