Thursday, March 1, 2012

Production Update: post-Chinese New Year 2012

It has often been said that Hunan and Jiangxi have the worst weather for fireworks production. Dripping wet in Spring, scalding hot in Summer and bitterly cold in Winter. All conditions which are not ideal for fireworks production.

Each year, right after Chinese New Year, when all the factories return to work, we always face the same problem - rain and humidity. This is typical Spring weather in this part of China. This year, it has been worst as it hasn't stopped raining since the end of the Chinese New Year.

What does rain have to do with fireworks you ask? The principal components of fireworks are all sensitive to humidity.

1. Safety fuse - ever tried to light a wet fuse? Sure, the quality of safety fuse has improved greatly over the years and most safety fuses are now coated with a layer of varnish to keep moisture out. But it can also keep moisture in if the fuse is produced on rainy wet days and it's not 100% fool-proof. Moisture sometimes seep in, especially when the firework is packed in a sealed carton or in plastic wrap leaving you with a product that has uneven timing or sometimes stops firing in the middle.

2. Black powder absorbs moisture. One of the components of black powder is charcoal which absorbs moisture like a sponge. When black powder is wet, it may clump together affecting ignition and burn rate, and sometimes even will not light. This affects the timing, the height of aerial shots, and the burst size of a firework, and can also contribute to frequent stoppage in multiple shot items.

3. Paper - Fireworks are all made with rolled paper tubes. After the tubes are rolled, the glue needs to dry. If the weather is wet, the glue doesn't dry and worst, the paper starts to absorb moisture. If tubes are wet, they can easily change shape, overall affecting the quality of the firework. Worst, the wetness will affect the chemicals in the firework and possibly cause fuse stoppage.

4. Stars - Have you ever watched a firework and thought it didn't have as much color as it should or did you ever come across lots of round black pellets on the ground after a fireworks show? It is possible that the stars have absorbed moisture and hence, did not light. This is what we call a black star. It does just that color - black.

5. Bamboo / Wooden sticks - ever seen moldy bamboo or wooden sticks on your fireworks? Yep, it's because it's often so wet in China and high levels of condensation contribute to the rapid growth of mold.

Factories have to make sure none of their fireworks suffer from the above problems, so it takes longer for production to complete as they wait for a day where the sun may come out and dry up some of this moisture. When you consider the fireworks will be loaded in a sealed container for around 3-4 weeks, with the high humidity trapped inside and condensation, it is often a good idea to unload your fireworks, inspect the cases for any signs of dampness and place them in a warm dry area with plenty of good air circulation so they can dry out as fast as possible. Usually the fireworks will function properly afterwards if caught in time.

A 10 day forecast for this week shows rain every day in Liuyang .. except one day with a small chance of sun peeking from behind the clouds.

Beihai does not fair much better, with a little more sun, but rain every day.

All these are contributing to the worsening delivery and production time in China. It does not help the overall situation with a general shortage of workers in fireworks factories. We continue to advise our customers to order early and well ahead of your season. The next weather hurdle will be the Summer when temperatures can reached 40° Celsius (or 104° Fahrenheit) last year and all factories were ordered shut for one month.

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