About the author
Hello, my name is Roland Smith, and this is my website/weblog.
You can contact me at
For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in how things work. Learning about that is and has always one of my key drivers. Another one is building things.
Currently I work as a senior engineer at VDL Fibertech Industries. We specialize in fiber reinforced composites. Since composites is a reltively specialized subject, my knowledge of it was largely acquired by self-study and experience over the last twentyfive year.
My main job is project preperation. This is a wide-ranging and interesting job. It covers the whole span from initial customer contact to hand over to production. After the initial contacts, I calculate products and assist in the quotation process. When our quote is accepted, the real fun begins! The process usually starts with making a detailed planning up to and including hand over to production. Then it goes on to product and mould design, using 3D CAD. This includes stiffness and strength calculations, keeping in mind any other special requirements. For medical equipment this can be e.g. x-ray absorption and homogeneity, or suitability for use in an MRI machine. For equipment this can be resonance frequency or outgassing in a vacuum. For automotive it is e.g. large series and making those efficiently and inexpensively. Weight is usually an issue in almost every application. After the product and tooling is designed, I send RFQs to and select a tooling manufacturerer and monitor and counsel the tooling build process. While the tooling is being made, I create lay-up drawings and core jigs. After the tooling is finished I make the initial prototypes to verify and tune the process. Then I conduct or participate in tests such as required by the customer. This includes doing measurments on our CMM (with electronic touch trigger probe), strength and stiffness tests and x-ray images and other release tests as agreed with the customer. Next to the external release for production (by the customer) there is also our internal release process. This requires that the product documentation is finished and that the product is set up in our computerized production managament system. I’ve been involved from the start with practically every product that we currently make at VDL Fibertech Industries, and I daresay I could manufacture most of them myself if I had to. This is important because I think that you cannot explain others how to make something if you aren’t capable of doing it yourself!
Additionally I’m our local expert on thermosetting resins (mainly polyester and epoxy) and other hazardous chemicals. I keep our collection of safety data sheets up to date and decide whether requested chemicals are safe to use and which precautions are necessary for that. Part of that duty is to certify that our products comply with applicable legislation like REACH and RoHS.
Another part of my job that ties into that is regulatory compliance, especially for our customers in the medical sector. Next to REACH and RoHS there are more regulations that we need to comply with. E.g. regarding “conflict minerals” such as tungsten, tin tantalum and gold. We strive not to support conflict by removing these materials from our products.
Furthermore I’m practically the first-line support for computer related issues at our plant.
This ties in well with my interest in computers and programming them that I developed at the university of applied science I attended. Programming for me is mostly a tool to solve problems; automating stuff that would take too long and/or be to boring to do by hand. My computing history stretches from MS-DOS and Windows 3.0 (meh) through OS/2 2.x and finally to Linux (Slackware) and FreeBSD. DOS was OK-ish, windows 3.0 was essentially junk. OS/2 2.x was a marked improvement, but programs for it were scarce and expensive. But it was my introduction to the open source world via the hobbes archive and CDs. A friend pointed me towards Linux, which had a lot of programs freely available. I downloaded Slackware to a bunch of floppies and started climbing the learning curve of UNIX. That journey doesn’t have a destination, but those are the most interesting. Later when 64-bit machines bacame available, I switched to FreeBSD because it supported 64-bit out of the box.
Over the years I’ve used several programming languages. Currently python is my favorite. Projects of mine that have been written in or ported to python are e.g. lamprop, dxftools, and py-stl and a host of small utilities.