Grinder Job Description - Duties, Skills and Career Path
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Grinder Job Description
A grinder is a worker specialized in using CNC or manual machine tools to perform grinding operations (an abrasive machining process used to finish workpieces). Grinding machines are used in the metalworking industry to remove minor imperfections and bring workpieces to their desired final shape, as per the design specifications.
Grinding is a high-precision finishing operation performed on workpieces that have already undergone roughing operations (i.e. the removal of material in excess at a high rate but a low level of accuracy). Grinding machines employ a cutting tool called a grinding wheel, which come in various grades of hardness and grain size, depending on the material to be cut, to remove excess material from workpieces and achieve very fine surface finishes. As grinding is an abrasive process that generates heat, machines usually are equipped with a cooling system.
Various types of grinding machines are used in the precision mechanics sector. The most common are cylindrical grinding machines, which are used for cylindrical, conical and contoured machining operations (and in which the workpiece is held between headstock and tailstock work centers); centerless grinders, used for long narrow workpieces that cannot easily be clamped; and surface grinders, which are employed on flat surfaces (and which can further be divided into vertical-spindle or wheel face grinders - where the face of the wheel is used on the surface - and horizontal spindle or peripheral grinders - where the flat edge of the wheel is in contact with the workpiece). Modern grinding machines are computer numerically controlled (or CNC) and need to be programmed and operated by skilled technicians.
So, what does a grinder do?
The duties of a grinding machine operator include selecting and mounting the cutting tools required for CNC or conventional grinding operations, positioning workpieces on the machine and performing the required grinding operations. This is followed by a series of quality control checks to ensure that the finished piece meets the relevant specifications. Any defects or issues observed are reported to the production manager. Grinders need a comprehensive knowledge of how a grinding machine works so that they can perform minor maintenance or repair jobs in the event of malfunctions or failures and maintain grinding efficiency by replacing worn grinding wheels.
The job of a grinder is physically very demanding, involving long periods spent standing and lifting heavy loads. Machining operations generate high noise levels, meaning operators are required to wear industrial ear muffs to protect their hearing. Other essential personal protective equipment (PPE) required by a grinder include safety glasses, gloves and overalls.
Grinding is a costly, high-precision operation used in precision mechanics (e.g. bearing housings, special profiles, gear teeth, high performance tools). Grinding machine operators are mainly employed in the production department at fabrication companies and machine shops that manufacture components for the automobile and aerospace industries, in the bearings and motors industry (e.g. cylinders, crankshafts, pistons), as well as in the machine tool manufacturing sector (e.g. tool grinder).
Grinder Responsibilities and Tasks
The main tasks of a grinding machine operator include:
- Preparing the machine for grinding operations (setting)
- Grinding, deburring and polishing workpieces to bring them to the desired shape and dimensions, in accordance with the design specifications
- Mounting and dismounting workpieces on/from the grinding machine
- Checking finished pieces (quality control)
- Reporting any machining or fabrication defects or imperfections
- Carrying out maintenance of grinding machine and cutting tools
- Keeping work area clean and orderly
How to Become a Grinder - Training and Requirements
Aspiring grinding machine operators typically need to have completed some form of technical or vocational training. This is usually followed by a period of on-the-job training to gain practical experience in the role. Since operators are sometimes required to perform routine and unplanned maintenance, some mechanical knowledge is also important. Finally, in order to understand the design specifications and perform the required machining operations, operators should also be able to read and interpret mechanical/technical drawings.
Grinder Skills and Qualifications
Job vacancies for grinders typically require the following skills:
- Ability to read technical/mechanical drawings
- Ability to use CNC and manual grinding machines and machine tools
- Ability to use measuring equipment for quality control checks
- Ability to perform minor repairs in the event of malfunctions or failures
- Precision and attention to detail
- Ability to work independently and follow instructions
- Problem-solving skills
Grinder Career Path
A career as a grinding machine operator typically starts with an apprenticeship, which provides an opportunity to develop the core skills needed in the role. Career development options for more experienced grinders usually involve progressing up the production line ranks (e.g. at a fabrication company or machine shop) to positions of responsibility, such as shift supervisor, department supervisor and production manager.
Grinders skilled at problem-solving and dealing with breakdowns and failures may, alternatively, wish to consider a career as a maintenance manager or maintenance technician.
Top Reasons to Work as a Grinder
Grinding machine operators carry out highly specialized work that is subject to the strictest quality standards, making the role ideal for meticulous individuals with a strong attention to detail and an interest in machining and machine tools.
Grinding offers an opportunity to learn a variety of machining operations - from the simple to the very complex - and to produce high-precision metal components using cutting-edge machinery. Finally, as members of a technologically-advanced profession, grinders are always highly sought-after by engineering and fabrication companies.