How to become a Plastics and Composites Processor

Plastics and composites processors handle machinery that manufactures or finishes plastic or composite products by injection moulding, extrusion, blow moulding, blow film extrusion and other processes. They may also finish, repair, and refinish damaged products.

Personal requirements of a Plastics and Composites Processor

  • Enjoy practical and manual activities
  • Good hand/eye coordination
  • Able to cope with the physical demands of the job
  • Aptitude for technical activities
  • Able to work as part of a team
  • Safety-conscious
  • Enjoy working with machinery

Education & Training for a Plastics and Composites Processor

You can work as a plastics and composites processor without formal qualifications. You will probably get some informal training on the job. You can also become a plastics and composites processor through an apprenticeship or traineeship in Engineering Composites Trade, Polymer Processing or Process Manufacturing. Entry requirements may vary, but employers generally require Year 10. For more details, see Section 2. Ask your career adviser about the possibility of starting some of this training in school.

Duties & Tasks of a Plastics and Composites Processor

Plastics and composites processors may perform the following tasks:

  • check machine settings and safety devices before their operation, set controls and start machines
  • mix and prepare materials to be moulded
  • prepare moulds or tooling for required lay-up
  • interpret material requirements and quantities for required lay-up
  • regulate the machine temperatures, pressures and speeds of operation of manually operated and semi-automatic equipment
  • extract mouldings and extrusions, cut off waste material, and trim and finish moulded components in accordance with machine cycle and quality specifications
  • assemble, install or secure moulded-in components
  • control feeding devices for wire and cable coating
  • control blending, compounding and drying equipment
  • maintain production and quality assessment records
  • apply surface coatings to moulds
  • apply core materials like foam, balsa and honeycomb structures to the laminate
  • apply resin/reinforcement matrix by hand or by machine
  • adjust resin chemicals for current conditions
  • use and select required ionising techniques for combining materials
  • trim and finish parts for assembly or final bonding
  • keep up to date with new and emerging technologies.

Working conditions for a Plastics and Composites Processor

Plastics and composites processors may have to wear special safety equipment such as masks, gloves, glasses, ear protection and protective clothing, especially when using spray guns. Some of the tasks involved in composites production may require working in confined spaces. Plastics and composites processors may be required to work shifts.

Employment Opportunities for a Plastics and Composites Processor

Plastics and composites are increasingly replacing more traditional materials like steel and wood in many everyday products such as motor vehicles, aircraft, bicycles, furniture and household appliances. People with design flair and people who are good at solving practical problems are in particular demand. Plastics and composites processors are often employed in small to medium-sized manufacturing companies, making products or components for the aerospace, marine, construction, water and recycling industries. Experienced workers sometimes set up their own companies and others may work on a subcontract basis doing a broad range of composites work. Work on products such as boats, surfboards and swimming pools can be seasonal.

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