Quality matters. That is and always was my goal – to create high-quality products. I am a detail-oriented engineer. Meaning I am working with straight lines, right angles, and symmetry. Floower is a great example of engineering art. All the parts are simple and perfectly aligned. Something hardly achievable without proper tools. So I developed a variety of jigs to help me assemble the perfect Floower. And the one designed for touch leaf is one I am most proud of.
The shape of the leaf is definitely the most complicated one. There is a core wire, circumferential wire, and 8 small wires to connect them together. It’s meer impossible to solder this shape in hand.
The core of the jig is a tear-drop-like piece with U-shaped grooves to click the wire in so it holds in the perfect position. Basically, this piece inverts the actual leaf from one side. So how does it work?
Individual wires are placed into the grooves. But that is not that simple as the core and circumferential wires are bent into an intricate curve. This is when the clamps come into play.
I start by placing the core wire into the central U-groove and fix the wire with U-clamps to keep it bend. Those U-clamps barely fit into a slot in the core piece so they hold. Second I put the circumferential wire which is one piece to achieve a sexy leaf tip. The circumferential wire is fixed down by 6 rotary arms. The rest 8 short wires don’t need any additional fixing since they are straight and simply click into the grooves.
Around each solder joint, I designed a small pit so the solder can nicely blend with the brass while soldering not touching the jig’s material whatsoever. It also helps to prevent the solder to stick with the jig’s surface. The grooves are 3/4 of the wire diameter deep. Otherwise, it would be impossible to put and remove the wire from it.
You would never guess the material I’ve chosen for soldering jig. Plastic. More specifically I am 3D printing these templates from PLA. No, I am not crazy. Yes, plastic has a low melting point. Yet while soldering brass, it’s important not to overheat the joint, otherwise the joint does not look good and the brass changes color. PLA can withstand this intensive yet short heat without significant damage. That was a great discovery. From that moment on I could print these sophisticated and complex templates for various parts of Floower brass work on a 3D printer and maintain perfect shape.
I also experimented with PETG and ASA but there is not a huge difference. Yes, they have a higher melting point but they are harder to print. So I eventually came back to using just PLA.
Soldering it together
As said above, soldering has to be short and intense to prevent overheating. First I apply soldering paste on each joint to help the solder stick the brass. And then I apply a lead-free solder for about 1 second with solder iron heated to 380°C. And that’s it. It requires some practice but the results are incredible.
Getting the leaf out
When the leaf is finished it’s time to remove it from the template. Another trick I am really proud of and I will be happy to share with you. As the brass is heated it sticks a little bit with the plastic. So firm pull has to be developed. If the pull is not even through the entire finished leaf the solder joints are really stressed and they can break.
I’ve added several holes going down the entire jig’s mass. They are actually positioned exactly at each solder joint. And there is another piece with needles. I call it an extractor. When the jig is placed onto the extractor the needles touch the finished leaf at the same time on all solder joints and apply the same pressure thus removing the leaf with ease.
Watch how it's made
So the secret is a perfect jig. Utilizing a 3D printer to create a complicated jig was like discovering a fire. In the beginning, each leaf took 30 minutes to solder, with the perfected jig we are at 10 minutes. Pretty awesome improvement.
Currently, I have 8 different jigs that I am using to make every Floower perfect I might share with you next time. Hope this will be an inspiration for you so you can make something as awesome as Floower.