To engineer better sound, U-Turn Audio sought special expertise in complex product design, engineering, and thixomolding. Enter Phillips-Medisize.
HUDSON, Wis.—Magnesium-injection molder Phillips-Medisize, a Molex company, recently teamed with the turntable manufacturer U-Turn Audio to develop what Molex called “a game-changing tonearm for next-generation turntables.”
The collaboration brought together the skills and talents of the largest turntable manufacturer in the United States, by volume, with the largest magnesium-injection molder in North America. When all was said and done, the companies had consolidated a three-part assembly into a single, unified part that reportedly reduced tooling costs, supply chain requirements, and assembly time.
“The tonearm is basically the heart of the turntable,” said Bob Hertig, president and CEO, U-Turn Audio, in a release from Molex. “It’s responsible for so much of the actual audio production. We wanted to simplify what we had by taking multiple components and forming them into one solid piece to reduce resonance and create a more rigid and better performing tonearm.”
According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), vinyl sales have outpaced CDs for the first time since 1987. In its 2022 annual revenue report, RIAA revealed that vinyl made up $1.2 billion of the $1.7 billion in physical media sales, outselling CDs by nearly 8 million units.
The audiophiles and LP loyalists at U-Turn Audio realized that making its new tonearm from magnesium offered improved mechanical and physical properties over conventional materials. The challenge, however, was finding an organization with proven experience in thixomolding, a unique process used in magnesium injection molding.
To execute on its innovative tonearm concept, U-Turn Audio tapped the expertise of Phillips-Medisize, a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO).. At its Wisconsin-based facility, Phillips-Medisize provides end-to-end manufacturing services, spanning front-end design, development, and manufacturing services for highly regulated industries, including medical devices made from magnesium.
Molex said that U-Turn and Phillips-Medisize worked together to unify various tonearm parts into a single, continuous piece, dubbed the OA3 Pro. Designed for U-Turn Audio’s high-end Orbit Theory turntable, the tonearm design was exceptionally complex, requiring very thin wall thickness and a long, slender core for the tonearm’s stem. The extremely high heat and pressure of the thixomolding process added another level of difficulty, which was eased by Phillips-Medisize’s decades of experience in mold-design and flow analysis.
“The work with U-Turn Audio was a great collaboration, as they involved us early in the design phase,” said Phillips-Medisize Advanced Development Manager Eric Semingson, in the release. “They were open and accepting of the design assistance we offered. The value of designing a part that is a single-piece component versus a three-piece assembly is that you reduce tooling costs, supply chain requirements, and assembly time. Ultimately, the total cost of the product is reduced.”
The entire planning and development process—from concept to completion—for the new tonearm took more than a year, according to Molex. U-Turn Audio also took the opportunity to refresh other turntable features, culminating in the September 2022 launch of the Orbit Theory. As a result, U-Turn Audio now is planning to ship the new tonearm on additional turntable models going forward.
Phillips-Medisize collaborates with leading pharmaceutical drug delivery, medical technology, and invitro diagnostic companies to design, engineer, and manufacture life-saving devices. The company also has a specialty consumer business that supports the automotive, consumer, and defense industries.