Solid State Logic and the Environment
In a competitive field, where value is often determined by over-simplified price vs feature ratios, SSL aims to deliver value from price vs performance. This straightforward objective means that improving performance, while improving efficiency, is fundamental to our development philosophy. This doesn’t necessarily deliver the cheapest products, but it does deliver the best products for our users and the environment.
Product Design and Technology
High quality signal processing and energy efficiency traditionally fight each other as typical electronic design trade-offs. In a drive to create a revolution in processing performance and meet ever more stringent efficiency targets, SSL designed a whole new technology revolution for analogue audio signal processing. We named this technology SuperAnalogue. In its first design implementation, this consisted of new circuit designs that delivered significantly improved audio performance at the price of increased DC current consumption. To offset these increases, power supplies were changed from inefficient Linear designs, to much more efficient Switch Mode designs. This improved the overall product efficiency by approximately 30%, and delivered a step change in audio quality and performance, but there was much more to come. SSL’s current analogue products are all second generation SuperAnalogue. Using design techniques that remove the need for noisy, AC cooled power supplies and move the ACDC conversion and regulation from separately cooled machine rooms into the studio console, SSL’s latest SuperAnalogue designs are all physically smaller and consume typically 50%-70% less electricity than their predecessors. This reduced electricity consumption also results in less heat production, meaning that more environmentally friendly heating/cooling management techniques can be used to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the studio. As an example of this in action, we are proud to have SSL technology at the heart of an entirely solar powered studio in London. www.premisesstudios.com/studio-A.html This combination of quality and efficiency would have not been possible without these technological developments.
C-Series Centuri Digital
With the move to digital, SSL’s Centuri processing design is also a leading example of clever energy thinking. Using proprietary processing technology, the technology delivers, per audio channel, typically a 60% energy saving over older, large footprint analogue predecessors. SSL’s digital control surfaces are also designed for low power consumption, using techniques such as low power circuit devices, screen savers and front panel mains electricity supply to eliminate waste from the DC power losses in long cable runs.
Through a continuous engineering investment program, SSL has some of the most sophisticated electronic design tools in use today. This brings environmental as well as development benefits. All early design, prototyping and circuit simulation is done ‘virtually’. Complex software tools emulate what will happen with real analogue and digital electronic circuits, this means less hardware prototyping and dramatically reduced design wastage. The aim is to meet functional design and performance goals at the first version of hardware, eliminating the need for iterative prototyping.
RoHS and WEEE
All SSL’s products are compliant with the stringent EU legislation on hazardous materials and waste in electronic design and manufacture. The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive restricts the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment. It is closely linked with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) which sets collection, recycling and recovery targets for electrical goods and is part of a legislative initiative to solve the problem of huge amounts of toxic waste.
Where possible, SSL packaging designs are based on recyclable materials. In smaller product designs we aim for all recyclable cardboard construction and for larger console products, packing materials are usually recyclable wooden crates produced from sustainably managed forest sources. Packaging is also designed to be re-used, rather than thrown away. Package contents are also looked at as part of the environmental impact of the overall product design. As part of the design exercise, typical user profiles are assessed as part of determining the necessary additional components. If it is felt that a customer would already have ancillaries such as interconnection cables etc. then these are not added for the sake of it. This reduces our demand for often off-shore manufactured, large carbon footprint components.
Service and Support
As a small international company, SSL looks to provide local support for its major client bases. We have a network of sales and support offices, supplemented by distributors with support facilities as a part of their business contracts with SSL. This means that we reduce the need for international travel to support our widespread customer base. In addition, an aim of our technical developments is to provide support remotely. We have developed technology specifically for this purpose which extends as far as software that reports its condition and logs its present and previous status to improve the real world effectiveness of this remote service capability. This enhances the end user support and minimizes the environmental impact of this level of personal service.
Local Supply & Manufacture
With a focus on quality control, as well as environmental efficiency, a majority of SSL’s products are manufactured within a 50 mile radius of our Oxford headquarters. This means that cross continent shipping of the product only happens once, as part of a single journey to the customer. This contrasts with many off-shore manufacture approaches, where products cross continents several times before reaching the customer, creating a significant carbon footprint. In addition, all SSL’s sub-contractors are subject to European legislation on environmental issues which academic commentators say puts the European Union in the global lead in terms of protecting consumers and the environment.
SSL’s manufacturing headquarters is a modern, award winning design that is designed to make use of natural ventilation and heat/light resources. The external walls are all energy efficient, sealed double glazed glass panels, allowing natural light supplement low energy ambient light, while still being thermally efficient. The building is largely naturally ventilated, not air conditioned. Its compact plan minimises heat loss, additionally opening roof vents on a central atrium allow control of natural ventilation. For more about the building and the architects visit http://www.hopkins.co.uk/s/projects/5/106/
In 2007 SSL was invited to join the Oxfordshire Resource Efficiency Club part of the Environmental Information Exchange Group which is a government funded body based at Oxford Brookes University Headington Oxford. The membership consists of facility and estate managers from both large and small businesses based in and around Oxford. As a member of the EiE we attend regular information exchange meetings and workshops aimed at reducing the business impact on the environment through waste and energy reduction and improvement schemes. Members create and implement an audited waste reduction program that covers electricity, gas and water usage plus landfill waste. In the past year our energy usage was reduced by 18% through staff awareness programs and the installation of lighting controls and more efficient lighting equipment. SSL now only uses 100% renewable energy which is CCL exempt (Climate Change Levy) for our Oxford sites. Gas consumption for heating has also been reduced by improved time controlled programming reduced temperature set points and improved insulation. Year on year the amount of office and general waste that is sent to landfill sites is reduced through continually improved sorting and recycling schemes. These are all on-going initiatives and our aim is to improve our performance year on year.