Randy Blin, the 2012 Thermoformer of the Year, jokes that he started at the top of the family business, Triangle Plastics Inc. — the top of the platform leading to the scrap grinder, on third shift.
Blin gave a homespun and heartfelt acceptance speech at the Sept. 23 awards dinner, held during the SPE Thermoformers Conference in Grand Rapids.
His father, James Blin, was Thermoformer of the Year in 1995. They are the second father-son winning pair; the other is Jack and Joe Pregont of Prent Corp.
Blin praised his father and the Society of Plastics Engineers.
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from many of the pioneers in our field. That began 35 years ago, working alongside my dad, Jim. In all those years, we never had a disagreement. As soon as I came around to his way of thinking — no disagreement,” he said, as fellow thermoformers laughed.
“Dad taught me to never shy away from hard work, or a challenge,” Blin said. His father founded Triangle Plastics in 1965.
Triangle, based in Independence, Iowa, grew steadily to become the largest custom heavy-gauge thermoformer in North America, Blin said. As a team, employees advanced the industry, using automated trimmers, conducting research and development, and growing through acquisition, picking up eight com- panies in just eight years.
One big move came in 1998, when Triangle bought TriEnda Corp., a sheet extruder and thermoformer of material-handing products.
The following year, the Blins sold Triangle to Alltrista Corp. Later, Wilbert Plastic Services bought Alltrista's thermoforming operations. Blin and his father ran the company until it was sold.
Randy is executive vice president of Blin Management Co., which manages more than 50 business entities.
After becoming an SPE Thermoforming Division board member, Blin served for two years as treasurer and then became division chairman in 1997 and 1998, helping to grow the trade-show part of the annual conference. He co-chaired the 1996 conference, when larger booths replaced tabletop exhibits.
He received the Thermoforming Division's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.
Blin said the Thermoforming Division was a maverick in what was a conservative SPE during the mid- to late 1990s. The division worked as a nonprofit that also generated income, which was then used for scholarships and to promote research. Its newsletter became a glossy quarterly magazine. Now SPE has adopted many of the procedures, he said.
Blin said he joined Newtown, Conn.-based SPE in 1979, but was not active until the first official fall conference in 1991, held in the Wisconsin Dells. He said he was surprised to meet so many people passionate about thermoforming, a small part of the overall plastics industry.
“If I got my bachelor's degree from the School of Hard Knocks at Blinn U. and Triangle Tech, I received my master's from the Thermoforming Division of SPE,” he said.
A dozen family members sat at a head table to hear Blin's speech. But he said the Thermoforming Division has brought together an entire industry as lifelong friends.
“The thermoforming activities are must-attend events, and the camaraderie exceeds most family reunions,” he said.