QAD Inc.

01/21/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/21/2021 12:31

Manufacturing Consumer Products: How Speakers are Made

There are many kinds of audio speakers, ranging from tiny in-ear devices to the large volume speakers used in rock concerts, and everything in between. Speakers can also be stereo or mono, omnidirectional, electrostatic, active, passive, or many other variations. What they all have in common is the ability to reproduce sound, whether the sound is the softest and most sublime music or a blaring announcement designed to be heard by large crowds over long distances. Making speakers is an interesting process, and the sound variations are a direct result of the manufacturing process and the qualityand types of materials used.

What is a Speaker?

A speaker is a transducer that converts electromagnetic waves into sound waves. The sound varies based on the frequency and amplitude of the sound waves. Frequency determines whether the sound will be high or low pitched, while amplitude is the loudness of the sound. Better speakers can accurately produce a wide variation of sounds over a broad spectrum of frequencies. The amplitude of a speaker is regulated by the changes in air pressure created by the sound waves. Some speakers don't produce big enough changes in air pressure to be heard, so the signals may be amplified to make them audible. Speakers that have a volume control and require a power source are usually amplified. Speakers without internal amplification capabilities are called passive.

How a Speaker is Made

The specific manufacturing and assembly processes for types and qualities of speakers may vary. For example, some speakers may use iron plates as a base for the speaker cone while others may use brass or other materials. The basic concept is to provide a rigid base for the plastic or cardboard cone so that unintended vibrations don't interfere with the sound.

The rigid base is cut to size and then smoothed on a lathe, or by hand until it meets spec. The next steps are to cut holes for screws or other fasteners, add the core, and glue and screw the assembly to the backing frame. Usually, some sort of sound dampening material like wool or foam is used to fill empty spaces to prevent echoes.

An electromagnetic coil is inserted into the frame and attached to the cone. The AC current that powers the speaker causes the coil to magnetize and demagnetize rapidly, and this causes the cone to vibrate, generating sound waves. The whole assembly is inserted into the enclosure, which may be a simple metal or plastic box, or it may be made of MDF, high-quality wood or other materials. The choice of materials usually affects the cost of the speaker as well as the quality of its sound.

To enhance the sound, speakers used for music or precision sound may have a woofer for low-range sounds and a tweeter for high-frequency sounds. Some speakers will also include a mid-range assembly for purer sound. Each of these vibrates in response to different frequencies, and the combination creates the detailed sounds we hear.

Depending on the speaker's quality and price point, based on the materials and technology used, some of these steps may require precision hand assembly, while in other cases, the steps may be automated. Electromagnetic coils, for instance, may be wound by hand or machine, or they may be purchased from outside sources. A speaker's overall quality and price point are drivers of brand loyalty and can directly affect buying behaviors.

ERP Built for Adaptive Manufacturing

Consumer tastes are fickle, and they seem to always be looking for the next new thing. Speakers are no exception to this truism as people are always looking for different form factors, better sound, lower prices or upgraded capabilities. This can make manufacturing speakers and the speaker components a complex undertaking, forcing consumer electronics manufacturersto respond quickly to market changes as well as changes in consumer demands. As manufacturers can attest to this reality of constant change, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software solutions, like QAD Adaptive ERP, are designed to help them pivot as needed to adapt to process changes or market forces.