The Society of Plastics Engineers is financially healthy, although membership has ``flat-lined'' between 19,000 and 20,000, SPE executive director Susan Oderwald said at Antec in Cincinnati.
SPE reported a profit of about $288,000 in 2006, a number that comes after the SPE Foundation gave out more than $120,000 in scholarships, Oderwald said.
``Financially, SPE and the SPE Foundation had one of [their] best years on record - the second straight year of posting financial gains. For those of you who know our history over the past 10-15 years, you'll know that's actually a significant achievement for us,'' she said during a May 7 news conference.
SPE-Antec ran May 6-10, along with Plastics News' Plastics Encounter trade show.
SPE, like other trade associations, has suffered from declining membership. Membership in the Brookfield, Conn.-based society peaked in the early 1990s around 38,000. By 1999, membership had fallen, but SPE still counted about 29,500 members.
``The period of 2000-2004, membership had really dramatically declined, between 10 and 15 percent a year,'' Oderwald said. ``In 2004, we found we grew a little back, then in 2005 we lost a little.''
Membership slipped again in 2006, to 19,146, down about 500 from 2005.
``This year, to date, we're up slightly. We're basically flat-lined,'' Oderwald said.
SPE is becoming more global, becoming much more active and gaining members in Europe and Asia. But those new memberships are ``barely making up'' for losses in North America, she said.
SPE has greatly expanded its ranks in India, from fewer than 30 members in late 2005 to more than 220 today, Oderwald said. One key was a pilot program last year to reduce dues in India to a level comparable to other trade groups there. She said Indian members pay dues of 1,000 rupees, or around $25. U.S. membership costs $125 for new members.
SPE's AutoPlast, which covers automotive plastics, is scheduled for Dec. 12-14 in Mumbai, India.
The group's executive committee is becoming more global as well. The incoming president, Vicki Flaris, is an Australian who has worked in several countries.
Flaris has named Vijay Boolani, from SPE's India Section, to the executive committee. Ken Braney, from the United Kingdom, is the treasurer.
In other news, SPE officials announced Antec 2007 had 656 technical papers, about 25 percent more than last year's event.
Oderwald also announced SPE is developing an online resource - updated weekly - so members can learn of new patents and new journal articles, and review technical information on a specific topic.
SPE is adding new special interest groups. In Europe, it will cover extrusion, failure analysis and prevention, medical polymers, composites and rapid design, engineering and mold making. New special interests in North America include advanced energy storage, nanomolding and micromolding, radiation processing, polymer technology and building and construction.
SPE and Akron, Ohio-based PN will team up again next year to collocate the 2008 Antec and the Plastics Encounter show, in Milwaukee.