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Meet the Manufacturer – Calrec Audio (part 5)

If a mixing console manufacturer is to be able to achieve sufficient flexibility without excessive expense, then producing a metal panel should be as easy as printing out a document from a computer…


Computerised Numerical Control

As we know, computers are great assistants in all functions of creativity and
business and I suspect we have only just started to learn what they can do for
us. Anyone who has done any studio metalwork themselves will know what time
and trouble it takes to get things as right as they should be, and if you put
the work out you find that much of the flexibility you need for doing small
quantity work is lost. If a mixing console manufacturer is to be able to achieve
sufficient flexibility without excessive expense, then producing a metal panel
should be as easy as printing out a document from a computer. Can this be this

“We use a CNC (Computerised Numerical Control) profiling milling machine
which can take the vectors from the AutoCad drawing and make all the necessary
compensations for cutter width and set off and make the panels. It works to
very close tolerances and one of the main benefits is the quality of the finished
product. The biggest advantage is to us is that immediately the drawing is done
on AutoCad we can transfer the disk straight down to the machine and have a
panel off within a very short space of time, which for doing specialist work
is a big advantage. It keeps it all under our own control.”

If you look closely at a Calrec console you will notice that the lettering
is actually engraved into the surface of the panel. Engraving was once considered
(and perhaps still should be) a hallmark of quality.

“The advantage of engraving is twofold. One, by engraving through
paint or anodising into aluminium you can get a high contrast ratio, and because
it’s very sharp it not only looks attractive but is actually easier to
read than silk screen printing. You can’t go down to very fine lettering
with silk screen printing otherwise the process ceases to work properly. You
can look at a desk such as the Q Series which has 30mm modules and is quite
densely packed and it’s quite easy to read the engraving around the controls.
The second advantage is that because the letters are cut into the aluminium,
no matter how long the desk is in use or how frequently the controls are used
the legends will never wear off, as they do on silk screened panels where you
can actually rub the silk screening right off the panel. After many years of
use our engraving is still as clean as it was the day the desk was installed.
The lifespan of our consoles is probably a minimum of twelve years and an unknown
maximum, because we have been supplying desks for many years now and most of
the studio desks that we have supplied are still in service. A typical life
in a television studio will be as long as the studio lasts, about twelve to
fifteen years. Again we take the vectors off the AutoCad drawing to do the engraving.
We have had to do a bit of software ourselves to convert engraving text into
vectors that will drive the machine. It isn’t as straightforward as you
might think.

“For the printed circuit board design we use OrCad. Because they are
analogue audio printed circuit boards, it means that you cannot use autorouting
because crosstalk is one of the main enemies, so although it has schematic capture
the layout has to be done by a skilled person. But the advantage of the software
is that having laid it out it will then do a check back against the circuit
to make sure you have got the connectivity correct, which is a big help and
gets rid of all the basic mistakes such as tracks wrongly connected and power
the wrong way round on ICs. At least you know when you have done your verification
that you are not going to have any collisions and the board will work according
to the circuit when it comes back. Which means that it’s very seldom that
you have to do more than one prototype of any board.”

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David Mellor

Layout, Signal Flow & I/O

Layout, Signal Flow & I/O

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David Mellor