My tour of Liuyang is taking in several firework manufacturers and I’ve been whisked away to at least one factory each day already. It may surprise you that this actually is a first for me; I’ve been wanting to go to a firework factory for many years but have never been able to manage (nor afford!) a visit.
As suppliers to the UK market, the manufacturers are keen for industry members to see where and how their products are made, especially if their factory has a new bit of automated equipment or some new facilities.
As you’d expect, most places ensure we see the showroom areas, award cabinets and certificates, but with a little bit of persuasion, two factories did allow us to visit what we call the powder lines. This is where the powders, the key ingredients such as black powder, are made.
We also saw some stars being rolled in a copper-like cement mixer. Why copper? Easy! It is non-ferrous and is not at risk of creating any sparks.
Sparks, in whatever shape or form, are generally bad news in a firework preparation area. Star rolling and powder milling are the higher-risk stages of manufacturing. As a result, these work areas are often tucked away in the hills, well away from the rest of assembly lines on the factory site.
The factories do have earthing spheres on poles at regular intervals around the site. The idea is that you touch the balls to remove any residual charge before entering a preparation or storage area.
Finally, you know you’ve spotted something brand new and cutting edge if the Chinese experts get excited when showing it. One such example was a new automatic cake fusing machine. Even our interpreter and agent for the tour had never seen this before. It essentially works like a giant sewing machine, punching holes in the bottom of tubes, threading through string fuse, stacking the tubes and then taping them together to form a cake.
And this is just scratching the surface of firework production. I’ve still yet to see shells being filled with stars and we haven’t been anywhere near a rocket yet…