Sunday, December 03, 2006

Microscopic Welder...

I read the title of this post and cringe.
Where was my brain the day I wrote that in my profile??

Yes, I am a welder. NO... I am not microscopic. Sheesh.
I will leave it as written in the hope that it will keep me humble.

Some folks have asked that I include some personal info on my blog, so I thought this might be a good place to start... what I do for a living.

I work for a manufacturing company in Florida. I weld... under a microscope.
The engineers also call this type of welding metal fusion. GTAW.
It isn't like the type of welding you see done in a body shop, although I wouldn't mind knowing how to do that too.

One department makes bellows and seals for companies that make machines that make computer chips.
However, the department I work for primarily makes bellows and seals for the aerospace industry. I take great pride in the jobs that I work on. Why?
Because most of the aerospace jobs are critical components in assemblies that can affect the life and safety of the people who use them.


We make fuel drains for Lockheed and other customers. Needed for in-flight fueling of military jets.
We make components that are part of the pilot ejection system.
Yet another, a bellow for the PAC-3.
Fluid accumulators for NASA shuttles... they change urine into potable water.
Then, there is part of the assembly that controls the wing flaps on commercial jets.
Another assembly that is part of the fire detection system in the cargo areas of commercial jets.
One of our newest customers is a major oil rig manufacturer.

The job I work on most often is part of the system that signals when the oxygen mask drops out of the ceiling of a jet and dangles in front of your face. It's called an air breather valve.
This bellow assembly is made of stainless steel. The parts I weld... under a microscope... are a mere .0015" thick. The inside diameter is less than half an inch across, the outside diameter is less than one inch across. Thus... the need for the microscope. And, precision and dexterity.

The thickest material we weld is a mere .009" thick. Other than the hardware, which might be from 1/8" to 1/4" thick, that gets welded to the bellows.
Did I mention that paper is about .003" thick?

I've been doing this job for eleven years.

I've had other jobs in other areas of manufacturing, to include... metal stamping, plastic injection molding, quality control, emergency first aid (because my first college major was nursing), CNC operator for the bolt carrier for the M-16, and tester of electronic detectors.
Four different companies over a twenty-three year period.

I also spent nine years working for the local chapter of the National Safety Council.
I started as a part-time instructor (because my major ended up being education). I taught five different driver improvement classes. Oh, yeah... the ones everyone loves to attend when their license is suspended or, right after getting a traffic ticket or a DUI... and a special class for senior citizens so they can get an insurance discount.
After four years of teaching, I was hired as a department manager for traffic and occupational safety. I got to hire and train other instructors, among a gazillion other things.

I've also waitressed, tended bar, worked at a country club and... one year of subbing at a high school. The one job in my life that I liked the least?
I wrote obituaries for the local newspaper.
It wasn't the job itself that I disliked. It was the people working at the paper. Some of the most cold-hearted and egotistical humans with whom I've ever had to associate.

I was working there the day the first shuttle blew up. I was on the beachside that day and witnessed it. A horrible sight. When I got to work that afternoon... a mere two hours after the tragedy... people at the paper were already making jokes! I don't think I stayed more than another month after that.

Manufacturing has been a major component of the economy of this country... forever.
Unfortunately, that has been changing drastically.
It has been a major economic component of almost half my life.
My father was a machinist for Goodyear for 31 years. He wanted me to go to college so I wouldn't spend my life in a factory, like he did.
I graduated from college in 1974, and still ended up in manufacturing.
I'm not sorry.


Anonymous said...

I think there is a certain satisfaction in making useful things with your own hands.

AspergantuS said...

Although it has been aerospace oriented, I have been in the manufacturing industry for over 20 years. It has provided a fair wage and a fair life for most of it. I am not in the least sorry for it, though, the aerospace aspect of it drives me RIGHT UP A FREAKIN' WALL.

Sorry...was that out loud?

Gary said...

I'm impressed.I think you have had a really a fascinating variety of interesting jobs.

I have never been afraid of being in an airplane emergency while flying, but I have always suspected that if I were, the oxygen masks wouldn't work. LOL

I hope you are having a nice week.

k said...


All my life I've loved manufaturing and factories. Living in the Chicago area as a child and teen was good for that.

We toured the steel factories, back in the day, watching them pour out molten steel in those huge buckets that were the size of an office building...and an olive factory I think?

Growing up looking at the world through my dad's microscopes was a treat, too.

So here you've lived two of my all time favorite activities, put together.

curmudgeon said...

Even the thought of doing a job through a microscope gives me a headache.

Rantin' Ron said...

Sounds to me as though you've led an extremely interesting life darlin'. I'm relieved to finally get an explanation of the 'microscopic welder' thing! After a read that in your profile, I figured you might be a VERY tiny little welder!

Jean said...

Anon - indeed, as I say under my photo... Creativity, in many areas, makes me happy.

Mick - what is it about aerospace, exactly, that DRIVES YOU RIGHT UP A FREAKIN' WALL? hmmmmmm...?

Gary - I am confident that the assemblies that I help build will work as they should.
And, yes, thank you... I am having a wonderful week... hope you are too!

k - So many fascinating things in our world... how could anyone ever say they are bored?

Dave - oh, trust me... headaches are not uncommon.

Ron - More than one has questioned that (microscopic) thing... I really am embarrassed how I originally wrote that, but then, it did end up helping to create this post. And, yes... there has been variety in my life and I've learned much from it all.

Anonymous said...

Sounds way more productive than what I do.

Jean said...

Mark - what is it that you do?

Anonymous said...

I'm a computer guy. I've had jobs in manufacturing and construction before and, in retrospect, I really enjoyed actually using my hands to make something. The 'art' of making a computer system do what you want it to do does not have the same satisfaction level as the physical art of manufacturing.

Blaez said...

definatly alot more interesting than what i do for a living.

btw, Jean. your previous writings the past few weeks, just played catchup Awesome as usual!

Jean said...

Mark - I guess that 3D could make a difference... but, your work is needed too, otherwise you wouldn't be getting paid!

Blaez - long time no see, gal! Hope you are doing well. Thanks for coming by again.

AspergantuS said...

Jean ~ The aerospace part of it is a fickle as a... oops... better not finish that... let me just say that it has it's ups and downs... hmmm... poor attempt at humor... ok... let me try again, uh... well... crap... I got nuthin'... it just drives me nuts is all....

Jean said...

Mick - All manufacturing is cyclical... ups and downs...:)
Aerospace is so highly regulated that it certainly makes it even more trying/stressful to keep and maintain certifications.
Is that anything close to what you were trying to say?

Anonymous said...

OK Beau.....
You know what I do. Manufacturing is the catalyst that made this such a great country great. It is the greedy, short term thinking dimwits and sleeping government that is sending manufacturing work out of our country. The next time we need weapons for defense, who do we ask to build them...the Taliban? the North Koreans? Fear East countries in civil war? How about begging the Iranian government for help? It is to the guts and determination of the manufacturing generations before us that we owe our standard of living. Our country needs to say NO to the greedy few and bring back the pride of our Fathers' sweat and keep Living Wage jobs in America. I am proud to manufacture products that lead the world. If only the government would quit putting up roadblocks to those of us in the US and not overseas, we could provide more meaningful jobs for those that want them.
Getting off my soap box now.
Your Buddy in Woodville

Jean said...

Mike - AMEN!

Jessica said...

What an interesting post! Happened to stumble on your blog by selecting the random "next blog" button.

Jean said...

Jessica - Thank you and welcome! Hope you visit again.

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!