Man vs. Machine
by, June 4th, 2011 at 10:57 AM (3205 Views)
The photos below where from an independent factory visited earlier in the week ... my reason for showing them is to illustrate the fact that even in China, machines are taking over production in almost every aspect. The reasoning is obvious ... a machine can do more than a human in terms of repetitive tasks. Add the fact that labor costs are rising in China and skilled laborers are fleeing the fireworks business for higher paying jobs in other industries ... but you still have the demand for inexpensive fireworks in the US and elsewhere.
So take away 20 workers (actually they already left for other industries), buy one machine for about $3,000 and add one higher paid operator ... you've got yourself a solution!
And beyond just being a "stop gap" solution, machines are actually revolutionizing the industry. Tubes are rolled tighter and with more consistency, plugs are packed harder, fuses are inserted more reliably, shells are being pasted more evenly ... and overall, the repetitive non-pyrotechnic components are taking a step up in quality, safety and reliability.
Of course, the rolling of stars, mixing of powders and assembly still require a bit more care than a machine can afford ... traditional, human powered methods are still employed as far as the actual pyrotechnics are concerned.
Who knows how much automation will take over in the coming years? All I can say for sure is ... the old days of braiding firecracker strings by hand are long gone and aren't coming back.
The machines used in fireworks factories are dirty, noisy and rather dangerous looking! This machine actually rolls, and cuts tubes for 1.75" canister shells. You can see how the large roll of paper is fed into the machine and the hopper of glue keeps a constant flow ... the machine pulls the paper through the puddle of glue, through a squeegie, around a mandril and then the toothed blade cuts the paper to the apropriate length.
This photo shows the opposite side of the machine ... the tube is wound around the mandril and then gets slid along the mandril until it's positioned under the circular blades ... as the mandril is spun again (rolling the next tube) the circular blades seen at the far end of the mandril are engaged, cutting the long tube into the length appropriate for the shells.
This photo was taken from a poor angle ... but I was afraid of getting eaten by the machine so i kept my distance. As the new tube is slid under the circular blades, the sections of cut tubes fall into this basket.
As boxes of tubes are completed, they are simply set into the sun to dry.
As I go from factory to factory ... the volume of tubes you encounter is mind boggling ... even individual families around Liuyang have taken to manufacturing tubes that they sell to the factories. I don't have a photo ... but as I drive around, I see home after home with tubes stacked out front awaiting transportation to the factories.