My thoughts on SPE Thermoforming
The news that the Society of Plastics Engineers' Thermoforming Division is canceling its fall conference this year got me thinking about the first time I covered this meeting, back in 1991. The conference, then called the Fall Thermoforming Technical Conference, was held up in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., plus a side-trip to some companies in nearby Portage. I was still in my first year at Plastics News. But I was lucky enough on that trip to witness the start of what became a very successful annual conference, and meet the individuals -- mostly volunteers, of course -- who ran the show. So many of them reached out to help me. I know I'll forget someone, but I'll try to name some of the memorable characters anyway -- Bill McConnell Jr., Steve Murrill, Art Buckel, Paul Alongi, John Griep, Gwen Mathis... really, it was a Who's Who of thermoforming. I got plenty of information for Plastics News' first special report on thermoforming, not to mention all the Texas Aggie jokes I could every want from McConnell's dinner address. At the meeting, I also was introduced to a couple of executives who convinced me to extend my trip and visit their plants across the Mississippi River. They were Jim Blin at Triangle Plastics Inc. and Chris Grimm at Grimm Bros. Plastics Corp. Of course I took them up on the invitation -- it was a great opportunity to see a pair of rival companies and compare their operations and strategies. I don't want this post to sound at all negative. After all, the Thermoforming Division remains very strong. (A year ago, we called it "The little division that could" in a Page 1 story.) But it strikes me as noteworthy that the division that even managed to hold its meeting just days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks won't be holding an annual meeting this year. I hope the Thermoforming World Pavilion at NPE2009 is a big success, and that the conference comes back stronger than ever next year.
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