LEad in Water

There is a dark secret that the government and the plumbing industry, that “Lead-Free Brass” is not like sugar-free soda. “Lead-free Brass” still has lead, and depending which state, store and manufacturer, it can still contain a lot of lead and other heavy metals that leach into your water supply. You shower in it.  You wash your dish and brush your teeth with it. It is an unavoidable reality.


In California, the state has long pushed the elimination of toxic substances from our lives. The landmark 1986 Proposition 65 titled “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986” pushed for steep reduction in the lead content from >10% to 8% for plumbing and other products. Several years later, the state passed AB 1953 which starting in 2010 further reduced lead content down to 0.25% creating what is labeled as “Lead-free Brass” or “Low Lead Brass” but still lacked regulations for heavy metals like cadmium and arsenic which naturally occurs in many brass alloys. Sadly, while California pushes regulations to eliminated lead from plumbing, the rest of the country does not have similar regulations.

Why Low Lead

In discussions with the UC Berkeley researchers that did the research that went into AB 1953, we asked why there was not an outright ban on all lead and heavy metals in plumbing. They explained that is really difficult to replace brass usage in plumbing as there wasn’t any viable solutions. That brass itself was an easy and low cost material to produce plumbing components, dating back to ancient times. Lead was used to make the material softer and easier to machine. That industry would have to replace lead with bismuth, but this was less than ideal solution as the element was very brittle. They said, ideally we should have replaced all brass with food grade stainless steel, but it was very uneconomical at many levels to do so.

The challenge

Hearing something was impossible caught our attention. We are a bunch of Silicon Valley Geeks with the belief that anything can be solved by technology, science and plenty of determination. Theoretically speaking, Stainless Steel was 75% less expensive than brass for the same amount of material as it was mostly iron. Brass on the other hand is mostly copper, which is expensive and not to mention ecologically destructive to mine. The big question was what technologies we could apply to change the game.


Transforming a centuries old process was not going to be easy. So we brought in every technological innovation that we could find to change the game. It was like space aliens meeting cavemen.


1. Computation Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

After touring countless factories, we noticed that casting yields and quality were bad, so much waste. What was usable was less than prefect and required expensive and slow machining processes. So we introduced CFD to commodity parts to dramatically transform yields and quality. Over night we produced double the number of good parts in a single batch with simple design adjustments based on simulations. Dramatically lowering costs.


2. Nano-Scale Particles

Parts that are casted require a lot of machining to finish the part. Stainless Steel is difficult and slow to machine compared to brass. We discovered the he was the shell molds were basically “low resolution” meaning they were rough for many reasons. After extensive research we discovered nanoa ale particles for our shell molds that allowed us to cast “ultra high resolution” parts that required very little to almost no machining time. Every minute saved with machining was pennies saved.

Closed Loop Recycling

Nano-Scaled Particles are expensive and there was concern with proper disposal, then we had a brilliant idea. Let’s recycle 99.9% of the shell material. We invented new machines that now recycle our mold materials. We would show you pictures, but they are trade secret.

Speaking of recycling, we also invented a closed loop recycling plant for all our wax injection molds. All the machines and robots were designed and developed in-house. The production speed and quality is unmatched, you simply can not buy equipment like this.

Also, we worked to eliminate all fossil fuel usage from our entire production process. Most brass production plants are coal fired plants which not just emit a lot of pollution and carbon. They are very wasteful, every piece of equipment we designed leverages aerospace grade materials. For example we use ceramic insulation found on spacecrafts to retain heat in our furnaces. You can put your bare hand on our furnaces and not get burned, even thought it is 1,800 F just 1/2 inch away. Every bit of heat retained is one less joule of electricity wasted which helps drive a more sustainable future.

Another source of energy loss is the massive drying facilities required for shell casting. These are temperature and humidity controlled buildings that take 5 days to dry dry

Extreme Automation

The last step in cost reduction is automation through digital assembly line driven by custom designed smart robotics. Plumbing products are quite intricate, and typically take some very high skilled humans a few minutes a piece to assembly and test. Our automated production line can assembly, test and package a single unit every 6 seconds per assembly line. One lights out production line can replace over 300 humans in two shifts. Even at Chinese labor rates, that is $100k a month savings. A single production line can pay for itself in a few short months.

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