[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3nj-SACGiI 505 400]
Howdy science lovers! I’m going to channel Bill Nye here for a moment to discuss one of the most misunderstood processes that exists in the production of your vinyl. Electroplating. It may sound a bit like what Robocop does as part of his morning routine but it’s actually what happens after your audio is cut or “lathed” into the original acetate (a.k.a. the “lacquer master”). This process is also referred to as the creation of the “metal stamper”. It’s a chemical process where a thin coat of silver is sprayed onto the lacquer master and occurs when the silver-coated lacquer is physically dipped into a nickel bath and “metallized” or “plated”. Positively-charged metal ions are attracted to the negatively-charged silver-plated lacquer and are “reduced” to metallic form upon it. That’s electroplating.
When they pull this out of the bath and separate the plate from the acetate or lacquer (the lacquer is usually destroyed after this step) you have the “father”. This is the “negative” of your record. It has raised ridges instead of metal grooves. It’s what gets mounted into the press to physically stamp the grooves into vinyl pucks. It’s pretty cool.
There’s two kinds of electroplating that can occur: 2-step and 3-step.
The 2-step electroplating process involves the father being peeled off the acetate and then itself being elctroplated again to create the “mother”, which is in effect, the negative of the father plate. Typically, the mother plates are shelved for future use, and the father is used for stamping.
3-step electroplating is just like 2-step electroplating, only the “mother” — instead of being shelved — is electroplated to make more stampers. 3-step electroplating is simply just another step to make more parts. This is a good idea if you’re planning on making many copies of your vinyl. One father can produce 10 mothers, and one mother can produce 10 stampers. A single stamper can produce about 1000 records. If you do the math, you’ll figure out that the 2-step process will yield about 11,000 records before a new lacquer needs to be cut. The three step process can produce up to about 100,000 vinyl records before you have to cut a new lacquer. 3-step electroplating is in essence a better way to avoid having to cut a new lacquer and assume that cost if you anticipate wearing out the original father stamper by making many records.
That’s about it. You have the option of choosing one or the other prior to a pressing of your release. If you anticipate doing more then a 1000 LP’s or 45’s hopefully you now know what you need to do. Questions? Leave a comment and share with us!