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A record press is a hydraulic press used to manufacture vinyl records. Presses are typically capable of handling several record sizes for different applications and provide a method for very rapidly producing runs of musical albums on vinyl. While many musicians focus on other distribution methods, vinyl continues to be popular among music aficionados, and some albums may be offered on vinyl as an alternative format. Several companies maintain record presses to meet the needs of these clients.
Preparing music for a record press starts with making a reference lacquer, where an audio technician takes the music and records it to a blank disc with a cutting head. The reference lacquer is the basis for a mold that creates a negative of the grooves in the record. Molds fit into the record press and are injected with melted vinyl, which fills the grooves and then cools, usually with the assistance of a cooling system to speed the process. After trimming, the record is ready for inspection and sale.
The record press uses hydraulics to squeeze the molds tightly together and hold them in tension while the vinyl sets. The device usually has a robotic arm to grab finished records and stack them on a spindle for inspection by employees. Quality checks are necessary to identify malformations that might impede the playback quality. If an error appears consistently, there may be a problem with the press or the mold, and it will be necessary to stop production to identify the problem.
Working around a record press can be dangerous. It is very hot and it moves rapidly and with tremendous force. Technicians can experience burns or injuries if their hair or extremities get trapped in the mechanics of the press. Basic safety measures like wearing snug clothing, netting the hair back, and using hearing protection to prevent damage from the loud noise of the press are necessary for employees as they work around it.
The vinyl record press can melt vinyl nurdles, small nuggets of raw material, in a variety of colors to produce records in classic black as well as other shades like white, green, and red. The mold size determines the size of the record and the width of the opening. At the end of the press, when the record needs to be trimmed, the mold determines the diameter of the trim to maintain the integrity of the data storage on the record.