Job Descriptions, Definitions Roles, Responsibility: Boilermakers
Boilermakers and boilermaker mechanics make, install, and repair boilers, vats, and other large vessels that hold liquids and gases. Boilers supply steam to drive huge turbines in electric powerplants and to provide heat and power in buildings, factories, and ships. Tanks and vats are used to process and store chemicals, oil, beer, and hundreds of other products.
Boilers and other high-pressure vessels usually are made in sections, by casting each piece out of molten iron or steel. Manufacturers are increasingly automating this process to increase the quality of these vessels. Boiler sections are then welded together, often using automated orbital welding machines, which make more consistent welds than are possible by hand. Small boilers may be assembled in the manufacturing plant; larger boilers usually are assembled on site.
Following blueprints, boilermakers locate and mark reference points on the boiler foundation, using straightedges, squares, transits, and tape measures. Boilermakers attach rigging and signal crane operators to lift heavy frame and plate sections and other parts into place. They align sections, using plumb bobs, levels, wedges, and turnbuckles. Boilermakers use hammers, files, grinders, and cutting torches to remove irregular edges, so that edges fit properly. They then bolt or weld edges together. Boilermakers align and attach water tubes, stacks, valves, gauges, and other parts and test complete vessels for leaks or other defects. They also install refractory brick and other heat-resistant materials in fireboxes or pressure vessels. Usually, they assemble large vessels temporarily in a fabrication shop to ensure a proper fit before final assembly on the permanent site.
Because boilers last a long time—35 years or more—boilermakers regularly maintain them and update components, such as burners and boiler tubes, to increase efficiency. Boilermaker mechanics maintain and repair boilers and similar vessels. They inspect tubes, fittings, valves, controls, and auxiliary machinery and clean or supervise the cleaning of boilers using scrapers, wire brushes, and cleaning solvents. They repair or replace defective parts, using hand and power tools, gas torches, and welding equipment, and may operate metalworking machinery to repair or make parts. They also dismantle leaky boilers, patch weak spots with metal stock, replace defective sections, and strengthen joints.