Industrial Manufacturing Photography-North Carolina
I had the opportunity to photograph in one of the largest Satellite Dish Manufacturing Companies. It is the only high volume producer of metal and sheet molded compound antennas in the world. They make their own resin, stamp, press, and paint their metal and composite products all under one roof.
The plant was very large, loud and hot. I photographed in the middle of the summer during the heat wave. It was well in the 90’s outside so you can imagine what it was inside. I guess there’s no way to air-condition a building over 700,00 square feet. Anyway, it didn’t matter to me. I love photographing in large industrial plants. There are so many textures, shapes and forms. I also enjoy having the opportunity to experience something that others don’t event think about. I had no idea that satellite dishes where manufactured so close to where I live, how they were made or how many dishes were made in a single day. The dishes in the photo below were all made that day and were just painted. The ones along the wall on the left are on the paint line.
Stack of satellite dishes at the paint line.
Giant rolls of sheet metal are fed into a machine and stamped into shape. Although there is a lot of automation, actual workers are still needed for every step of the process. It takes about 250 employees to manufacture all the satellite dishes. At this step there are people feeding the metal, monitoring the process, taking them off the belt and packaging them into bins to go to the next step. I’m not sure of how many people were around me or what everyone was doing. I do know that no-one was sitting around.
Sheet metal is being stamped into shape.
Large machines stamp the metal sheets into form.
Another stamping machine adheres screen and resin to the mold. They come down with such force it can be dangerous. Luckily, there are safety measures in place. There are little sensors that will shut the machine down if someone or something is in the way or too close. When I was shooting the machine kept shutting down and had to be reset. No-one could figure out what was happening at first. After a while of testing and trying to figure it out the mystery was solved. It was my lights. Apparently and somehow they were tripping the safety sensor. Whoops. Good thing it was no big deal and we all had a good laugh.
Preparation for compression molding.
The top part of the press is one of the most important pieces. I had to get as close as I could to actually be able to see it. It was a bit scary. All I could think about was this thing coming down on me and turning me into a satellite dish. That wouldn’t be fun. I know there are a lot of safety measures in place but the thought still crossed my mind. Its kind of like when you are scuba diving 80 feet below the surface and all you can think about is the theme song to Jaws.
Detail of the inside of the compression molding machine.
Just to give you a little perspective on the size. Here is the full machine. This is just one. There is another next to it and many others of different types and sizes.
Large compression molding machine used in the manufacturing of satellite dish antenna.