Richard Freeman was 8 years old when he formed an acrylic candy dish for his mom. That event foreshadowed a career that has lasted more than 35 years, earning Freeman the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Plastics Engineers' Thermoforming Division.
The award was presented Sept. 18, during the group's annual conference in Nashville.
``It's been a really fun ride,'' he said upon accepting the award.
Freeman, president and founder of Freetech Plastics Inc. in Fremont, Calif., started that business in 1976. Freetech has won a number of awards, including the 1996, 1999 and 2004 People's Choice Awards at the division's annual parts competitions.
Freeman has played a significant role in raising awareness of industrial thermoforming. His articles have appeared in many publications, and he has been a speaker in numerous countries. As one official put it, ``Rich forced us all to get better.''
Freeman has been an active member of the Industrial Designers Society of America. Freetech provided pressure formed parts for seven ID magazine award winners. Freeman has been active in making the design community aware of thermoforming possibilities. He has put on the thermoforming exhibit for IDSA's annual conference.
Attendees saw, during Freeman's Sept. 17 presentation on disaster preparedness, that he has endured his share of setbacks. His plant burned to the ground in 1987, a total loss. A subsequent plant had another fire roughly three years later.
He discussed the crash course of dealing with the press, and meeting insurance adjusters.
``As smart as you think you are, you're pretty much in over your head at this time,'' Freeman told the audience.
But the first fire made Freeman decide to focus on pressure forming. The thermoforming business had, at that point, developed methods for high-detail forming with no pressure, according to Freeman, and getting pressure forming equipment just made things better.