Stephen J. Sweig, “an engineer's engineer” who had a long career in heavy-gauge thermoforming, died Jan. 30 at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., after a five-year battle with lung cancer. His family was by his side.
He was 74.
Sweig, a mechanical engineer, worked at Profile Plastics Inc., a custom thermoformer in Lake Bluff, Ill., for 30 years. He started at Profile Plastics in 1987, after already working in the industry for 11 years, most of that with another Chicago-area former, Arrem Plastics Inc.
Although he was semi-retired for many years, Sweig remained active in the business and worked on new projects and process updates up until his death, company officials said.
He received the Thermoformer of the Year honor in 2002 from the Society of Plastics Engineers Thermoforming division.
Profile Plastics said Sweig was a “driving force of process and tooling innovation in heavy-gauge thermoforming” as the company's chief engineer. Sweig played a key role in innovations helping to push the thermoforming sector forward, including automation and reduced cycle times.
He also helped develop five-axis trimming for thermoformed parts. He holds a U.S. patent for double-sided pressure forming, and worked with designer Glenn Beall to create the first Pressure Forming Design Guide in 1985.
As a young mechanical engineer, he started his professional career during the height of the Vietnam War. He had conducted tests of classified weaponry at Sandia National Laboratories and worked with the Atomic Energy Commission, according to a Plastics News story about Sweig winning Thermoformer of the Year.
He received a master's degree in fluid mechanics and joined the film division of Exxon Chemical Co., In 1976, he got into the heavy-gauge thermoforming industry. At the time, it was a garage-shop business.
“It was built by individuals running the companies and the factory floor. But, very simply, I saw that it was an industry with a lot of promise,” he said in the story.
Many innovations launched by Sweig are now considered industry standards. He worked with machinery builders and toolmakers to push the envelope of what features could be molded-in. He also was influential in expanding twin-sheet thermoforming, allowing more-complex part geometries. He also developed cost-effective ways to align the molds during forming.