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Eastman Kodak uses techniques learned from film manufacturing for new battery technology


Eastman Kodak is making an investment in a battery technology company. And the company’s CEO said that association is right in line with Kodak’s expertise.

Kodak has taken a minority stake in California-based Wildcat Discovery Technologies which is developing what’s being called a ‘super cell’ for electric vehicles, which Wildcat said could greatly improve the performance of the batteries that power those cars.

In a recent interview with WXXI News, Kodak Executive Chairman & CEO Jim Continenza said that besides the investment by Kodak, the Rochester company is also providing coating and engineering services, which he said is a natural fit, since it uses technology Kodak had already developed in the making of film.

Continenza noted that Kodak repurposed a machine a few years ago that had been used for coating film to now produce materials needed in the manufacturing of electric vehicle and energy storage batteries.

‘‘Probably a $70 million or $80 million machine, and we were selling it extremely cheap, (less than) $2 million,” said Continenza. “And it’s like, ‘no we’ve got to put this back to work. This is an incredible piece of equipment.’ And we realized, accidentally, George Eastman made a battery company, he just didn’t know it. It’s identical to making film and coating on batteries.”

Continenza added that Kodak continues to look for ways to capitalize on the manufacturing capabilities in its Advanced Materials & Chemicals business, including making chemicals needed for healthcare operations, such as reagents that are needed in lab applications. Kodak also continues to make components used in some pharmaceuticals.

The Kodak CEO is enthusiastic about the company’s infrastructure in Rochester (formerly Kodak Park, now known as the Eastman Business Park).

Kodak Executive Chairman and CEO Jim Continenza
Eastman Kodak
Eastman Kodak Executive Chairman & CEO, Jim Continenza

Continenza said that having the Eastman Business Park is a big reason why Kodak is able to manufacture these kinds of products.

Continenza also pointed to the advantage of having the facilities available at Eastman Business Park, when he was asked about the company’s commitment to Rochester.

“Part of Kodak’s legacy to me and its history is Rochester,” said Continenza. “And I’m not abandoning that, I’m not abandoning my building, my corporate building, (on State St.) I’m not abandoning my park. Because of that infrastructure, everyone who comes here has an advantage, because they don’t have to build it.”

Continenza was referring to a number of other companies that now have operations at the business park and utilize its various utilities and access to rail and highway transportation.

Kodak continues to make commercial printing and packaging products, and Continenza said that a lot of the other products the company makes are also tied to that Advanced Materials & Chemicals business, including coatings used in light blocking technologies for fabrics, and transparent antennas for automotive and other applications.

Continenza said that Kodak is also looking at using its coating and chemical expertise to work with other companies on battery technology. “It’s not just EV batteries, there’s home storage and there’s different technologies, we’re looking at doing some solid-state stuff for others. We’re also doing hydrogen, hydrocell. So it’s not just limited in there because we know how to manufacture these things.”

Kodak has approximately 1,500 employees in Rochester. Continenza said the company is trying to fill 91 vacancies.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.