An extruder operator is a person who operates and maintains machinery used in the extrusion process. Extrusion involves drawing materials such as metals and thermoplastics to create specific shapes and products, such as wires, tubes, hoses, and bars. No set level of education is necessary to become an extruder operator, but many employers will require that the operator complete at least a high school education. Some on-the-job training is also necessary, and an apprenticeship may be required by some employers before someone can become an operator of extrusion equipment.
The sophistication of the machinery run by an extruder operator has risen over the years, so it may be necessary to be retrained over the course of one's career. The extruder operator must stay up-to-date on current and developing technologies and techniques, and he or she must also have a solid understanding of safety techniques and practices. Many machines are computer-operated, which means the extruder operator will need to have at least basic computer skills; other machines do not use computers and are operated with hand controls. The operator should have a solid understanding of how to use either type of machine.
It is likely that the extruder operator will spend a significant portion of his or her day standing or otherwise moving. Good physical conditioning will therefore be necessary, though extreme physical shape is not necessarily a requirement. Extrusion machines are usually in large factories, which means a fair amount of noise will be common; the operator may need to wear safety equipment such as ear plugs, eye protection, gloves, steel-toe boots, and possibly even a hard hat. All safety procedures need to be adhered to at all times to ensure the safety of the operator and others in the workspace.
The extruder operator will also often be responsible for the maintenance and repair of extrusion machines. Specific training is usually necessary before the operator will be qualified to do so. Regular maintenance of the machine can prevent breakdowns, so the operator will be responsible for such maintenance on a daily basis. If the machine breaks down, the operator will need to be able to make an accurate diagnosis and develop a plan for fixing the problem. In some settings, the operator may not be responsible for such diagnosis or repair, as machine maintenance workers will do such repairs instead, but the operator will still need to be able to recognize when a problem is occurring.