Our lights are made in-house at our Somerset workshop by Vicky.
There are many stages to making these lights, many people have asked how we cast the resin into an egg or sphere shape - we don't they are turned from a blank!
We thought it would be useful to provide some insight into how the lights are made.
The starting point for an egg or sphere light is to cut a piece of burl wood on the bandsaw.Burl (Burr in British English) wood is a growth on a tree where it has deformed instead of growing a branch. It is filled with small knots from dormant buds and provides a fascinating visual which is the basis for our lights.
It is very expensive to buy, and very quick to chop up on a bandsaw!
The burl wood is placed in a mould, we make our own re-usable moulds from HDPE sheet.
Next up is the resin pour. We mix the resin and add colour, glitter and mica powder. This process is not an exact science and it can be a bit nerve wracking hoping that it's going to come out something like the planned idea!
The mould is placed in a pressure pot to cure for a few days. The pressure pot is connected to an air compressor and this ensures that the resin is free from any air bubbles. When looking at resin products we would recommend zooming in on any photos to see if you can see air bubbles before you buy.
It is then removed and de-moulded and we have the resin and burl wood blank ready for turning on the lathe.
Turning the resin and burl wood blank is a messy job! The video below shows this and the last section shows the finished egg demonstrating using the phone app to control the lights brightness, colour and some of the effects.
The base for the lights can be turned or from a centre section of the burl wood. For both types of base they are mounted on the lathe and turned to provide a recess for the light ring at the top and the microcontroller and battery underneath.
Once the base has been turned we move into the next phase of production which involves soldering the electronics components and mounting them in the base using 3D printed parts.
We found trying to mount electronics components in the wood base very problematic and have designed and manufactured outings for these in-house.
This was a massive learning curve but we believe it was worth the effort since the quality of the finished light is so much better for it. We think this will have a very positive effect on the lifetime of the lights.
We didn't get it right first time as the pile of prototypes below shows!
The microcontroller board connects to the WifI network and process the commands from the phone app to control the LED lighting rings. We can see it in it's mounting bracket below.
The rechargeable battery is mounted in the same bracket as the microcontroller board.
We use open source software and would like to thank Christian Schwinne 'Aircookie' for all of the work he has put into WLED.
Here we can see the mounting bracket screwed into the base and then the microcontroller and battery placed into the bracket.
You can see the brass inserts which the base lid bolts into.
The base lid is again 3D printed and also houses the on/off switch.
We use stainless steel bolts to secure the base lid into the brass inserts in the microcontroller mount.
We use two LED light rings in each of our lights. We found using an additional ring provides for a better effect, highlighting the magical wisps and swirls of mica powder.
The light rings are mounted in 3D printed holders and then glued into the base.
The light ring holder has a cover and this both keeps things neat and diffuses the lights to provide a much nicer glow effect rather than having the individual Neopixels visible.
As you can see there is a lot more to the lights than is immediately visible externally!
As we make everything in house if there is ever a problem with a light then we will be able to fix it. They are not part of the modern throw away consumer culture!
We hope you enjoyed this insight into how our lights are made and can begin to appreciate the amount of work involved in making each one.