Leather technologists work with the chemical processes used in the preparation, treatment and finishing in leather production. They use scientific and technical skills to ensure the production cycle runs efficiently and safely, and that finished products meet quality standards.
There are various stages to the manufacturing process in which technologists are involved, including:
Curing – initial preservation of the hide before treatment by salting, chilling or with biochemicals.
Liming and fleshing – the removal of hair and tissue from the hide causing it to become alkaline in nature.
De-liming and bating – using enzymes to neutralise the alkalis produced in the previous stage.
Pickling and de-greasing – weak acidic solutions are applied to the hide to preserve and prepare it for tanning, and solvents applied to clear any residual grease.
Tanning – a key stage, using chromium salt compounds, aldehydes or vegetable extracts, which stabilises the leather, stops it from putrefying and gives it the versatility for use in a wide range of products. It also gives added resistance to the effects of heat, water and micro-organisms.
Dyeing, drying and finishing – leather is coloured and mechanically dried, and finishes are applied to conceal surface flaws and provide a protective coating, for instance, waterproofing.
Before dispatch, leather products are measured and graded according to customer requirements, for instance, softness, colour, thickness and finish.
Typical duties combine the supervision of operatives on the factory floor with laboratory work, researching, testing and sampling the chemicals, dyes and products in use. Monitoring of waste and by-products is also important to ensure that they fall within safety limits. Technologists also undertake administrative duties, writing up research and operational reports for managers.
Leather technologists usually work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, although some factories and workshops have shift systems in operation.
Technologists work in factories, workshops, laboratories and in offices. Some work involves the use of hazardous chemicals and dyes, so protective clothing may be required.
To be a leather technologist you should:
Leather factories are situated throughout the UK. Work is also available in the footwear industry, chemical and engineering industries, and manufacturers of leather goods such as bags, suitcases, upholstery and sports equipment.
Leather technologists often move into related roles such as production, technical management, company chemist, buying and sales.
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