Sorting through a stack of mechanical drawings, Cory Campbell quietly calculates how far a sheet of stainless steel will bend when he cuts through it with a 6,000 watt laser. He double-checks his math one last time and, satisfied, begins to transform a slab of unformed metal into a control box that will eventually ship to the south of France, where it will become part of the world’s most advanced fusion reactor.
“One of the coolest parts of this job is getting to walk around the shop and see parts I made in finished products. I like seeing how those pieces end up being used,” said Campbell.
As a Sheet Metal Technician at Vacuum Technology Incorporated (VTI), Campbell bends, rolls, cuts, and forges sheet metal into components for VTI’s industrial vacuum systems and leak detection equipment. To build these components, Campbell harnesses a full suite of tooling and fabrication machines, including two Omax Precision Abrasive water jets, a 230-ton press brake, and a 6,000 watt Prima Power Platino sheet laser. In addition to forming parts from sheet metal, Campbell also works with sheets of rubber and various plastics, helping VTI’s engineers maintain a versatile catalogue of materials they can use to create high-quality vacuum equipment.
“I’ve been doing this for about twelve years now. It’s not an easy job, but it’s very rewarding. We make machines no one else can make, and getting to help with that is pretty awesome,” said Campbell.
A former firefighter, contractor, and restaurateur, Campbell began his VTI career in 2008, two years after moving to Tennessee from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Campbell says that Tennessee’s fair weather, numerous lakes, and scenic mountains drew him southward, and he was happy to find a professional home at VTI.
“I don’t miss those Michigan winters, that’s for sure. I studied HVAC technology in college, and I’ve got a lot of experience assembling electronics. Those are two skills that are always in demand at VTI. It was a perfect fit,” said Campbell.
Campbell spent several years working in VTI’s paint shop and performing general maintenance before learning to operate its fleet of sheet metal and tube processing equipment. Metalwork is a precision craft, and Campbell’s passion for mathematics made him uniquely well-suited to prepare parts for VTI’s engineering team.
“I’ve always been good with numbers, so I enjoy getting to work through all the design equations to make sure the parts I build are exactly what our engineers need,” said Campbell.
In addition to being a talented metalworker, Campbell is also an excellent chef. His beef jerky is the stuff of legend at VTI, and his smoked meats are a critical component of any company barbeque.
“I bring stuff in for the team every once in a while. VTI has been a really supportive place to work, and sharing good food is my way of contributing to that positive environment,” said Campbell.