Friday, August 24, 2012

Peace Out, Baylis!

This summer I got my first big boy job (ie: anything more than part-time), working as an engineering assistant at Baylis Medical Company in Toronto, ON. Today, my contract with them expires, so I decided to tell my tale of blood, sweat, and anodized aluminum.

NOTE: I have not included pictures of anything I have done because my soul is bound by a blood contract I made with the Devil HR when I started.

"What does an engineering assistant do exactly?" you might ask. "Did you science things? Did you build killer death robots? Did you fetch coffee for all the engineers?" As much as I would have loved to do those first two, I'm still content with the projects I worked on because I got to (kinda almost sort of indirectly) work with motherfucking lasers.

Absolutely exactly like this. Not even exaggerating. Nope. Not even a little bit.
But first, let me start from the beginning. I came to Baylis, a medical company. They deal with needles and catheters and all manner of tubing that gets shoved into your body. Coming from a background of 2 years studying mechanical engineering, I was a little out of my element. During my training they dropped words that I didn't even know existed. Bypassing cardioneuroendoarterialvascular ablations, you say?

"Yeah, I totally know how to bypart cardio-whatsamajiger abla-blahs. I can solve those by like, adding up vectors, right?"
Turns out I was scheduled for R&D training, but was positioned in the production department. So after a week of training in a skill set I thought I wouldn't be using all summer, I was totally down to assist in engineering the shit out of some production problems. Or whatever. I had no idea what I would be doing.

I got my first project. "Eliminating Process Control Burdens". Fuck yeah. How awesome is that? I had no idea what a process control was, but I knew burdens were bad, and I'd be eliminating them. Like a superhero. Pow! Take that burden, you crazy motherfucker! I was so ready.

So one of my supervisors, Francis, sat me down in front of an old school laptop (my dad had the exact same model like, 10 years ago) and opened up Microsoft Excel. He explained what I'd be doing, which was essentially compiling statistics to help them figure out what they could cut from their process controls (which is pretty much quality control). Stats. Alright. I took a class in stats. Once. I think.

I'll not go into the details of what I had to do, but I assure you, it was about as fun as watching paint dry from  a mile away. Luckily, all this statistical nonsense was something one of my other supervisors, Gil, wanted me to do. Francis had something else in mind for me. He told me one of the assembly line workers needed help with making a product and he needed a wrench to fit into a tiny space to tighten a nut. That's what I'm talking about. I got to design a wrench to be made. There was a problem, and I was solving it. We printed out a copy of the wrench with the office's new 3D printer to be tested. It totally works. Fuck yeah.

After procrastinating my process controls project, I was handed two more design-related projects. The first was simple. An engineer had a jig made that needed to be drawn up using SolidWorks (a 3D modeling computer program). The jig was made by Polform, a local tooling shop which is a "you give us an idea and we'll just keep fastening a whole whack of metal together until it does what you want" kind of operation. Since they use this trial and error method, they don't usually work off existing drawings, thus making the drawings I was tasked to do necessary if we ever went to a conventional machine shop.

The second extra project was to design a jig. This is where the motherfucking lasers come in. The jig used to help in welding a product (it just clamped the product down and provided argon gas to help with the welding) was really inconsistent, so Francis asked me to "just design one that's not so shitty". The motherfucking lasers are what kick off the welding process. Another problem to solve! Time to put on my engineering hat and get down to work. I worked on the jig on and off for probably three of the four months I was there (I totally used those R&D skills I thought I wouldn't ever use), and finally today we tested a prototype to see if it everything was all honkey-dorey, and honkey-dorey it was. We put in an order to a machine shop to get all of the parts made so we can have a for-realzies jig, made out of aluminum, steel and magnets so strong they can murder you. I guess half check off that bit earlier on about building killer death robots.

Neodymium magnets? More like Neoholy-shitium magnets. Whatever. It sounded witty in my head.
I got a couple more odd drawing projects over the summer, a few dealing with the layout of the Baylis building, because apparently I have a background in architecture. Sure. Why not. For the end of my summer, I focused more on that process control project, and eliminated the shit out of some burdens.

That's about all I did as far as work content goes. I enjoyed Baylis not only for the work, but in fact, mostly for the people. The other students I worked with over the four months were all awesome people, and I'm really glad I had the opportunity to get to know them. Don, Linda, Tiff, Hina and Simrin, if you're reading this, this is for you. The engineers and production staff were all fantastic as well, always quick to answer my bumbling and idiotic questions with a smile on their face. I give a big thank you to everyone who helped me not suck balls at my job for the past four months.

I guess overall I had a pretty fuckin' sweet work term.

That's all for now, folks!

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