Not at all! As a supplier of raw materials and (second-hand) production machines for CDs, Blu Rays and DVDs, Harm Theunisse, Director at Symcon B.V., saw the demand shift considerably in recent years. The CD is out and the vinyl record is hip again. Everywhere you see (pop-up) vinyl stores: from festivals to concerts, local markets and even back in the shopping streets. But where there is demand, there must also be supply. And that is where the challenge lies. Since the release of the CD, innovation around the production of vinyl records has come to a halt ... and that is where Harm saw a unique opportunity.
"Do you also have used vinyl record production machines?"
Harm heard this question about three years ago, not one, two, five, but several times. Harm: “As a supplier you start to think: there is a demand, so the market for vinyl records is picking up. Then I started to delve into it, because how is a vinyl record actually made. What turned out to be? These production techniques go back up to 65 years, with an old-fashioned LP press. This does not only mean a slow production process. The lack of innovation in the past 40 years also causes energy waste, a lot of residual waste and relatively high production costs. In addition, making a vinyl record requires a lot of manual labor and the technology is uncontrollable.
Looking for better alternatives
“I thought it was possible to produce a vinyl record differently. There had to be a way to produce the vinyl record faster, better and cheaper. From our experience in the CD, DVD and BD industry, we soon saw at Symcon that the "shape" is actually very similar, except that they are not pressed but injection molded. That is how you used to have the laser disc; those were those large karaoke records of 12 inches (30 cm) in size. That made us think: can't we use the current CD / DVD technology for the vinyl record? However, we could not answer this question alone. ”And so the Green Vinyl Records project was started.
Search for partner companies
A number of the project partners already knew Harm from his daily work at Symcon. Harm worked a lot with companies such as Koot Automation, Record Industry and Polymer Research Group B.V. Because the technology to be developed can also be used in a broader sense than just the production of vinyl sheets, Mikrocentrum and Fontys Hogeschool Applied Natural Sciences industry also joined the project. This ensures that the knowledge acquired can also be included in educational programs and that students are actively involved in the project. Finally, Geelen Installaties and MPB also joined the collective.
The biggest challenge of the project
Developing a new production technology for an existing product in which feeling plays an important role is quite a challenge. Harm can also agree: “Developing a type of plastic that is good for the environment and can be injection molded and convey the right feeling is a challenge. Not only these aspects are important, we also want to substantiate it well and record the technology. There are many aspects that influence the result and which we should look at, for example: the distortion, the flow behavior, the molds and the speed of production. We really want to have the technology under good control so that we can deliver a reproducible plate.
We started by converting a mold from an old laser disc as a starting point. We chose this because it is close to the LP in terms of shape and size, because you cannot suddenly make square or small vinyl records. They start to behave differently and evoke a different feeling, while that is precisely the most important element in this product. It must feel and sound like the old vinyl record, but then made from different material."
The future of Green Vinyl Records
Our future naturally depends on market demand, but that looks very good for the next five years at the moment. When our product, as expected, gets better than the existing vinyl, it is exciting how the market will respond to this. Our goal is to develop this into a new company that can serve market demand faster and more sustainably. The combination of a better machine, a different plastic and a better production method that is adjusted to this time gives us an energy saving of 70% per injected vinyl record.
Is there a tangible, noticeable difference for people who are about to buy the Green Vinyl records?
The consumer will notice little difference. But that's good! “Our goal is to develop an vinyl record with the same feeling, but with a better quality and sound. When buying vinyl it is about the complete experience. It starts when you hold the record in your hands, then the artwork is a striking whole; the cover is already an experience. When you take the record out of the cover and place it on the turntable