WHAT DO PRESS BRAKE OPERATORS DO?
Press brake operators produce parts and tools from metal, plastic or other materials using a press brake, a computer numeric controlled (CNC) piece of equipment that makes precision bends, punches, or cuts into material. Press brake operators look at blueprints or plans for the finished product, make adjustments to the machine to control speed, material feed and path of the cut, as well as make sure the machines are set up properly, working well, and producing quality product. They make sure their machines are working at full capacity, are stocked with needed materials, well-maintained and perform periodic checks on output. They look at the finished product to ensure it is defect-free and ready for the next step in production.
HOW MUCH DO PRESS BRAKE OPERATORS MAKE?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the median hourly income for machinists like press brake operators in 2010 was $19.19, or $39,910 annually.
WHAT ARE THE EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS?
Press brake operators can gain skills through vocational schools, technical colleges or community college programs, or apprenticeships. Typically, it takes 4-5 years of combined education and on-the-job training to become fully trained. To excel, press brake operators need many years of experience and must show aptitude for math, problem-solving and computer skills. Certification is available.
JOB SKILLS AND REQUIREMENTS
- Math Skills: Good math skills will help press brake operators understand complex instructions, how schematics work and make sure items are designed and built correctly.
- Problem Solving Skills: Press brake operators will need to know why machines are not at peak performance, how to increase output and how to fix errors.
- Attention to Detail: Press brakes are precision equipment. Being off by millimeters could be a critical error. Keen attention to detail is required.
- Mechanical and Technical Skills: Machines controlled by computers will need operators who understand CAD/CAM technology.
- Stamina: Press brake operators often work long hours doing repetitive movements.
THE FUTURE OF PRESS BRAKE OPERATORS
Job growth will be slow for all machinists and machine operators over the next few years, according to the BLS. Mostly due to continued automation in the shop and foreign competition. But there will still be a need of machine operators with a broad range of skills that can work anywhere in a shop, and your best bet for employment is to learn as many skills as possible and not specialize on any one machine.