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Die makers are manufacturing experts who specialize in designing, producing, and finishing metal forms and casts. They utilize hand and power tools as well as computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines to create precision dies. A person who wants to become a die maker is usually required to earn a high school diploma, complete a four- to five-year formal apprenticeship, and pass a regional licensing or certification test. Once licensed, a professional can pursue jobs in machinist shops, manufacturing plants, forging and stamping corporations, and many other industrial settings.
An individual who wants to become a die maker can begin learning skills in high school. Shop courses are especially important, as they provide students with a basic understanding of metalworking tools, techniques, and safety measures. In addition, a future die maker can benefit from taking computer science, mathematics, and communications courses. A student might also consider learning a basic computer-aided drafting (CAD) program since professional die makers often use CAD software to design new forms and presses. Introductory CAD programs are available from online specialty retailers and many computer and electronics stores.
After graduating from high school, a person who wants to become a die maker may choose to enroll in a specialty program at a technical school to improve his or her credentials and chances of finding work. In fact, some employers require that applicants hold certificates from accredited technical schools. During a program, a student receives detailed classroom and hands-on instruction to learn the specialized techniques necessary to become a die maker. Technical school instructors can also help a student apply for job openings at local machinist shops and manufacturing plants.
A formal apprenticeship is necessary to become a die maker. As an apprentice, an individual works alongside experienced die makers to improve his or her skills and understanding of the trade. He or she learns how to work with specialized CAD software and how to program CNC machines to cut and shape metal. A successful apprentice is gradually given more responsibilities as he or she gains experience. After four to five years, he or she is usually allowed to start working independently.
Many regions and countries require die makers to take licensing exams after completing apprenticeship programs. The licensing exam tests a worker's understanding of safety, laws, and standard procedures. By earning a license and gaining several years of experience, a die maker may have the opportunity to advance to a supervisory or engineering position. In addition, some talented workers have success in opening their own shops.
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