The SPI's Structural Plastics Division continues to distinguish itself for refusing to accept the status quo. And the entire plastics industry - not just the division's 67 corporate members -stands to benefit from its exampleand ambition. Unlike some sister divisions within the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. that promote an exclusive, clubby atmosphere, and that stagnate as a result, the SPD continues to throw open its arms to new blood. The result is a vibrant body flush with fresh ideas.
Known until 1986 as the Structural Foam Division, this SPI unit long has demonstrated its willingness to re-invent itself, push the envelope and take chances.
Not all its plans have worked. The division's well-intentioned efforts to promote a strong global theme at the 1990 conference in New Orleans fell flat. I guess even forward-thinkers cannot single-handedly reverse certain parochial mind-sets. But at least the division's organizers tried. Perhaps events eventually will prove they simply were ahead of their time.
But at the same meeting, the division also benefited from input provided by its first End-User Advisory Committee, comprising officials from five major, original equipment manufacturers. That committee has been a fixture in the division ever since.
The group continues to encourage diversity in its new-product design competition. Whereas structural foam components for computers and business equipment dominated the competition's early days, the just-completed 23rd annual contest featured processes ranging from blow molding and thermoforming to rotational molding and gas-assisted injection molding.
That latest meeting, held April 3-5 in Boston, contained the latest example of the division's constant efforts to broaden and improve itself. Spearheaded by Division Chairman Jack Avery, the SPD has reached out to the Industrial Designers Society of America and formed a working alliance with that respected, 2,500-member group.
It's a natural fit. Both groups organize well-regarded, annual product design competitions that bring together OEMs, processors, designers, mold makers and materials suppliers. Both stand to learn from the other's expertise and both can benefit from the extensive networking opportunities afforded by participation in their groups' respective meetings.
The resulting increased interaction with America's leading industrial designers should help promote proper plastics usage in many of tomorrow's products.
Perhaps there is a reason why more than 500 people attended the SPD's recent conference. Perhaps there is a reason why that meeting's design contest featured a record number of 97 entries, many of them displaying eye-popping skill and sophistication.
And perhaps it's time others learned something positive from the Structural Plastics Division.
Grace is editor of Plastics News.