Since Record Store Day began in 2007, the music industry has been enjoying a sustained vinyl revival, with vinyl sales growing consecutively every year since. Vinyl is now the only music format that is consistently growing year-over-year and is more popular than it has been since the late 1980s. From a low of 0.1 per cent in 2007, UK vinyl sales have grown exponentially and now represent 1.5 per cent of total music sales. Although overall sales of physical product were down by 13 per cent in 2012, vinyl bucked this trend, with sales rising by 18 per cent. More than two million LPs were sold in the UK during 2015, and these resurgent sales of music on vinyl generated more income for UK artists than 27 billion YouTube and Vevo streams last year.
Roy Gandy and his company Rega have achieved legendary status in the hi-fi world. Founded in 1973 by Roy and partner, Tony Relph, Rega (RElph, GAndy) has become one of the leading lights in British hi-fi equipment; designing and manufacturing primarily high-quality turntables, cartridges and tonearms, but also loudspeakers, amplifiers and other hi-fi devices and peripherals. With more than 90 employees, Rega assembles over 40 different products at its purpose-built 30,000 square foot manufacturing and warehouse facility in Essex, England. Rega is also a global export success, producing thousands of turntables alone every month and selling worldwide to 41 different countries.
An ex-automotive engineer and lifelong music fan, Roy Gandy started out repairing, improving and building hi-fi equipment – particularly turntables, for himself and friends in his evenings. In 1975, he took voluntary redundancy from his full-time job as a technical editor at Ford and used the money to open the first Rega factory. The first product designed and produced there, the Planar 3, quickly established itself as the UK’s finest budget turntable. Up until 1983, Rega sourced its tonearms from overseas, but began producing its own after Roy found a casting company to work with him to develop an entirely new production method enabling the one-piece tube to be cast. In the process, Rega won an international award ‘for excellence in the field of Aluminium Die Casting’ from Modern Metals. A cartridge followed, initially designed and developed by Rega, but built to specification elsewhere, before eventually being produced in-house.
Rega continues to grow and develop new products, all of which adhere to the same Rega virtues of exceptional build quality, long life and value for money, backed up by a lifetime warranty. In 2015, as the UK’s largest manufacturer and exporter of quality, high-precision record decks, Rega’s success was recognised with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.
Self-lubricating, dry running ball bearings
Four years ago, Rega approached igus at the Southern Manufacturing exhibition. At this time, Rega sourced ball bearings from the Far East for use in its tonearm, but as demand for vinyl and its turntables grew, was struggling with lead times and shipping costs. Also, as ball bearings require regular lubrication, there were potential maintenance concerns over time, as well as the possibility of the ingress of contaminants, such as dust. Rega was therefore keen to explore using igus xiros tribopolymer ball bearings, which are self-lubricating, and dry running, and therefore maintenance-free and impervious to contamination.
As it had previously done with many aspects of its manufacturing, Rega was keen to use a ball bearing that was manufactured closer to home. With a European manufacturing base and good local UK-based support, igus was identified as a potential option.
Rega was also pleased to recognise synergies between igus and its own organisation in its interactions: both companies shared the same forward-thinking, problem-solving, innovative approach. igus xiros product manager, Dean Aylott, managed the project from start to finish, working closely with both the Rega R&D team and igus engineers at their manufacturing base in Cologne. igus engineers invested considerable time upfront to work with the Rega team to better understand the engineering challenge and their specific requirements.
After 18 months’ careful development, prototyping and testing, the team successfully produced a bespoke xiros bearing that met the stringent requirements and expectations Rega had for producing a perfectly balanced, absolutely friction-free tonearm, with no drag. It features a total of four igus xiros bearings – two on its vertical axis and a further two on its horizontal axis.
The resulting bespoke xiros bearings now produced for Rega are among the lowest-friction bearings igus have ever made and compare favourably with the original metal ball bearings in terms of noise, vibration and acoustics, as well as delivering improved precision and lead times. The xiros bearings are currently used in Rega’s two top selling turntables, and are also now being evaluated for use in other tonearms and turntables in the range.
Roy Gandy, owner of Rega says: “Our turntables and tonearms have to be more accurate than the equipment used to press vinyl. We think of the turntable not only as a means of playback, but as a precision measuring device that has to track and interpret the groove in each piece of vinyl it reads. The xiros bearings are critical in helping us achieve this ambition and we have enjoyed working hand-in-hand with the talented igus engineers to make this happen.”
Go to www.igus.co.uk to learn more about igus xiros tribopolymer ball bearings and other products.