8-Bit Blog: Silicone Secure Button September 28 2013

One of the interesting features of the Question Block Lamp, is that it hangs and receives power from the same USB cable. This poses some tricky challenges, as the cable needs to provide power to the circuit board, while also being anchored to the top of the lamp.  

In order to solve this challenge, we created a custom silicone button that helps secure the cable, while at the same time allowing it to pass through the lamp to the board.

We visited the factory factory that makes the custom button for us, and they showed us the entire process. From the preparation of the silicone, to the molding, and final cleaning process (where they snip off any defects).

This is the first step where they take raw silicone, and use this machine to work out all the imperfections. The entire process takes about 5-7 minutes. This is the point where they would also add the dye.

Above is the process for making the silicone button. The mold produces 40 buttons every time they compress it, so it will only take a couple hours to produce all 3000 parts.

This is what the buttons look like after they've come out of the mold. They're fairly easy to pull apart by hand.


Because our run is fairly small (3000 pieces is minor leagues in China) two workers are able to get through all the buttons in a single afternoon. They'll remove the buttons from the excess material (also known as flashing), and check for any imperfections, which they'll remove with a small pair of scissors.

These are the two most common tools for working with silicone. The tool on the right helps workers pull the part from the flashing. The scissors on the left help them remove small defects.

The factory also had several other machines, including some fairly impressive injection molders. These will inject molten plastic into a mold under very high pressure. This is the process used for most of the plastic parts we see around the world. In the video above, you can see the production of glossy iPhone cases.

After visiting the factory, we went to a Maojia restaurant. This is a cuisine that originated in the hometown of Mao Zedong (top left), who was the Chairman of China from 1945 to 1978. He's also on much of the Chinese currency. Top right: Sticky rice covered beef balls. Bottom Left: Snow peas with bacon. Bottom Right: Pork soup with fried tofu and scrambled egg.

Thanks for tuning in folks! Next we'll visit the IC programming factory, after a bit of a mix-up with the code. 

- Adam