What It’s All About?
Computer hardware comprises all the physical parts of a computer: think wires, circuits, processing units, chips, screens and all other physical parts that make up a phone, desktop PC, tablet or any other computerised device. Manufacturing hardware is the process by which components such as motherboards, central processing units and hard drives are fabricated from raw materials and assembled to produce finished goods such as computers and electronic devices.
Manufacturing of computer hardware is a significant sector in Ireland with global companies such as Intel, Hewlett Packard and Apple manufacturing here. Most computer devices are assembled using global supply chains, with raw materials and component parts extracted and created in nations across the world.
Manufacturing computer hardware requires the input of engineers, scientists and manufacturing operatives, working together to produce the devices that power modern life.
Computer Hardware and Manufacturing in Ireland
Ireland has a strong history of computer hardware and manufacturing. Way back in 1956, IBM came to Ireland with a workforce of only three employees, they now employ in excess of 3,000 in various locations across Ireland. In 1957, Ericsson arrived here. Followed in the 1970s and 1980s by Hewlett Packard, Oracle and Microsoft. In 1989, Intel decided to locate its European Manufacturing plant in Leixlip, Co. Kildare. All of these companies are still operating in Ireland today.
Research and continuous innovation are at the forefront of the ICT sector in Ireland. CRANN (Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices) and Tyndall National Institutes are research centres in Ireland that are working to develop new materials and devices thus supporting the development of the hardware sector.
Irish ICT companies such as Decawave, Sonarc, Calt Dynamics and WIA are innovative hardware companies that have emerged from the technical wave that has engulfed Ireland. The development of these companies along with over 1,000 homegrown software companies are testament to Ireland’s strong contribution to the global ICT market.
Skills and Knowledge
Are you a technical whizz kid? Are you the person friends or family turn to sort out technical problems? If so, you may well have a natural inclination towards computer hardware. Other indications that you are suited to this sector include having a curiosity about how technology works, finding enjoyment in taking apart machines and reassembling them, showing a preference for practical hands-on work, good problem-solving skills and being ‘nacky’ and dexterous with technology. All these attributes will point you in the direction of this sector.
Having knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming as well as having good mathematical ability provide a good foundation for anyone working in computer hardware.
The technology landscape is constantly changing so you will be expected to upskill regularly to stay abreast of advancements in the sector.
Working in computer assembly involves building computers from their parts and testing the finished product.Tools such as screwdrivers and soldering irons, and electronic testing equipment such as multimeters and oscilloscopes are all used in the assembly of computers.
Some of the components used in computers are quite delicate and sensitive, so technicians may have to wear special outer clothing to reduce the risk of contamination by dust or dirt. Also, static electricity can damage some circuit boards, so they may have to avoid wearing certain items (for example, man-made fabrics such as nylon) which can allow static to build up. They may also have to wear anti-static wristbands and other static-reducing items.
Hardware engineers are responsible for looking after and maintaining everything physical relating to IT; ensuring that everyone’s computer works and that the network runs smoothly and efficiently.
Hardware engineers can work in all kinds of industries, from hospitals and businesses, to banks to law firms; basically anywhere that uses computers, and lets be honest, there are very few industries now that don’t rely on technology.
In bigger organisations, a team of engineers will be needed which means people will often specialise in a specific area. In smaller firms you may be the only hardware engineer and will be responsible for all the computers and technology.
Working as a hardware engineer can be very pressurised at times because when a problem arises it is up to the engineer to fix it quickly to ensure everyone can keep working. The longer the computer or network is down the more frustrating it is for employees and the company loses valuable time and money.
Sometimes engineers may be needed to work late into the evening to resolves issues and weekend work is required to carry out essential maintenance that cannot be carried out during the working week. Many organisations require a technical support person to be on call 24/7 so you may be required to do shift work and night shifts could be a regular occurrence.