Makers in the Community: Jerry Miner

Makers in the Community: Jerry Miner

By Taylor Soule

A drill the diameter of a single hair — no, it isn’t fodder for a science-fiction novel. For Jerry Miner, a CNC programmer at Accumold in Ankeny, it’s an everyday tool.

The 22-year-old provides high-tech software with directions to build complicated microstructures for multiple industries, including aeronautics and medicine. Miner creates tiny structures at Accumold, but they make a big impact.

The company builds miniscule parts for medical procedures. Knowing his work may eventually improve a patient’s health motivates Miner every step of the way. 

“Some of the parts we make here can help save a life, so it’s kind of neat knowing you’re helping somebody out down the road,” Miner said.

He grew up admiring his father’s blacksmithing talent and turned the family farm into a Makers Studio [link to Make@SCI page] of his own. Along with his brother, Miner disassembled multiple tractors and mix-and-matched parts to create a bigger, fancier model.      

That tinkering habit led Miner to high school shop classes and eventually, to an Accumold scholarship and an associate’s degree in tool- and die-making from Des Moines Area Community College.

“In those shop classes, I tried new things and learned a lot,” Miner said. “Now, I’m in an industry that’s growing. There’s always going to be a demand for a skilled, hard-working individual. Being a maker suits me.”

Today, Miner makes on a much different scale than he did in high school. 

With tiny equipment and often-tinier parts, precision is critical in his work at Accumold. Miner uses a tool-scope — the microscope of the manufacturing world — to gauge exact measurements to a dizzyingly minute number. 

“It makes it super challenging because the parts are so small, so I have to cut things super small,” Miner said.

The micro-manufacturing process begins on the computer, where Miner uses the Mastercam software program to provide the CNC machine with instructions to create a part.

Before Miner can even make a part, though, he has to design it. He creates electrodes from graphite or copper that burn the desired shape into steel. Creating the intricate features of each tiny part requires creativity and visualization.    

“I can’t always get my cutters into every little area that I need to on the electrodes,” Miner said. “I have to break it down and use my imagination to see it.”

Finally, when the software and CNC machine complete their work, Miner revels in the completion of another complicated part.  

“It’s kind of a sense of accomplishment,” Miner said. “Almost every mold that comes through Accumold has to come through me or two other guys who do the electrode designing. It’s just kind of neat to know that everything we do here starts with one of us.”

That feeling follows Miner home, too. For Miner, making is more than a career. It’s a way of life.

He recently bought a home and is remodeling the entire interior. Though he used tools larger than a human hair to build a deck on the back of his home, Miner praises the value of making on every scale. That value resides in the movement’s versatility.    

“Making is good because it’s such a wide variety, however you look at it,” Miner said. “Anywhere from working in a company where you’re helping a company make money and helping others with the parts you’re producing, all the way to being at home remodeling your house. You’re making something.”  

Category: Make@SCI