Ilford Imaging Switzerland

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Ilford Imaging Switzerland was a subsidiary of the UK-based Ilford Photo and Swiss chemical conglomerate Ciba AG based in Marly, Switzerland. This company was instrumental in the creation and development of the Cibachrome/Ilfochrome photographic printing material as well as early inkjet dye development.


Since the 1500s the site now referred to as the Marly Innovation Center has had a rich industrial history. From the original paper mill, to the presence of the company Ciba AG, and now the Innovation Center, the site has contributed many important developments, many focused on color prints. Among the most impressive and well known technologies developed there by Ciba AG are Cibachrome film and its associated dyes, and inkjet technologies. [1]

Research at the Marly Site

Ciba AG first began researching in Marly in 1960, when they constructed a large research and development site there. They became involved with Ilford Photo in 1961, which was the start of research in photographic film that led to the production of Cibachrome, a color positive technology for developing film. This technology evolved over many years, and became renowned for its rich color and unique process. Production of Cibachrome stopped in 2013, when Ilford Imaging Switzerland went bankrupt and shut down their production site. The site still exists as the Marly Innovation Center, and many other companies continue to carry out research and other processes there.

Ciba/Ilford Company Histories

In 1960 Ciba AG established itself in Marly focusing on research in color photography. By 1969 Ciba AG became the sole shareholder of Ilford. This however was not the first company to be acquired by Ciba AG. Both Telko, a Swiss company, and Lumiere, a French company, both came into Ciba AG. Ciba AG itself went through a few rebranding stages that involved new names. In 1989 the International Paper/Ilford AG was used. In 1992, Cibachrome was renamed Ilfochrome. Both names are accurate to describe the exact same technology, and the name changes only occurred for legal reasons. When closing in 2013, it was known as Ilford Imaging Switzerland, and was considered a branch of Ilford Imaging, a larger company based in the United Kingdom. Ilford Switzerland developed only color photography technologies, like Cibachrome, making unique from the rest of the Ilford company, which was mainly focused on black and white film development.

Brief History of Technologies

Before the invention of the silver dye bleach image developing process known as Cibachrome, research and development of color printing technologies in Switzerland can be traced back to as early as 1906. The first of these silver dye based processes to be successfully developed was in the 1930s, by Dr. Bela Gaspar. The final product that was developed years later became known as Gasparcolor, and had a very similar process to the one that Cibachrome would have in the future. Ilford Imaging Switzerland continued research into similar chemical processes during the second half of the twentieth century, which led to the development of Cibachrome film.

Technical Information and Details


Cibachrome was a silver dye bleach film development process created in Marly by Ilford Photo Switzerland. This product worked by using three layers of different color dyes within the material, these three layers containing yellow, magenta, or cyan dye. Each layer incorporated a dye that was the opposite color of the light sensitivity of that layer. Cibachrome was a unique technology in this regard, as it is the only color print technology that was manufactured with the color dyes as a part of the printing paper. Cibachrome, unlike many other photographic print technologies, produced color images using positives, meaning that all of the colors were already incorporated in the material, and unnecessary color was removed in the development process. This happens by destroying color in places where silver is developed in the development process. Most other color print technologies worked the opposite way, starting with negatives and adding color in the development process.[2]

These unique features made Cibachrome an incredibly stable film medium, and enhanced the sharpness of the images that were created using it. One of the Cibachrome's most notable qualities was its extremely vibrant and bright reds in the images it produced. Because of the way that the color positive technology developed photographs that were taken, the reds came out brighter than with other film technologies at the time. This is showcased in the images on the right, which were used in marketing by Ilford Imaging Switzerland to demonstrate the uniqueness of the color production in their films. [3]

Inkjet and Dyes

Despite the fame and familiarity surrounding Cibachrome technologies, this film only accounted for about 5% of the products developed by Ciba AG at the Marly site. The majority of the research and production completed at this site was in technologies such as inkjet printing and dyes. Inkjet technology was developed in the 1950s and in the 1970s could reproduce images generated by computers. Starting in 1989 Ciba AG began developing their inkjet technology. [4]

Technology History

There are three main points that affect an inkjet piece, those three things being the technology, the type of ink and the substrate. The first technology develop in this field was the Iris print made by Iris Graphics. These prints were mostly used for commercial printing until finally moving into fine art printing and used a continuous stream of ink. In 1984, drop on demand, otherwise known as DOD, printing became available. This, as well as wide format printing, is still used today. This technology only drops ink when required to. Although inkjet printing was not originally used for creating artistic prints, as it became developed as a medium, it became much more common for use in the art world. This can be attributed to the relative ease of producing an inkjet print in comparison to many other methods of photography and printing. The color options as well as the simplicity of the process made it an increasingly popular art form throughout its development. It created prints with vibrant and varied colors, as is demonstrated in the image on the right, which was used to promote inkjet by Ilford Imaging Switzerland.

Technical Information and Details

Inkjet technologies create prints through a process that involves dispensing ink from print heads directly onto paper that was specially designed to hold this ink well. Most of these processes had four main print heads, however some more complex inkjet processes involved more. The four major colors of most inkjet technology print heads are magenta, yellow, cyan, and black. The image on the right shows the four main print heads and how they work with the layers of the paper to create an inkjet print. Some advantages of using inkjet technologies to produce a print are a wider array of choices for colors and for the media on which the print is produced. Many photographic print processes require very specific papers, but this is not the case for inkjet. A variety of options, as well as much more simplicity of use compared to other color print technologies that existed when inkjet was developed, made it a popular choice for printing.