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Precision/CNC Machinist

Department: Science Technical Services Effective Date: July 21, 2010


37.5 hr/wk

Reports to: Machine Shops Supervisor

General Accountability

The position reports to the Machine Shops Supervisor.
The incumbent, a skilled machinist, will be required to work on projects of various complexity submitted by Science Faculty, Staff and Grad Students.

Nature and Scope

Science Machine Shop is part of the Science Technical Services Department (STS). Other units are: Electronic Shop, Stores and Student Machine Shop, which is part of Machine Shop. Presently the main Machine Shop consists of five staff members including the supervisor. Occasionally, when workload requires, extra persons may be hired on temporary or part-time basis.


The supervisor of the Machine Shop reports to STS Manager in all financial and administrative matters.


All machinists and the supervisor, who also doubles as a machinist whenever possible, operate in a similar fashion, the main difference being the years of experience and particular area of strength. Examples of operations performed are: machining (conventional lathe and mill and CNC mill and lathe) and welding of various materials, cutting, soldering, sheet metal working, drilling, vacuum testing, anodizing, mechanical repairs to various equipment and instruments. Often the value of research equipment, which needs STS department intervention, exceeds 1mln dollars. Important decisions need to be made almost on every day basis when repairing such equipment in terms of safety of the personnel or possible serious and expensive damage to the equipment if mistakes were made. Examples: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Instruments, Laser Systems, X-ray Instruments, Electron Microscopes, Environmental Chambers, Mass Spectrometers, Gaz Chromatographs, low temperature physics and superconductivity instruments, etc.

Thousands of dollars are saved by servicing these instruments in-house instead of sending them for repairs, often outside Canada.


Customers: Faculty, Staff and Grad Students from the Faculty of Science, but also increasingly from other faculties and departments of UW and occasionally from outside the Campus submit the work requests to the Machine Shop supervisor, or in his absence to his assistant. The supervisor, assesses feasibility of the submitted projects, distributes the jobs to the machinists, assigns priority and passes general information about the project to the machinist. The size of the projects varies from simple modifications to an instrument taking only minutes to finish to construction of highly complex new equipment valued at $60,000 or more and taking up to a year to complete.


After receiving the work order,  the machinist works on some technical details and methods of execution of the project, discusses the details with the Supervisor, and if necessary meets with the customer to discuss them.  Machinist may have to make various decisions affecting performance and cost of the fabrication.   He/she may seek advice of the other staff, or use various resources such as: scientific publications, professional journals, Internet resources, etc.  Some design concepts and methods may need to be tried on an experimental basis before finalizing the design. Once the solution is accepted, the Supervisor will verify it, find the supplier, obtain the quotes and submit this information to the administrative assistant of the department for ordering of parts and materials. The final product may be the essential piece of instrumentation for the researcher.


Another important activity of the STS department is to provide technical support for teaching activities in all departments of the Faculty of Science. This includes support to professors teaching various courses when they need demonstration equipment, and to demonstrators teaching undergrad labs. Such equipment may need to be designed, built, repaired, modified, tested, calibrated or assembled on a very short notice.


This support includes providing access to the Faculty of Science students, staff and professors to some basic machine tools (lathes, mills and other equipment) through the Student Machine Shop open half daily.


On a rotating basis one of  Machinists may be asked to supervise the people working in the Student Machine Shop.


All activities of the STS: financial transactions, work orders, purchase orders, time keeping, etc, are traced using two part software system: one custom designed internally and one commercial. The end of month and the end of year reports are sent to Financial Services department.

End results are the financial statements showing expenses and revenues.

Statistical Data



Specific Accountabilities

1.The incumbent will need to select the manufacturing methods, for instance whether to use a conventional lathe, mill, or a CNC Mill, and what materials to use.  The instrument to be built must be produced in a cost-effective manner and be of appropriate quality and conform to current safety standards. A search for a suitable design may be necessary and some design concepts and methods may need to be tried on an experimental basis before finalizing the design. Interacting with a customer or the reading of scientific publications will often be required to obtain additional information in order to solve the problem. Working to the highest achievable precision is very often required. The projects can be miniature (sub-millimeters) in size, to a few meters large when assembled.

2. Well-versed knowledge of AUTOCAD software is desired as in most cases only verbal communication or rough hand sketches are available when the project is submitted and re-drawing them in AUTOCAD format may be needed.

3. Programming of the CNC Mill is required.

4. Fabrication using sheet metal techniques is necessary.

5. Use of conventional welding techniques is required during fabrication of various equipment. Knowledge of soldering and silver-soldering techniques is mandatory.

6. Work both independently, and in a team environment.

7. Participate in the end of year inventory taking and maintenance of shop equipment.

Working Conditions