"I think without him I never would have studied the plastic machinery industry. When I started at IKV, I was working in a department that was dealing with material properties. I made a lot of tests of fiber-reinforced materials, and after two years or so, the assistant I was working for, he had to move into the injection molding department." Bourdon followed.
Menges, he said, "was a very charismatic person. He always believed in plastics and in plastics replacing what I could call conventional materials like metal. He was a firm believer in that trend."
As a student, Bourdon got to talk with every plastics machinery manufacturer in Germany. IKV did important work on computer-integrated manufacturing and multimaterial molding, two trends that are still important today.
His Ph.D. thesis, "Computer Aided Set-Up of Injection Molding Machines," included an analysis of mold filling simulation, automatic mold changes and the integration of five-axis robots to insert and takeout parts.
After getting his doctorate in 1990, he became head of systems engineering at KraussMaffei. Bourdon applied skills he learned at IKV, but now he was dealing directly with customers. "KM always has been a very innovative company. I had the freedom to test it out. They let me build those mold-changing systems," he said.
He helped start a new KM business unit for making optical discs, including injection molding and downstream operations. That area saw rapid improvements, as cycle times to mold CDs plunged from more than 30 seconds in the early days to less than 3 seconds 15 years later.
Bourdon moved to Klöckner Ferromatik in Malterdingen, Germany, in 1999 to become head of engineering and research and development. He often traveled with the salesforce to customers, serving as the technical authority. Just two years after he joined the injection press maker, Milacron Inc. bought Ferromatik, picking up its expertise in multishot presses and revolving molds, for high-speed packaging and other markets.
At Ferromatik in Germany, Bourdon was involved in some key technological advances, including the introduction of the first European-built all-electric injection press, the Elektra, which debuted at the 1991 K show.
He remembers being fascinated by all-electrics, which run nearly silently.
"I thought that would be a good idea in the early days when I worked on it," Bourdon said.
At the next K three years later, the company showed a much larger Elektra with 660 tons of clamping force — and by K 1998, the series was up to 2,700 tons.
He moved up to head of production of Ferromatik Milacron, then general manager and finally managing director, the top position, in 2000.
In 2003, Bourdon moved to Milacron's U.S. operation, based at its big U.S. assembly factory in Batavia, Ohio. As vice president of global injection molding machinery technology, he helped the company build a worldwide position, including in India.
Bourdon absorbed a lot of knowledge about the global plastics machinery industry. He said major players need to be international, even if that wasn't always so obvious years ago.
"Today, you need to have a footprint in all the major local markets," he said.
But that presents some challenges. Global machinery makers often talk about a "platform" machine that can sell in all parts of the world. Bourdon said it's complicated because local plastics processors in developing countries can't always support the same pricing as the United States and Europe. China, for example, produces about 80,000 injection presses a year, many of them low priced and basic. The KraussMaffeis and Milacrons of the world have to figure out where they stand in the market.
"This is something that you really need to think about," he said. "It's a technology question. It's also a branding question."
Harold Faig, Milacron's president and chief operating officer, had groomed Bourdon and several other executives to take leadership roles. Then, Faig retired from Milacron to move into the plastics processing sector.
Bourdon was promoted to president of Milacron's global machinery business, including extrusion, blow molding and structural foam. Under his leadership, Milacron restructured the Uniloy bloc molding activities in America, built a global structure for sourcing, production and R&D, and set up a strategy for the Chinese market, including equipment manufacturing.
He held the top spot in machinery at Milacron from 2003-2007, then left after Milacron hired a replacement from outside the industry.
After a year as a consultant, Bourdon returned to KraussMaffei in Munich as director of KM's injection molding machinery division from 2008-2012. He was promoted to vice president of technologies for the molding press segment in 2012, where he was also head of technology for Netstal, owned by KM.
As usual for Bourdon, this was a period of international moves and technological innovations. He was in charge of streamlining the company's organizational structure and aligning engineering and R&D work between KM and Netstal, expanding production in China and Slovakia, and developing, together with Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd., the AX all-electric press.
Bourdon said the contact person during the work with Toshiba was Hideo Tanaka — another incoming member of the Plastics Hall of Fame.
KraussMaffei also introduced new surface processes for injection molding, including CoverForm and ColorForm. Other new products came at K 2013 and K 2016 — MK's modular two-platen hydraulic GX and the PX, a modular all-electric, Netstal's Elion and Elios machine lines.
Bourdon has also been active in European trade associations and leading educational programs. Currently, he is vice president of Euromap, the European plastics and rubber machinery association; a board member of VDMA, the association of German plastics and rubber machinery makers; and a member of board of trustees at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics and Materials (IMWS).
And it's not surprising that Bourdon serves on the board of trustees at IKV — the school in Aachen where his plastics machinery career began more than 30 years ago.
Read the Viewpoint on the Hall of Fame and find links to other profiles.