An Electronic Equipment Assembler, also known as a fabricator, mounts, connects, assembles and secures parts and components of electronic equipment. The assembler works behind the scenes to bring together the pieces of equipment we use every day, such as computers, electronic devices, toys and engines. A wide range of electronics are involved: computer circuit boards, transmitters, receivers, medical equipment, measuring devices, and automotive mechanisms.
Opening up the inside of a home computer provides a sense of the complexity of the job. A computer motherboard, for example, is a small circuit board that consists of dozens and dozens of individual components: resisters, transistors, wires, connectors, CPU sockets, battery connectors, and power connectors, just to mention a few. All of these tiny parts need to be fixed to the board and connected in order for the computer to function. Many large manufacturers outsource things like circuit boards to companies in China and India. However, these pre-assembled components still must be put together manually.
With new technological advancements requiring smaller and smaller micro electronics, mass production technology has become more automated. Changes in technology have transformed the way electronic equipment is made, and modern manufacturing systems use robots, programmable motion-control devices, sensing technologies and computers. Increasingly, companies are using lean manufacturing techniques, with teams of workers producing the entire device. The nature of the Electronic Equipment Assembler's job has been transformed accordingly. Regardless of how or where, however, almost every piece of modern electronic equipment has at some point been in the hands of an Electronic Equipment Assembler.
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An Electronic Equipment Assembler most often works as part of an assembly line or production facility. He or she assembles and fabricates electronic products, meeting very precise specifications. Many different tools are used in the process, from hand-operated tools such as soldering guns and small power tools, to large automatic and semi-automatic machines. The work ranges from fairly basic and easy assembly work to complicated tasks that require advanced knowledge and experience. Assemblers often work with the designers and engineers in product development, sometimes assisting with prototypes and building test products. Workers must read and comprehend detailed blueprints and schematics.
A very important part of the job is quality control. Workers must conduct quality checks to identify faulty components and replace them at the source. Problems need to be fixed as early as possible in the stream, before large-scale manufacturing of defective products can occur.
Other parts of the job involve manually placing and soldering resistors, diodes, capacitors, transistors, wires, and integrated circuits onto printed circuit boards. These tasks may also be performed by assemblers operating machines to position, solder and seal parts onto printed circuit boards. Workers mount and fasten parts, align and adjust small components, and connect complex wiring. Microcircuits require fine hand assembly, or mechanical parts may need to be assembled onto frames or shelves.
Most equipment assemblers and fabricators work on a team, but there are some who specialize and only produce one type of product. Some do the same task repeatedly throughout the assembly process. In addition to electronic equipment assembly, there are several different areas assemblers can work: - electromechanical equipment such as household appliances
fiberglass laminators, building molds for boats and automobiles
aircraft systems, assembling avionics components, space vehicles or missiles
timing devices and calibrators
Most countries do not have standard education requirements and most training is on the job, but a high school diploma is required at minimum. Basic knowledge of electronics and some experience working with electrical components is an asset. Skilled assembly jobs may require technical education. Certification is available in the U.S.
There are a number of personal characteristics that are useful for an Electronic Equipment Assembler. They should have an aptitude for mechanics and enjoy operating equipment. Since work is often done on an assembly line, stamina and the ability to work at a steady and rapid pace is necessary. Good eyesight, including color vision, and good eye-hand coordination is a must. Other important features:
an ability to perform routine tasks carefully and with precision
ability to learn quickly
good reasoning skills and ability to troubleshoot problems
get along well with others
Some workers advance to supervisory positions, but this usually requires further education. There are opportunities to become equipment testers and inspectors. This may involve specialized training in electronic theory, testing techniques and testing equipment. Testers use testing equipment to locate faults, and must know how to repair these to specifications and prepare reports. Inspectors must have comprehensive knowledge of quality control standards and keep good inspection records.
The workplace is generally an assembly or manufacturing plant. Shift work is common, with manufacturing done around the clock. Most plants are located in large urban centers where there is good access to parts, services and customers. Production schedules may have peak periods to meet demand and deadlines, so assemblers may be hired on a temporary or short-term basis.
Wages vary depending on the industry, location and complexity of the work. Assemblers in Canada earn an average of $19 an hour, while wages in the U.S. range from $27,000 to $45,000 annually. Electronic Equipment Assemblers who have become testers or inspectors often can freelance and earn significantly more, particularly if they are perceived as experts in the field.
Wages overseas are impacted by those set in the U.S., since many large electronics manufacturers outsource equipment assembling to the Far East. Workers are benefiting from global customer mandates set by large American companies. For example, in 2012 workers in a technology company in China had pay and overtime rates increase significantly when Apple pushed for improved safety and better employee compensation in its global supply chain.