How are our humble, everyday basin mixers made? Are the materials used in making them harmful in any way to our bodies? In this two part series, we shall dissect the wonders of these trusty, hardworking faucets.
We spoke to faucet experts in Crestial as well as Keuco to piece the process together for you. Crestial is a Singapore brand while Keuco is German. Both manufacturers have great dedication to design and quality.
To truly appreciate the tremendous effort and quality of the basin mixers, we need to have a better understanding of the main material developed to make them. Some intense research and development has been conducted in order to ensure that the water that passed through these taps are safe for our consumption.
What is brass?
Most metals by themselves are relatively brittle and break apart rather easily. They are also highly reactive and susceptible to corrosion. In order to make metals strong, they are usually made into alloys like Stainless Steel and Brass.
Alloys are simply a mix of two or more elements that make each other stronger. In the case of Brass, manufacturers mix mainly copper and zinc and other small quantities of metals and minerals in specifically researched ratios. It has a distinct yellow gold colour.
The resulting alloy is less susceptible to corrosion and is waterproof. After all these years, it remains the top choice of material for faucets by the industry.
The top reason for using is brass is because is it a waterproof and highly corrosion-resistant alloy. The World Health Oganization (WHO) constantly regulates the standards for brass to ensure they remain a safe carrier of potable water.
It also uses completely no iron content hence we will never experience the annoying and toxic forming of rust (iron oxide).
Another reason brass is popular is because remains relatively malleable. We can easily mould them into the many interesting faucet designs that we love today.
But using brass does come at a price and it is a relatively expensive raw material.
Shaping - machining and casting
Brass are usually produced into varying lengths of brass rods. In order to shape them into the designs we know and love today, there are two main methods - machining; and casting.
When using this method of shaping, the brass rod is clamped into place and a rotating cutter is used to gradually carve out the shape:
There are many different cutting tools for designed for cutting in different ways.
In the past, this was a labour and skill intensive manual job which was extremely costly. Today's advanced technology however, means computer aided designing can create complicated patterns at much cheaper costs.
Further, the computers are able to be programmed to minimize the material wastage but cutting as many pieces as possible out of a single rod.
Casting involves melting down the raw brass ingots and then while it is in a liquid form, pouring them into a mould and leaving to cool and set into the shape. Then they may be buffed and polished to neaten the surfaces.
This method allows for faster production but required very high production start up costs and there is also a higher amount of wastage.
Once the brass workings are completed, the faucets need to be buffed and polished. This is an important process to ensure surfaces are smooth and even for the next step - application of finishing coats.
Pictured herein is one part of the Keuco factory. This is what the raw material looks like after being shaped.
After the machine buffs the cover plates, they look much shinier with their uber-smooth surface and ready for the final finishing touches!
Look out for Part 2 where we dive into the rest of the finishing processes!