Playing With Robots

I was assigned to an area in the printed circuitboard department that uses robots. I wasn’t expecting this. In my mind I imagined I’d be sitting hunched over at a workbench toiling mindlessly on little green slabs. Instead I am standing up over a robot and toiling mindlessly on little green slabs.

The job is simple, but repetative. I grab a box of half a dozen circuitboards and bring it to my station. Place one board upsidedown in the robot and select the appropriate program on a computer next to it. The computers we use are jacked up. It’s a really old model with a touch sensitive screen and none of the displays work well anymore. They told me to use a pencil eraser on the display because fingers don’t seem to register. You can tap on the screen item all day and it won’t do a damn thing, but a pencil eraser does the trick. These clunker computers are grimy and at first glance look like an old Apple IIe because of the monochrome green displays. Once the selected program is running the robot jumps into action. It’s essentially a syringe needle that can travel in X, Y, and Z axis over the boards and dispense a light yellow or pink goo. The goo covers up metal plating that they don’t want to get solder contamination on. When the group of circuitboards have been gooed, we put them on oven racks and they get baked for a couple of hours. After baking, the goo is a hard vinyl and solder doesn’t adhere to it. The boards get re-boxed and sent on to the next step in the process. Little droplets of yellow and pink goo are dried up all over the place. It’s sloppy here.

There’s six of these needle robots in our area. The stepper motors in each one of them are very noisy. When all six are running it’s sounds like industrial/white noise music from the late 1970s. It’s kinda cool. Apparently a bunch of the workers close to our area think it’s un-cool though and they complained so much about the noise that maintenance put up a 7 foot tall wall around us to try and dampen the robotic cacophony. The wall doesn’t seem to have actually reduced the motor noise. If anything else it has amplified it and bounced it back across the hallway at another area. Those guys haven’t complained about the noise pollution though. Maybe all the people across the hallway are deaf. Anyway I’d like to put up razor wire along the top of the wall and add a couple of searchlights at either end. It would help to keep some of the nitwits and kooks from the PC board lines out of my area. I’ve discovered a high kook-and-nitwit concentration here at Bill and Dave’s company.

I’m surrounded by 50 copies of my mom in this department. I’m over six feet tall and scrawny, so the ladies here are always trying to feed me. It’s kinda funny. They come up to me in the hallways or out on the shop floor and shove snacks and stuff in my face because I look like I must be starving. Poor me. I have to come up with more and more creative excuses to politely decline their offers of whatever they made at home that day. Sometimes I think I just dodged a culinary bullet when I get a close look at their kitchen concoctions. I have to come up with some plausible reason why I can’t eat any. It’s tough work making shit up all the time so I don’t have to sample their grub. Whew.

So far I like the job. Hope it lasts…

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~ by factorypeasant on September 4, 2004.

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