Michael Ladney, who played a key role in automotive plastics with his Detroit Plastic Molding Co., and became a contentious, litigious figure on the gas-assisted injection molding sector, died on April 18 in Port Huron, Mich.
He was 97.
Although Ladney was a polarizing force in the gas-assist patent war that began in the late 1980s, early on in his career he was well-known in automotive circles for founding Detroit Plastic Molding, a major injection molding company. At its peak in 1988, DPM employed more than 3,000 people.
Ladney started a company in Sterling Heights, Mich., Gain Technologies Inc., working there until he retired in 1999 from day-to-day operations — at age 81.
Under Ladney, Gain Technologies aggressively defended its patents for gas-assist molding technology — a process that injects gas, usually nitrogen, into the mold, evacuating some internal resin and forming hollow parts, with a good surface finish.
Ladney could be caustic, as Gain got into a long legal battle with arch-rival Cinpres Gas Injection Ltd. Gain also sued — and threatened to sue — automotive molders that he claimed violated the patents, if they balked at licensing the technology from him. Ladney also visited trade shows and conferences, touting his legal claims around the world.
Thanks to Gain Technologies, the entire gas-assist molding industry knew the meaning of “Melea Patents.”
In 2010, Cinpres bought the remaining Melea Patents.