Sunday, March 23, 2014

INTRODUCE YOUR ENGINEERS AND YOUR TECHS TO EACH OTHER

Coating engineers and coating technicians don't typically mingle with each other. This is a detriment to productivity and efficiency. They are on the same team and their goals are the same.
Discussing design and deposition. Photo credit - Niagara College Canada

Most coating engineers are university graduates with Masters and PhD's. With an intimate understanding of physics, wave theory and quantum electrodynamics, engineers bring high value to any company designing coatings that make optical devices work. When it comes down to it, without coatings optical devices would be useless. But with little experience actually depositing thin films using your equipment in your lab, it's essential that engineers spend time in your lab.

Most coating technicians start working in your lab with no thin film experience at all. It's always a struggle to hire a new coating technician.

Usually a new coating technician is new to the technology, or at least new to your equipment. There's a steep learning curve during their training. It's inevitable that new techs learn the hard way - by making mistakes (I know I did). Only with the passing of time and that hard earned experience do techs become familiar with equipment and materials that may be new to them. And which processes do what for your products.

With the above two statements being the common truth you can minimize mistakes and inefficiencies by introducing your engineers to your technicians. Engineers should talk to techs about the equipment they use and techs should find out how and why a particular coating design is being implemented.

If engineers are familiar with your coating chambers and their individual "personalities" (see the Chamber Characterization post) they will become more efficient designers by knowing what is and isn't practically possible before they start. Have your engineers spend time in the lab learning from your technicians. After all, it's usually the engineers that require the characterization data and the techs doing the characterization.

If techs have a better understanding of the coatings they are asked to deposit they will be aware of what to look for while operating the coating machines they've become so familiar with. They will become better trouble shooters. They will produce more efficiently. Make sure your techs know how sensitive a design may be and which layers may be the cause of a performance failure. They'll set up the chamber and materials and monitor the deposition process with these details in mind.

Bring your entire team together. When you have meetings make sure your engineers and your technicians are side by side and have a complete understanding of the product goals. Eliminate that all too common gap that exists in your team. Get your engineers and techs talking to each other more often.

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