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Machinist Spotlight

Machinists are provided with design blueprints or specifications, and then they bring these ideas to life. They find ways to cut metal into tools for construction, hydraulic parts for operations or replicated gears for maintenance and repairs.

What a typical day looks like:

After studying the specifications for a project, Machinists choose the correct materials and metals, mark where the cuts should be and determine in what order the cuts need to be made. The cuts often need to be exact to 1/40th of a millimetre, so accuracy is key.

After all this careful planning and consideration, they begin to create. Machinists know their way around a variety of manual tools like radial drills, boring machines, lathes and computer numeric control (CNC) machines that all help them make the right cuts. Their machines cut, punch and grind away everything not needed in the design using lasers, water jets or other processes. Finally, once the project is complete, Machinists double and triple check the accuracy of their work against the blueprints. Once they are sure it is correct, they smooth the product.

Machinists usually work in a machine shop that is well lit and ventilated. Safety is their focus. They wear protective equipment such as safety glasses to shield against bits of flying metal and earplugs to protect against the noise produced by machinery. This process can produce a lot of heat, so the machine shop can be a warm place to work, especially in the summertime. Machinists typically work in the exploration and production (E&P), oil sands, oil and gas services and pipelines sectors of the oil and gas industry.

The kinds of problems Machinists solve at work:

As the cuts are being made, Machinists constantly monitor the speed of the machine and the temperatures, lubrication and cooling processes for the remaining metal. If any of these go outside the normal range, they will troubleshoot and fix the problem to prevent a safety or quality issue. Machinists also detect problems by listening for specific sounds, like a dull cutting tool or excessive vibration, and fix problems as they arise.

Skills used most on the job:

Machinists are critical thinkers who can visualize how engineering drawings should look in real life. They work well with their hands and have manual dexterity. They also have laser-sharp precision in their work since all measurements, calculations and cuttings must be accurate. They also have stamina as they’ll often be standing and may be required to lift some moderately heavy pieces and materials.

With careful measurement and calculation, Machinists will cut, punch and grind metal until they have turned a drawing into a useable object.

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