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Siltech - Factory tour (EN)

plastik1989

Recently, I had the opportunity to go to the Siltech factory in the Netherlands, which I used to write an article about the Siltech brand, as well as about their plant where they produce their products. Employees of the Polish distribution of Siltech, were sent there for training in the field of product servicing, and I diligently took advantage of the possibility of getting along with them and creating this material.

First of all, I was curious about what a cable production plant might look like. I soldered wires and various types of plugs for my own use many times, and I could not imagine what, in such an apparently simple operation, would require an extensive facility. Often, in the context of cable prices (very high, of course), we hear an explanation that advanced technologies were used and this must translate into a high final price of the product. So I wanted to check what these technologies are and what it looks like in reality.

 

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Another reason is the fascination with the person of Edwin van der Kleij, the president of Siltech. I met him two weeks earlier, when he came to Krakow as part of the premiere of the latest series of cables called "Legend". In addition to the announcements of the latest products, he gave an almost two-hour lecture on the technology of cable production, explained what electromagnetic laws have a real impact on the functioning of an audio cable, how to tame it, what materials to use and what problems should be faced with each of them. The complexity of the topic discussed, as well as the fact that he gained his experience working as an educated engineer for, among others Philips Brand, had a strong persuasive power.

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I myself graduated from a similar school with a radio-telegraph profile, and a similar method of deduction of certain physical phenomena convinced me that "we transmit on similar waves".

The history of the Siltech company dates back to 1983, but its present form is mainly due to the addition of the earlier mentioned Edwin van der Kleij to the company. When he bought it in 1992, one of the first decisions he had to make was ... to close the cable department ... As an engineer, theoretician and surveyor, he did not believe in the influence of cables on sound, but in fact the electrical signal that is converted into sound.

According to all the rules and the dogmas in force at that time, the influence of distortions that the cable may introduce over such short sections cannot be heard. However, practice showed otherwise, and he painfully found out that he could actually hear the difference in the sound brought by their production cables.

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The topic intrigued him so much that instead of closing the cable department, he became very much involved in its development, by developing appropriate measurement methods, allowing to design cables without working in the dark, but based on the available knowledge and measuring instruments. Along with the development of appropriate measurement methods, Siltech was and is able to consciously design appropriate cable strands, braids, and insulation materials to effectively subdue any undesirable physical phenomena that may affect the sound signal transmission.

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Thanks to this, over the next few decades they became a pioneer in the audio cable market, created several brands in the field of Hi-Fi equipment, including Crystal Cable and the most famous one in Poland: Siltech. Siltech, which is an abbreviation of Silver (silver) and Technology (technology), which is to reflect the main ideas of the brand. Silver is used as a material, because, according to Edwin, only this raw material is able to ensure the appropriate properties of molecular crystals inside it - and it is said to be a key conductor in the context of signal transmission. In addition, its oxidation properties are not an obstacle from an electric point of view - silver oxide is an excellent conductor. The second part of the name, referring to technology, reminds us that all cable-related projects have a deep theoretical and measurement basis - nothing is a coincidence or an artistic vision, and the cable production process comes down to painstaking scientific work.

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The Siltech plant is located within the agglomeration of the city of Arnhem, in the Netherlands. The two-story building with an area of approximately 1000 m2 includes a production hall, offices and a warehouse.

Right behind the entrance to the building, we see a wall of fame and a display case with numerous awards from around the world that Siltech has collected over the years.

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However, for us, the most interesting places are the rooms where the cables are produced. The process begins with the design phase, of course, everything is done with the help of modern software. A lot of information has been given to me, but of course some of the detailed information is the company's secret. In any case, already at the level of theoretical designs, individual types of cable strands, shields, insulation thicknesses and many other details are analyzed and simulated.

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When the product goes into production, the appropriate machines twist the given windings from the appropriate amount of wire rope - made of pure silver. Insulation is made of polymer-based materials, besides having optimal properties desired from an electric point of view, it is characterized by remarkable resistance to mechanical damage.

The finished cables are then properly connected and confectioned. Removal of a given amount of insulation is done by an appropriate machine that has several dozen saved programs - for each cable produced. After selecting the appropriate program, just insert the end of the cable into the appropriate hole and all layers of insulation and shields will be automatically stripped - each to a different length. Thanks to this, even single wires of the screens are not damaged, as well as thin layers of internal insulation - if this was done manually with guillotines or knives, it would not be possible to avoid it. The next step is to mechanically unfold the screen wires - you can damage individual wires by hand and touching them with your hand greases them, which may make soldering difficult.

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Even such a simple operation as unwinding cables from a spool of several dozen meters is automated, and it is not about speeding up the work (because the machine does it longer than a human), but the point is that the cable that lies on the spool for a longer time forms in the shape of a circle and to fully straighten it, the unwinding machine heats it to the correct temperature and stretches it. As a result, the cables do not have a natural tendency to curl.

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When the cables are already prepared and soldered, the fully manual work of assembling the boxes, braids and soldering the plugs begins. It can be safely assumed that the production of only one cable takes several hours of work. More than a dozen assembly stations work non-stop, which is barely enough to meet the market demand.

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The finished cable is tested with a special test device. Again, select the template saved for a specific wire and an automated test procedure is launched that runs a current of different intensity and voltage several hundred times to test the wire. Even signal cables with operating voltages of a few single volts are tested with voltages above 1000V, which translates into the first cable formation process. For signal and loudspeaker cables, the test checks the error tolerance of the left and right cables to ensure that the cables are indeed a pair. At least a dozen different electrical parameters are tested, for example differences in resistance tolerance appear only in third place after the decimal point ... Cables with such parameters could successfully serve as test leads of precise resistance meters.

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Cables made and checked in this way are then packed and sent to the dispatch warehouse. This is where the product's path in the factory ends and its life in audiophile systems begins.

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Wersja PL - https://www.audiostereo.pl/magazyn/magazyn-kulturalny/reportaze/siltech-wizyta-w-fabryce-r1203/

 




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