Meet The Team: Steve Cooke
IKONICS AMS is more than just Precision Abrasive Machining and slot perforations. We have an entire team dedicated to ensuring we are the preferred service provider of precision machining of composites, wafers and other brittle materials.
This month take a look behind-the-scenes with Steve Cooke, Composite Technician for IKONICS AMS, a division of the IKONICS Corporation. He is our composite technician and a key player in AMS precision abrasive manufacturing.
What do you do at IKONICS Advanced Material Solutions and in what circumstances would someone come to you for something?
I am a composite technician and work on wafers, liners, mask making, and I help fabricate a lot of supplies and tools that are useful to our AMS operations. I’m especially happy with the liner tables and jigs that I was able to create in helping our operational process and make things run smoother and more efficient.
What was your last job?
I worked as a CNC operator in a machine shop before coming to IKONICS, which helped prepare me for a competitive technology like Precision Abrasive Machining. I was not particularly fond of my last job, so it was a breath of fresh air to make a career change and now I am working in a career that I love. I have been at IKONICS now for 6 years and it is my plan to retire from here.
What is one professional skill you are currently working on?
Having an extensive background in cabinetry and wood working, a lot of the time you’re working down to measurements to 1/16”, so transitioning to working at IKONICS has been a learning lesson to grasp measurements of microns.
What is your go-to productivity trick?
With wafers, we have majorly revamped the process of how we mask, washout, and sandblast. I have figured out a way to save time and materials more efficiently. We typically would apply the photoresist mask to the wafer and then washout, but because so many wafer materials are so delicate, we tape the wafer to a fixture to prevent and damage or breaks from the high-pressured washout and blasting processes. We can do this by using vacuum hoses in our machines.
Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
My uncle, the owner of the cabinet shop that I worked at for 17 years, has been the most influential to my creative skills and work ethics. I always believe that you can learn something from just about everybody you work with, from the most experienced journeyman to the new kid apprentice. It is important to always keep an open mind to other’s capabilities and ideas.
What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute your success to, and why?
I hate to fail, but that has helped me in my day-to-day goals. I standby the motivational phrase, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again”. Basically, I like to keep an open mind because there is always more than one way to do something in order to overcome a challenge.
What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your position?
Some people may think that my job is easy, but it is very demanding and requires an extreme attention to detail. It has been a challenge learning this job with the miniscule measurements and having to be extra cautious with customer materials that may be hard to replicate. There is little room for errors.
What is one thing that surprised you about working at IKONICS?
I’m fortunate to work indirectly with my sister, Sherri, and learned beforehand a little about IKONICS and the manufacturing of sandblasting materials and screen-printing emulsions. I was surprised, however, that the AMS division worked on machining wafer parts and never realized that I would predominantly oversee and carryout those contracted jobs.
If you could add one thing to your office/division, what would it be?
A high-quality CNC machine would be nice in order to help make fixtures and other fabricating purposes for jigs and such. CNC machines can range roughly between $4k-$1m, which coincidentally shows how significant the price tag is on CNC drilling versus the IKONICS AMS PAM method.
What is something that you have done that most people would never guess?
I lived in Atlanta, GA for 17 years and was commissioned to build test pilot cockpits for the Lockheed Martin Stealth Fighter Jet and F-22 Raptor. That was a very neat experience.
What led you to this career?
I think I gravitated towards being a composites technician by way of being a creative, hands-on maker/woodworker. My paternal side of the family were all very creative crafters, whereas my grandfather was a furniture maker for Hammery Furniture Company and many family members excelled in cabinet-making and other fabricating activities. I love to spend my time outside of work building various crafts and furniture such as, whirligigs, custom bar stools, fishing lures and other home renovation projects.
Don’t hesitate to contact IKONICS AMS directly with any questions. We are here to help with all your advanced material needs. Call (800) 328-4261 or email us any time. We are here to help and support you!