Denes Hunkar, an expert in process controls and systems that brought computer-integrated manufacturing to the plastics industry, died April 28 after an extended illness. He was 67.
Andy Fricke, Hunkar's cousin who worked at Hunkar Laboratories for 28 years, said Hunkar died from several medical problems, including congestive heart failure, kidney failure and several strokes.
A memorial service was held in Cincinnati on May 8.
Hunkar held a dual master's degree in electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, plus a doctorate in nuclear engineering.
He had 10 U.S. and 32 international patents.
He was born in Keked, Hungary, in 1936. After the Hungarian Revolution, he immigrated to the United States and lived in Cleveland and Detroit, before moving to Cincinnati.
Hunkar Laboratories is known for its innovations in plastics process control. But the company's early days are less well-known.
In 1962, Hunkar started his company - Hunkar Instrument Development Laboratories - while teaching nuclear physics at the University of Cincinnati. Hunkar's company developed technologies for a diverse customer list, including Abbott Laboratories Inc., Betty Crocker, Procter & Gamble Co. and Mercy Hospital.
He developed prototypes for the heart monitor, the CAT scan, and the blood analyzer. In a plastics-specific innovation, Hunkar created the first electronic parison programmer for extrusion blow molding, in 1958. P&G used the programmer to improve production of a bottle for Ivory dishwashing soap.
In 1970, Hunkar decided to put his focus only on the plastics industry and shortened the company name to Hunkar Laboratories. He sold the rights to his medical applications to Abbott Laboratories.
The company has a long list of innovations, including: the first closed-loop process control for injection molding in 1970, closed-loop hydraulic control technologies in 1976, the first microprocessor-based machine control in 1978, and early statistical process control programs.
Hunkar also was a co-founder of the Society of Plastics Engineers' Blow Molding Division. SPE honored him with its international award for engineering and technology in 1991, and the following year gave him the international award for business management in 1992.
Fricke, who read the eulogy at Hunkar's memorial service, called him ``a kind, interesting man who was full of life.''
As boys in Hungary, their families became refugees during World War II.
Fricke recalled that he and his cousin caught rabbits and scraped the ground in a potato field to get food, as their families stayed in a war-ravaged castle in Austria.
Hunkar showed his engineering talents by making paper airplanes and slingshots from scraps the Germans left behind.
Hunkar sold his company in 1999 because of health problems. He served on the board of directors for about two years, then retired.
He pushed plastics technology forward.
``People always said that he was always 10-15 years ahead of his time,'' said Fricke, a plastics consultant in Cincinnati.
Hunkar is survived by a son, Nick Hunkar, a daughter, Elizabeth Hunkar, and two grandsons.