What does a Heat Treatment Operator do?
Heat treatment operators oversee the machines and equipment used in the manufacture and casting of metals and metal components. These include gas and vacuum furnaces, salt baths, chemical solutions and oxyacetylene torches employed to harden, anneal and temper the metals and metal alloys.
The treatment operations are used to remove defects and relieve internal stresses, which may have developed during the manufacturing stage. They can also be used to give the product a specific finish, such as artificial ageing. A range of materials is treated, for example, carbon and stainless steel, aluminium, iron, copper and nickel together with a whole variety of other alloys.
Typical tasks involve:
- loading and positioning materials in the furnace or tank and setting the controls to reach the temperatures required for a particular treatment
- monitoring the process, adjusting times and temperatures in line with specified sequences to ensure it is running correctly
- removing parts from furnace after specified time and air drying or cooling parts in water, oil or chemical baths (quenching)
- cleaning oxides and scale from parts or fittings, using steam spray or immersing parts in chemical cleaning solutions
- testing sample parts for hardness and other characteristics, using testing equipment to ensure products conform to manufacturer's specifications.
Depending on the job, some of the handling tasks may be done manually or with the aid of mechanical hoists, conveyors or forklift machinery. Many of the equipment operation roles are now computerised. Some minor maintenance work may also be carried out by operators.
For details about heat treatment processes, see the website for the Contract Heat Treatment Association in Further Information.
What's the working environment like working as a Heat Treatment Operator?
Operators work 40 hours a week, often on a shift rota, which may include evenings and weekends.
Operators work in factories or workshops, where conditions can be very hot, dirty and noisy. A lot of the time is spent standing, lifting and carrying materials and components, and protective clothing is required for most tasks.
What does it take to become a Heat Treatment Operator?
To be a heat treatment operator you should:
- have an aptitude for practical work
- be able to work methodically and efficiently
- be able to follow detailed instructions and handle technical equipment
- have some knowledge of material properties under heat treatment conditions
- be able to maintain safety and quality standards
- have good numeracy and computer skills
- be able to work alone and as part of a team
- be physically fit.
Heat Treatment Operator Career Opportunities
Heat treatment operators work in manufacturing including the automotive, aerospace, railway and construction industries, general engineering and the petrochemical sector, together with their suppliers. Opportunities also exist with smaller specialist heat treatment companies sub-contracted to carry out treatments for the larger firms.
Promotion is often dependent on qualifications and comes with experience. Some operators progress to supervisor or technician level.
If you would like to know anything about Heat Treatment Operator that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below. Metals Industry Skills & Performance
Units 5&6, Meadow Court
Tel: 0114 244 6833
(Science Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance)
14 Upton Road
Tel: 0808 100 3682
www.semta.org.uk The Engineering Careers Information Service
www.enginuity.org.uk Contract Heat Treatment Association
10 Vyse Street
www.chta.co.uk Wolfson Heat Treatment Centre
10 Vyse Street
Tel: 0121 237 1122
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