Published Jan 26, 2017Vinyl pressing in Canada took a major hit at the start of this year when Calgary's Canada Boy Vinyl announced it was ceasing operations. However, the wait for more Canadian-made wax won't be long, with Toronto's Microforum Services Group set to fire up its state-of-the-art pressing technology this month.
Having manufactured everything from diskettes to DVDs for over two decades in the city, the company is the first in Canada to run brand new computerized, automated WarmTone vinyl pressing machines designed by fellow Torontonians Viryl Technologies. Microforum currently has two of the presses installed, with four more to follow by the end of 2017.
"When we heard they were developing machines, we called them up," Microforum's vice-president of sales Noble Musa tells Exclaim! "There was a point where [Microforum president Frank Stipo] was going there every week just to see how things were going. We made a lot of visits on top of research to see what equipment was out there."
Viryl's WarmTone presses are the first of their kind within the record manufacturing industry, boasting sensors that will allow pressing plants to monitor everything from temperature to nozzle pressure. With all six presses running by years end, Microforum will be able to produced 24,000 records a day.
Microforum's marketing and sales manager Aine Guiney spent seven years working at Markham's Acme Pressing, which was Canada's only pressing plant until its closure in 2007. "Back then we had old machinery, though it was a much smaller operation," she recalls. "Over time, parts would break and it could cost you thousands to make a new one."
Musa adds, "We had no plans to use old machinery. There was a plant in the U.S. that [Stipo] went to visit, and he said it looked like a mechanic shop. There were around 11 machines total, but only five running. The rest were for parts."
Jack White's Third Man Records recently announced plans to open "the most incredible vinyl pressing plant in the world" in the label boss's native Detroit, which will use presses designed by German start-up Newbilt Machinery. However, White's machines lack the computerized elements that Viryl's machines possess. Being fully automated, the WarmTone presses allow one employee to safely run two machines at once.
"These machines are also safer," Musa notes. "They're self-contained, you're not standing over steam, your hands are nowhere near anything that can hurt them. That was important to us. Turn it on, push a button, and the machine goes."
At present, the plant's estimated turnaround time on pressing jobs is eight to 10 weeks, offering artists the option to order runs as low as 100 units. Though it is currently pressing only 12-inch LPs, the plant will be offering 7-inch and 10-inch pressing options by the end of spring. The company is also equipped to handle printing jackets, sleeves and download cards in-house.
Keep an eye out for more on Microforum in Exclaim!'s Music School feature in our February issue. For now, keep up to date with the company through Facebook, Twitter and its official website.
Below, you can see a selection of photos of the Microforum team, as well as the company's new pressing facility.
All photos by Matt Forsythe