Job Profile: Plastic injection molding technician

Cory Schmidtz melts and molds plastic for casting electrical components.

The 38-year-old plastic injection molding technician makes casings for thermometers, dashboards and computers using a 440-ton press that shoots hot plastic and water into custom-designed cavities:

I am a plastic injection molding technician that basically sets up molds and gets them ready for production runs and measures a part to the satisfaction of the customer’s design.

We do electrical components and electrical cases like computer monitors. The biggest mold we’ve made is for

(airplane) gauges on a dashboard. We do a lot for the (agriculture) industry like tractor parts and field work machinery for spreading.

The molds cost a lot of money, like $5,000 to $15,000 for a basic mold. They can be made of aluminum or steel. ?The aluminum ones wear easier and can do about 50,000 to 75,000 pieces (per mold). Steel lasts longer and you can do 200,000 to 500,000 pieces, but everything depends on the (plastic) material used.

Pay attention to each mold because each one’s different and each set-up is different so you need to know how many clamps go on mold, what are the water levels and the temperature.

For set up, you need to have strong hands because there’s a lot of torquing of the bolts and tightening.

For one, you need to have patience to set the machine up and know what you’re doing, but you need to be quick enough to switch things around.

I use a brass rod to get out any plastic that clogs the machine and a ratchet for tightening bolts. We use a 3-ton hoist to move around the molds to different presses. I use a caliber to measure a part. We wear glasses, steel-toe shoes and ear plugs.

It’s very typical to do

the hands-on training and learn the trade through other

people. ?There is a two-year degree for manufacturing plastic in the cities and two-day training courses.

Here, we’re a smaller facility and I get things done independently and ready on my own. In a larger facility, a mold tech just sets up the machines and someone else runs them.

I work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., but I first come in at 6 a.m. to get the machines warmed up. It can be a nine, 10 or 11-hour day and sometimes you get called in at night.

Twenty years ago, I made $21,000 starting out. Now, it can range from $30,000 to $45,000 depending on your qualifications, like if you’re good with hydraulics or electrical.

Every time you put a mold in, the 1,500-pound mold could slip and fall or eye bolts could snap. Another part of the danger is the fumes of the plastics.

Every 30 seconds, this machine is making two parts. We average a 1,000 to 2,000 parts a day just on this press and about 3,000 to 5,000 parts a day in the entire shop.

The worst is putting the wrong material in for the wrong mold. It could cost the company a lot of money, or an injection pin breaks and it causes the customer not to use the parts.

Setting up the machine is physical work, and I’ve always liked that. I never mind to get dirty or greasy.

This story is part of a weekly series called “On the Job,” where area residents talk about their careers.

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