When she moved to Utah nearly seven years ago, Lori Raczka had the opportunity to shift from powdered metals and ceramics to the plastics industry.
"The most exciting part about transitioning into plastics was the ability to leverage a foundation in medical device manufacturing, quality and process engineering while learning a completely new set of skills," she said.
Raczka calls transitioning into plastics in the middle of her career "when it is easy to stay with what's comfortable instead of pushing your limits" a great achievement.
"Learning injection molding, plastics processing and the auxiliary equipment has been a fulfilling challenge" she said.
Raczka, senior engineer II for South Jordan, Utah-based health care molder Merit Medical Systems Inc., received a bachelor's degree in material science engineering with a focus on ceramics from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.
As a molding engineer, she focuses on the validation of the molding process to ensure the mold meets the requirements of the design.
"Additional responsibilities include improvements to the molding process, continuous improvement projects including cost reductions and quality improvements. Molding engineers make decisions on technical problems and methods [that] require the use of scientific molding principles, advanced measurement techniques and challenging current theories and conventions of the field," she said.
Her current challenge is the "validation of a new, higher cavitation mold needed to produce a very tight tolerance component."
Career highlights include obtaining green and black belt certifications and building on an "existing quality management system to get a piezo-ceramic company ISO:9001 certified Master Molder I."
"I support an established product line that produces very tight tolerance parts molded from a semicrystalline resin. I've been able to dispel long-held, inaccurate theories and show with data how the process variables impact the molded part dimensions," Raczka said. "This expanded knowledge has reduced scrap and allowed us to more quickly respond to quality problems."
The best advice Raczka has received is to not be afraid of taking risks: "Accepting smart risk is important for growth and development."
Raczka was nominated by Scott England, Merit's vice president of molding.
Q: What has been your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Raczka: While my husband was in graduate school, I was laid off. This experience taught resiliency when faced with adversity and to take advantage of every opportunity. During the layoff, I took advantage of the courses offered as part of my severance package. I learned how to execute a successful job search and build my professional network. These skills have been invaluable throughout my career.
Q: What's an accomplishment of yours that most people don't know about, either for work or in your personal life?
Raczka: I train dogs and compete in agility, rally obedience and dock diving. It's rewarding to develop that partnership and the success that comes from it. The highlight being a Preferred Agility Championship.
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Raczka: I've been fortunate enough to have great colleagues throughout my career. I've been able to take something from each of them that has helped me develop both professionally and personally.