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A.S.
30-03-2006, 11:24 AM
As you may be aware, in the early 1990's we were granted a UK-only patent for the RADIAL cone concept. This offered, in theory, a small degree of protection to us should anyone enter the UK market with a product that encroached on our patent. It offers no protection at all to us in markets outside the UK; the majority of our speakers are exported from the UK.

At the drafting stage of our patent it was not necessary - nor would it have been prudent - to disclose to public gaze the fine chemical/mechanical/acoustic details of how RADIAL actually behaved, nor how it was processed, nor the details of it acoustic advantages except in the most general terms sufficient to satisfy the patent registrar, who is, of course, not a loudspeaker specialist. So, what we put into the public domain about RADIAL is the tip of the iceberg compared to what we know, and we know a great deal about the 'wrinkles' of making RADIAL work as well as it does. We have a good working knowledge of this specialist area of polymer-acoustics

Much more effective protection is offered by the fact that the processing of the four key component chemicals in the RADIAL mixture is virtually impossible, since they do not naturally want to combine. They are like pieces of four different jigsaws that demand extreme attention to detail (times, pressures, temperatures, activators, lubricants, catalysts etc.) to persuade them to interbond. This necessitates my personal and continuously supervision of the process as I have done (see picture below) on both occasions that I've made RADIAL material in bulk. Furthermore, three of the materials are now obsolete (their impending obsolescence was known to us when we selected them nearly fifteen years ago) and as they are long out of production with no viable alternatives there cannot be, by definition, a prospect of infringement of the RADIAL patent.

Everything about RADIAL is expensive: the chemistry is expensive (Japanese high technology), the granularising is time consuming (it can only be extruded at a dribble) and it all adds up. [By contrast, the norm for the speaker industry is just one phonecall to a pertochem supplier .... 'please deliver me a roll of your grade 123 vacuum formable polypropylene tomorrow' - you can be vacuum forming cones the same day.]

We have been making the RADIAL polymer and injection moulding cones for more than ten years (justifying our substantial investment in hardened-steel tooling) when the industry norm remains vacuum forming using simple, often wooden male mould tools. RADIAL cannot be vacuum formed; when you commit to it, you expose yourself to a substantial tooling-up cost and great risk: if the tooling is not right, you may have to scrap it and start again.

Harbeth UK has under lock and key a considerable stockpile of both the finished RADIAL material and the constituent chemicals for at least twenty years production; last year I personally formulated granularised RADIAL sufficient for about 100,000 cones. I guess that had there been a universal adoption of RADIAL across the speaker industry (repeating my predecessors patenting of polypropylene) then there would have been a worthwhile demand for the chemical industry, and the necessary chemicals would still be in production. We assumed that would indeed be the case, hence the investment in a patent but it has proved otherwise.

In my opinion, non-availability of essential chemicals is the last word in intellectual property rights. Ten years on, RADIAL is still the best, lowest mass, most rigid, cleanest sounding cone material: it was a generation ahead of the pack then, and it still is. Our stockpile and even more so our accumulated material and processing knowledge is your best protection of 'the Harbeth midband'.