Fujifilm expanding production of chemicals used to make film, digital sensors

Chemicals are essential to both develop film and create a digital camera sensor — and Fujifilm is expanding with a new chemical division. The move allows the company to expand production of chemicals used in everything from LCDs to pharmaceuticals.
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Why it matters to you

Amid reports of falling camera sales, any expansion could be seen as a bit of good news for the industry.

Chemicals are required both to develop film and to manufacture digital camera sensors — and Fujifilm will be expanding for both applications with a new division. Today, April 4, Fujifilm announced the launch of its Fine Chemical Business Division after acquiring a Japan-based chemical company.

While chemicals are more traditionally associated with developing film, they’re also required to manufacture the photoresists in digital camera sensors as well as LCD screens. The imaging giant’s involvement in chemical product isn’t limited to just photography, however — the move will also help expand the production of chemicals used in anything from pharmaceuticals to kits for testing water quality.

More: No, disposable film cameras are not dead — Fujifilm is giving them a makeover

The new division will help expand Fujifilm’s “high-function” chemical and laboratory chemical business, the announcement says, and will do so by working with the recently acquired Wako Pure Chemical Industries Ltd. The new division, officially launched on April 1, will also work with Wako’s existing structure to distribute over 200,000 varieties of chemicals, further strengthening the company’s chemical production by sharing both technology and distribution networks.

“Fujifilm has tapped into its advanced chemical synthesis technology to develop photographic films’ color-producing reagents and other high-function chemicals,” the announcement says. “The technology has also been applied to produce high-quality LCD materials and graphic arts materials.”

Fujifilm expects the market to grow because of the growing demand for semiconductors, which is occurring as image sensors become integrated into everything from cars to smart home systems. The company has also reported growth in the sales of its instant film cameras as the trend toward traditional film photography grows.

The company announced late last year the opening of a third plant to manufacture semiconductor materials, a primary component of the tech inside dedicated digital cameras, as well as smartphone cameras and cameras used as sensors for applications like self-driving cars. While the newest chemical division isn’t specific to just photography, the expansion, coming just a few months after a new manufacturing plant, could be viewed as a glimpse of good news for the industry as dedicated camera sales continue to fall and companies like Nikon and GoPro continue to restructure.

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