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Need a Rockstar Machinist for Rocket Engine Components

Joined
Apr 14, 2018
Location
Airstrip One, Oceania
If I were a wannabe rockstar, ready to take this on, I can say for sure I still wouldn't because it passes the sniff test for disaster.

If I'm going to be responsible for manufacturing, then I am going to choose the machines, the tools, the software, the q/a equipment, and I am going to be neck-deep in all the decisions about starting this process. Walking into something where a bunch of brilliant people who have never drilled a hole in their life already made these choices is like getting into the ring with Tyson with your shoes tied together, your gloves on backwards, and your cup on the wrong side of your shorts. Guaranteed to make you look like a flocking idiot and probably get hurt bad in the process. I don't care if he is fifty years old, Mike could still beat the crap out of anyone here.

If they really wanted to hire someone to do this, then they need to hire someone who knows his shit then hand him the reins.
 

cameraman

Diamond
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Thanks for the advice and for interpreting this listing written by a non-machinist. Our need is foremost to solve lead-time challenges with a few key components that end up pacing development efforts. While expensive (but actually pretty reasonable considering the type of aerospace hardware), our vendor base has us covered on every front other than sub-2-week development work.

^^^ The ability to iterate and do stuff in house in line with an active testing program seems pretty vital. Given that you guys don't want to be beaten (to the post) by other competitors there's no reason to have a bottle neck. For things that are not 100% defined or still in flux design wise - in house capability is the only way to go (IMO). I'm not a real machinist; actually got into machining originally as ironically liquid propellant rockets was my 'Jam" since I was kid and teenager - so have been "Following" production processes for various propulsion systems in aerospace for about 35 years lol. - There's a lot to learn from in terms of designing process, but also helpful to slap one's self in the face that 'We" don't have a $40BN budget. That's why the "Peeps" here on PM forum can be super useful and helpful for very artful (budget preserving) process hacks.



Eventually we will need more machinists and equipment for sure, however I'm also certain that we need at least one machinist in-house at the point in time that these decisions are being made, shuddering to think of the monstrosity that a full-on manufacturing operation designed completely by engineers might look like. The tools you list were all in-house at a turbomachinery company I used to work at, and would certainly round-out our capabilities down the road.

^^^ Once you figure out YOUR process things should fall nicely into place. As long as you don't shy away from the core issues or most difficult technical challenges (which I'm sure you guys square up to ). What do they say "The Obstacle is the way". A very clear headed analysis of tolerances and referenced geometries usually pulls that one into focus + (materials) + all manner of distortions that you guys on the engineering front have probably modeled the "snot" out of already and have contingencies for.



Additive Manufacturing of metals gets a deservedly bad rap in many applications, however propulsion is one industry where it is having an enormous impact, and has really induced a shift in the way we think about propulsion technology and manufacturing completely. We're excited to be doing this work in the heart of the US.

^^^ I think the processes you eventually figure out will develop into serious and unique capabilities and potentially a corner stone of the business. Just the basic know-how is super valuable.

Having what used to be multiple components fused into single complex entities does make for super efficient and light weight engines + newer designs.

@Austin, are you happy with current inspection techniques ? For example is everything x-rayed two dimensionally and three dimensionally ? Or do you have methods of 3d texture analysis for "Additive manufactured" metallic surfaces ? Methods of combining white light imagery + metrological data + X ray analysis/ use of penetrative dyes ~ (all three dimensionally registered )? [I throw that out there as that seems like imaging would eventually be an important key to reliability and QC. ? ].



The machinist would be responsible for around 10 components (primarily) across two engine families that are subject to frequent change and adjustment during development. From there, other parts as possible or necessary.

^^^ That doesn't seem too hideous. I guess you guys are also modifying your test stands and what not and have welders and other fabricators on site as well ?

@afeathers1 You mention DMG Mori and 5 axis mill turn + palette systems , is that a 5 axis vertical mill turn ? Wondering what brochures you might have been flipping through :-)

PM forum can in some instances be super helpful for "Lemon" avoidance of certain troublesome models that have yet to have all the kinks ironed out. From that point of view PM has terrific value in helping (as much as anyone can) from committing multi million dollar purchase mistakes and in some cases avoid much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth. Every Machine Tool Builder and local operation has it's strengths and weaknesses and always good to play to a particular firms strengths.

The local sales 'Peeps" in CO for DMG MORI are very good as typically they don't want to steer people in the wrong direction. I.e. If they suspect or have internal knowledge of one platform being quite troublesome or a bad fit they will typically try to steer folks to more rock solid and reliable systems (as much as anyone can).


Anyway - apologies for 'Randomness" ,

Hope it goes well and try to keep us posted how you make out with it all,

Cheers,

Eric
 

cameraman

Diamond
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Last full time job I had made aerospace prototype hardware. Turnover was low, as the hourly rate was average for the area, but typical work weeks were 66 hours, so paychecks were quite respectable.

The problem they had was finding replacements when machinists or programmers quit. what they found was 9 out of 10 machinist/programmers didn't make it past the first week. Some didn't make it to the end of the first day. Despite these candidates having great resumes. And this will be your experience, and if that's the case do you or your company know how to evaluate the new Rockstar before you hire him/her? What happens when you hire somebody from California, they move to Colorado, and it's evident they can't even use an edge finder, despite years of cnc experience on their resume?



I know three people who could do the job for you
No1 wouldn't get out of bed for less than $125K.
No2 would work for you, probably end up in a fist fight with somebody in the first week, almost impossible to work with. Still lives with his mother, that's if he isn't in jail.
No3 just moved from Seattle to head up the shop at a start up in Vegas. Not going to want to move again for what your likely going to want to pay him.

^^^ I wish I could give this five likes,

It's a pretty accurate assessment of the topic / situation (me-finks ).
 

afeathers1

Plastic
Joined
Jan 20, 2021
I agree,

Not a terrible starting price/salary if someone applying is a 'Wannabe"-'Rockstar". Want's to learn or has time built in to learn.

There's some really intriguing processes to close the gap on between 3d print and fixtures---> Machining processes + inspection techniques. More than just "Probing" some really interesting stuff on the digital frontier and deeper mathematical issues. Especially if production processes for a greater number of propulsion systems has to be developed out of that. Tricky to automate with current or more conventional processes.

Potentially some really advanced stuff there.

Even if the company tanks a few years from now (or conversely is acquired or both) MUCH can be learnt (for someone)/ excellent learning opportunity.

It's one of those business models where they put all their wood behind one set of systems where in fact their nascent machining effort might provide the possibility of broadening out their capabilities. Long term that might be a less risky stratagem.

___________


IME watch out for the 'Rockstar"* concept; if said "Rockstar" leaves (for any number of reasons) then it can take months to fill those shoes and figure out what's going on ~ worse for software development and "Rockstar" programmers. For such a machinist would be wise to make sure everyone above and below know what he or she is really doing.

@feathers1 mentions being "Horizontally integrated" - I can't even imagine what it must be costing them to get 100% of these components for new propulsion systems manufactured externally. Must be ungodly expensive annually.

I can see the logic of progressively moving certain elements in-house just to incrementally cut costs; but I don't see the people they contract to manufacture their existing parts to be too helpful in that regard in how to become more independent.

DMG MORI (locally) [what was Triad] is not too bad at all.

Sounds like whoever they hire will be twiddling their thumbs for a long time before more production oriented equipment arrives etc. Other than going through tons of engineering literature related to their systems.

__________

* Why "Rockstar" ? Why not a "Mozart Machinist" (too expensive) - "EDM maestro " - with a plastic helmet with giant mouse ears or Bhungra star ?

??? machinist.

Having trouble keeping up with all the feedback, appreciative of every word.

My background is in additive design, and is the real trick to get it close to "AM print" (think of it as the casting). You've got anisotropic scaling to apply, surface finish changing everywhere, and properties changing as a function of overhang, finish, and wall thickness. It's difficult to control, but the more that's done in-house the better from a quality perspective.

We're definitely looking for folks who aren't set in old ways, and who are ready to learn.

"Rockstar" sure could have been a poor choice of words. Humility is also desired. I understand that you can never turn one knob without turning others personality-wise.

Our vendor base is great. Expensive, but capable and has worked for us so far. Vendors have been surprisingly supportive of some in-house development capacity. They've often been more helpful than they'd probably like regarding a shortage or development necessity, and the idea is probably appealing for that reason. We've dropped off pizza and beer more than once.

I've heard from folks who are a fan of the distributor-less DMG Mori, and others who swore by Triad. It seems like most opinions and recommendations are based on reliability and service experience.

Regarding the gap between a hire and machine delivery, we see at least a few months worth of pallet and fixture selection, modeling, and procurement, in addition to carbide, tooling, shop necessities, etc. In fact I'd be surprised if our base capability even beat the machine in terms of lead-time.

Thanks and regards,

- Austin
 

afeathers1

Plastic
Joined
Jan 20, 2021
Last full time job I had made aerospace prototype hardware. Turnover was low, as the hourly rate was average for the area, but typical work weeks were 66 hours, so paychecks were quite respectable.

The problem they had was finding replacements when machinists or programmers quit. what they found was 9 out of 10 machinist/programmers didn't make it past the first week. Some didn't make it to the end of the first day. Despite these candidates having great resumes. And this will be your experience, and if that's the case do you or your company know how to evaluate the new Rockstar before you hire him/her? What happens when you hire somebody from California, they move to Colorado, and it's evident they can't even use an edge finder, despite years of cnc experience on their resume?



I know three people who could do the job for you
No1 wouldn't get out of bed for less than $125K.
No2 would work for you, probably end up in a fist fight with somebody in the first week, almost impossible to work with. Still lives with his mother, that's if he isn't in jail.
No3 just moved from Seattle to head up the shop at a start up in Vegas. Not going to want to move again for what your likely going to want to pay him.

I think we've got vetting a good candidate handled reasonably well among our group. A handful of us are hobby cnc machinists with a better-than-nothing understanding of the basic software, equipment and instruments involved. It's definitely the greatest perceived risk at this point.

I think we've already screened No1 and No2, we'll talk to No3 in a few weeks :P

Thanks and regards,

- Austin
 

Halcohead

Stainless
Joined
Apr 10, 2005
Location
Bay Area, Ca
I don't know Afeathers1, but Ursa is no joke and this would be an excellent opportunity for an early career machinist who wants to get their foot in the door for high-end R&D machining (based on the feedback I've gotten from people who have visited and worked there). Ursa Major has the highest performing rocket engines in the world under 10,000 pounds thrust. This is no small feat and they couldn't have achieved this without engineers and vendors with a very strong handle on machining. I held and inspected an early prototype Ursa Major main combustion chamber (rocket engine), printed by a US national lab. The design and fabrication was very well executed.

I've been doing work closely related to Ursa Major's for nearly a decade. I did lots of very similar work to this job early in my career, and it was a fantastic opportunity for improvement as both a machinist and mechanical engineer. You never get stuck with long production and the engineers ask for your feedback so you don't just make parts that go to space, you help design them. Ursa has parts toleranced to single microns, and their machinists will know 718 inconel and 6Al-4V titanium better than most people know 6061 aluminum.

Places like Ursa don't bring machining in-house to save on production, they do it to shorten R&D timelines and improve their designs. This means they value the machinists' feedback almost as much as the parts they make, which is a rare, precious thing. It means the in-house machinists only make the "special" parts, the ones where you can't just dump it on any shop with a VF3, and the shops that can take the job are booked out 8+ weeks.

I stayed out of this thread at first because I had nothing to say but "good luck". Austin, good call posting the listing here, I hope you've found some compelling candidates. Hiring similar roles in SF, $75k feels low but you've already addressed that. Also I haven't been involved in hiring machinists in a few years and have no idea how wages compare in Co.

It would be cool if people here gave newcomers a bit more benefit of the doubt. I understand being skeptical of people without shopfloor experience, but job listings like this one are tremendous opportunities and a real gift to share with the PM community. PM would benefit if we didn't scare them off.

No personal relation to Ursa other than knowing the industry well and watching them grow over the last 6+ years.
 

triumph406

Titanium
Joined
Sep 14, 2008
Location
ca
I think we've got vetting a good candidate handled reasonably well among our group. A handful of us are hobby cnc machinists with a better-than-nothing understanding of the basic software, equipment and instruments involved. It's definitely the greatest perceived risk at this point.

I think we've already screened No1 and No2, we'll talk to No3 in a few weeks :P

Thanks and regards,

- Austin

Judging by the carichtures of your team, and the photos, It's evident that your staff tend towards the younger end of the spectrum. So probably very enthusistic, maybe quite forthright with their opinions. The Rockstar isn't going to want to know how you would run the part on your Tormach at home.

Somehow during the interview process you will have to make sure Mr Rockstar machinist plays well with others. A lot of them don't. It's evident here if you read a lot of threads here you'd see a lot of machinists here don't have much respect for engineers. That would be the last person you'd want.

If you've chosen the CAD software you want to use, get the candidate to program a part. If you haven't chosen a CAD system, find out what the candidate uses, if it's NX get a demo seat, or Catia etc. If he/she says Fusion 360 kick them out of the door. If you don't give him a CAD test, at least have them describe how they would make the part. But that assumes the interveiwer is very knowledgeable about machining processes and can tell if the candidate really knows his stuff.
 

Rewt

Hot Rolled
Joined
Sep 17, 2015
Location
Cleveland
I think we've got vetting a good candidate handled reasonably well among our group. A handful of us are hobby cnc machinists with a better-than-nothing understanding of the basic software, equipment and instruments involved. It's definitely the greatest perceived risk at this point.

I think we've already screened No1 and No2, we'll talk to No3 in a few weeks :P

Thanks and regards,

- Austin


*snicker*

The only difference between hobby CNC "machinists" and not is that you might know where the power button is and are dangerous enough to instigate a rapid negative Z crash.

The pay range you're looking for is $120k and up.
 

kustomizer

Titanium
Joined
Aug 17, 2007
Location
North Fork Idaho
Likely as not, most of us are out because we are "too set in our ways" though I have had little use over the years for the ones that are "too flexable in their ways", where does one find the one in the middle? I can't think that I know even one.
 

triumph406

Titanium
Joined
Sep 14, 2008
Location
ca
^^^ as ironically liquid propellant rockets was my 'Jam" since I was kid and teenager - so have been "Following" production processes for various propulsion systems in aerospace for about 35 years lol. -

Eric

I worked at PERME (propulsion,explosives, rocket motor establishment) near Aylesbury as student engineer for 6 months in 1983. I was supposed to be working on a flat plate valve, that the the head of liquids Frank Henderson had dreamed up.

Unfortuantly for PERME there was a fully equipped workshop inn the back of the building, and an almost unlimited supply of exotic materials. So I spent most of my time making parts for my motorcycles.

The valve I worked on did get tested on the last day I was there, made a lot of noise, not sure if the thrust was as expected.
 

dalmatiangirl61

Diamond
Joined
Jan 31, 2011
Location
BFE Nevada/San Marcos Tx
If I was younger, and knew anything about cnc machines, I'd be all over this. Sounds like a cool job, build it and run it to destruction, then build it better. Job security + you might actually go somewhere in life.
 

metalmadness

Hot Rolled
Joined
Nov 25, 2015
I can certify we'd crash a real machine faster and more efficiently than any machinist or layperson you could find.

Hey Feathers, I sent you a PM about the position.

I dunno if Im a rock star but I'm pretty much exactly what you're looking for
 

SBAER

Hot Rolled
Joined
Aug 21, 2006
Location
Kitchener, on canada
I hired a machinist for a position that required a pretty unique (machining/electronics/programming) skillset by posting on PM and I actually found the needle in the haystack.
 








 
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