An extrusion operator controls manufacturing machines that form metal and plastic into different shapes, such as engine block parts or plastic tubing. The operator must pay close attention to the parts extruded from the machine, noting size and dimension accuracies for a quality final product. Many of those employed as an extrusion operator gain experience learning machine operations as an apprentice to an experienced worker or through trade school courses.
Metal and plastic extrusion machines must be set up with specific dies, or cutting shapes, to create the desired part form. Extrusion operators begin a work day by verifying the correct die placement within the machine. A die can become worn or misshapen over time, causing a defective final product after the extrusion process. An extrusion operator determines the die's functionality by visually inspecting its shape before beginning the machine's operations. A worn die should be noted by the extrusion operator and replaced immediately.
The extrusion machine should be constantly monitored during operation. Operators adjust functional parameters, in small increments, during the extrusion process through controls on the machine's exterior surface or at a nearby control station. Functional parameters, such as temperature and air pressure, must be matched according to the material being extruded, such as metal or plastic.
The manufacturing speed of the extrusion machine is also regulated by the operator. A machine extruding material too quickly will compromise the part's structural integrity, wasting the material and slowing production. The operator must achieve a balance between a quality extruded product and meeting overall production needs by keeping the machine operating at a consistent pace.
A successful extrusion operator should enjoy hands-on mechanical work, mixed with computerized job duties involving the control station. Many experienced operators work independently for the majority of the day, whereas an apprentice may be monitored repeatedly throughout the work shift to ensure correct machine operations. Accuracy of the final product must be continually observed by the extrusion operator, confirming diameters and part sizes repeatedly during the day.
Operators must have confidence in their abilities to identify and troubleshoot a malfunctioning machine. A broken machine should be shut down immediately and reported to the supervisor, regardless of the production needs. Rapid repair procedures should be implemented by the operator. The machine should not be placed back into the production line until the operator is positive that the machine's functions are within specifications.
Some employers require an extrusion operator to have a degree or certificate from a trade school specializing in extrusion machine theory. Newly trained operators should note that on-the-job training will still be necessary after obtaining the degree or certificate. Each manufacturing company has slightly different operational needs for specific extrusion machines.