13 Jul Life of an Engineering Intern
My “office” has a very noisy environment. Everywhere around me, I hear the deafening noises of metal being hammered, soldered together, punched, polished, and cut. Even with the earplugs I wear every day, the noises are still noticeably loud. Occasionally, my protective eyewear fogs up from the constant humidity in the air and I have to stop and take it off and wipe it off. Upon arrival to work, I head to the back of the factory and turn on several switches with audible ‘clicks’ and hear multiple machines spring to life in response. I then walk up to the laser cutter up front and switch it on. The monstrous machine boots up and the laser starts warming up. In front of the machine, there’s a small metal tray used to hold papers containing work orders. I take the first work order on top.
The paper lists a program, which controls the laser-cutter based on the program’s specifications and, in addition, the type, thickness, and dimensions of a metal. I wipe the sweat from my hands, put on my gloves, and head to the back again, where a variety of sheets of metals are located and flip through them, finding the right one. I find it and drag the heavy piece to the laser cutter and lift it up on the top of the cutting tray. With a couple taps on the LCD touchscreen on the side, I punch in the specified program, pull the graphic up on the main screen, adjust the laser pointer onto the metal, and start the machine. With a flash of light, the laser pierces through the metal. As sparks fly everywhere, the metal is finely cut into shapes identical to the one shown on the screen. After it’s done, I take the freshly cut metal piece out and tossing the excess metal out. I attach the work order to the finished product and take out the next work order to work on.
Working in the manufacturing industry is definitely not for everyone. At the end of the day, I’m covered in sweat, my hands are dirty and calloused, and I’m completely exhausted by the time I get back to my hotel. But the work life of an engineer is not just solely tucked away in an office all day and sometimes, you do have to get your hands dirty (literally) to learn something that’s worthwhile. Laser-cutting was probably the most difficult to learn but the senior intern from NUS had taught me well and after the first week, I went from completely clueless to being able operate it without much of a problem. Laser-cutting may be my main job, as an intern, I was given the opportunity to branch out to other machines. Only a couple weeks in, I could also grind and polish and “tap” (creating spiraled holes where screws can be inserted) metals. It’s certainly a good deviation from simply learning about it in the classroom because nothing can compare to the real thing of course.
Right now, I carry out the work orders done by the programmers upstairs and bring them to life. Next week, I’ll be joining them, doing graphics and 3D modeling. I’m no expert, but who knows if that’ll change once I start.