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Pyrometallurgical Engineer


Description

Pyrometallurgical engineers are constantly being compared to alchemists since both are known for their abilities to transform metals into more valuable products. However, the main difference between these two careers is that we can physically and scientifically prove that engineers are performing these great feats. Metals are being synthesized and formed into useful products everyday by pyrometallurgical engineers. Whether it is silver flatware, plant hangers, iron golf clubs, or key rings, they were all designed and developed by these engineers. Pyrometallurgical engineers design and develop heat-based processes and equipment to concentrate, extract, refine and process metals and other materials.

Pyrometallurgical engineers study the nature and properties of different metals and materials and conduct high temperature experiments to design new products that can be commercially sold. They extract and obtain pure metals and ore through various extractive processes such as refining (see refining engineer), welding, fusing and smelting metals. Smelting is a process that melts metal in extreme heat to separate metal from surrounding ore. This process has been utilized for a long time now and is highly effective. They also control temperature adjustments, change mixtures and other variables in blast-furnace operations and steel-melting furnaces to obtain pig iron and steel of specified metallurgical characteristics and qualities.

Some pyrometallurgical engineers work at creating new pyrometallurgic processes and equipment. This involves research, design and testing. The research stage is crucial as it consists of formulating theories using mathematical and scientific principles to determine whether or not a plan will work. A number of factors must be considered when working with different materials, for example, its properties and whether or not it has the strength to withstand high temperatures. The design component applies the research to create and produce a product. Finally, the testers literally test the products for safety and quality.

Pyrometallurgical engineers usually work with a team of other engineers, technicians and scientists and make sure that everything is running smoothly and safely. If they do find faults within a mechanism, they will work at creating solutions to prevent potential disasters. Some engineers also work at improving already existing products in order to make them more user-friendly or environmentally sustainable.

Pyrometallurgical engineers are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Pyrometallurgical engineers should possess a natural sense of scientific curiosity when it comes to materials, minerals and metals because they have to create new and improved products from these organic materials. Therefore, they enjoy difficult problem solving, analyzing scientific experiments and finding faster and cheaper methods for production. Some thrive on the hands-on component of the job where they actually get to work with their designs. Pyrometallurgical engineers have the ability to work both independently and in a team environment and also enjoy communicating with fellow workers and clients.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Study the properties and characteristics of metallic and non-metallic materials
  • Conduct processes for moulding, shaping and melding metals
  • Use thermal and mechanical treatments to modify alloy properties
  • Research, develop and monitor processes for extracting metals from ores, such as refining or smelting
  • Conduct chemical and physical analytical studies, failure analyses and other studies and recommend material selection, design of materials, corrosion control measures, operational testing and other procedures
  • Determine appropriate methods for fabricating and joining materials
  • Monitor material performance and evaluate material deterioration
  • Analyze material failures to find causes and develop solutions
  • Supervise technologists, technicians and other engineers and scientists.
  • A typical day for pyrometallurgical engineers will vary according to the area they specialize in. Most spend more time in the laboratory or industrial factory yet there is also office time as well. Many work an average 40 to 50-hour workweek and will put in longer hours when a deadline is coming near or an emergency occurs. Those working in and around smelting furnaces and welding machines will encounter heat, dust and noise. Senior engineers may spend more time in an office performing managerial functions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Pyrometallurgical engineers can work in so many different fields of engineering because many machines, structures and electronics require metals and similar products. They are often employed by government research organizations, materials testing laboratories, electronics companies, aerospace and marine design, car companies, primary metal producers, mineral processing plants, energy conservation firms, household appliances, petroleum refineries and oil companies and finally, engineering consulting firms specializing in corrosion, pipeline maintenance and other metallurgical work.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Since the pyrometallurgical engineering field is quite specialized, some may say there is no room for movement or advancement. Yet this is a myth. Those with production experience could move into sales or customer service positions. Since they are so knowledgeable about the products they produce, they would be perfect representatives.

Pyrometallurgical engineers can open up their own consulting firms and focus their work primarily on research and development work. Those working in large companies can move into management positions and lead engineering companies. Finally, pyrometallurgical engineers with PhDs can also teach at the postsecondary level.
 

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics and chemistry. Most university programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Pyrometallurgical engineers require a bachelor's degree in metallurgical or materials engineering or in a related engineering field. Then, they must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get master's degrees in a specific area, such as ceramics engineering.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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