Fluid Power Technicians
Exploring this Job
Your school or public library should have books that explain the field of fluid power. If you happen to live near one of the schools that offer a degree in fluid power technology, it may be possible to arrange a meeting with instructors or students in the program. Talking with a fluid power technician can be an excellent way of learning about the job firsthand. Finally, taking certain classes, such as machine shop, physics, or electronics, might help you gauge your enjoyment and ability level for this work.
You should also visit Your Career in Fluid Power (http://web.nfpa.com/education/careervideo/videos.html) to watch videos about education and careers in the field.
Many different machines use some kind of fluid power system, including equipment used in industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, defense, and mining. We come across fluid power systems every day when we use automatic door closers, bicycle pumps, and spray guns. Even automobile transmissions incorporate fluid power.
There are two types of fluid power machines. The first kind—hydraulic machines—use water, oil, or another liquid in a closed system to transmit the energy needed to do work. For example, a hydraulic jack, which can be used to lift heavy loads, is a cylinder with a piston fitted inside it. When a liquid is pumped into the bottom of the cylinder, the piston is forced upward, lifting the weight on the jack. To lower the weight, the liquid is released through a valve, returning the pressure in the system to normal.
Pneumatic machines, the other type of fluid power systems, are activated by the pressure of air or another gas in a closed system. Pavement-breaking jackhammers and compressed-air paint sprayers are common examples of pneumatic machines.
Fluid power systems are a part of most machines used in industry, so fluid power technicians work in many different settings. Most often, however, they work in factories where fluid power systems are used in manufacturing. In such a factory, for example, they might maintain and service pneumatic machines that bolt together products on an automated assembly line.
In their work, fluid power technicians analyze blueprints, drawings, and specifications; set up various milling, shaping, grinding, and drilling machines; make precision parts; use sensitive measuring instruments to make sure the parts are exactly the required size; and use hand and power tools to put together components of the fluid power system they are assembling or repairing.
Technicians may also test fluid power systems. To determine whether a piece of equipment is working properly, they connect the unit to test equipment that measures such factors as fluid pressure, flow rates, and power loss from friction or wear. Based on their analysis of the test results, they may advise changes in the equipment setup or instrumentation.
Some technicians work for companies that research better ways to develop and use fluid power systems. They work in laboratories as part of research and development teams who set up fluid power equipment and test it under operating conditions. Other technicians work as sales and service representatives for companies that make and sell fluid power equipment to industrial plants. These technicians travel from one plant to another, providing customers with specialized information and assistance with their equipment. Some technicians repair and maintain fluid power components of heavy equipment used in construction, on farms, or in mining. Because fluid power technology is important in the flight controls, landing gear, and brakes of airplanes, many technicians are also employed in the aviation industry.