There were no video games nor cellphones when Hideo Tanaka was a boy in Japan.
"I preferred to repair my bicycle. I loved to do that," recalled Tanaka, who would become a technical expert and a top executive of Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd. "That's the reason I got into motion control."
Tanaka, 69, is going into the Plastics Hall of Fame. His entire 42-year career was spent at Toshiba. He retired in 2013 as president of Toshiba Machine Engineering Co. Ltd., handling after-sales support for injection molding presses and die-casting machines in Japan.
"Hideo Tanaka successfully launched Toshiba Machine Co. as a global machine supplier," Gunther Hoyt, who nominated Takana, wrote in his submission. "He stands out as a technical and commercial leader in the global plastics industry." Hoyt runs an international consulting firm, Gunther Hoyt Associates, but he used to be vice president of Xaloy Inc., where he had contact with Toshiba.
In high school, Tanaka loved to tinker with all kinds of electrical and mechanical stuff.
"I loved to know how to control mechanical things," he said.
When it was time for college, Tanaka picked Tokyo Denki University. The school was founded in 1907 by two young engineers who dreamed of transforming Japan into a technology-intensive nation — hard to imagine today when the country is a global leader in technology.
Tokyo Denki has a reputation as a place to get a practical education.
When Tanaka started college in 1967, plastics machinery was not a major industry in Japan, he said. Machine tools got the big emphasis at engineering schools — and offered the jobs. "Machine tools were maybe 10 times bigger than the plastics industry," he said.
But while at Denki University, Tanaka visited Toshiba and got interested in plastics equipment. He joined the company in 1971, the year he graduated with an engineering degree.
His first job was working on a team researching a nylon blown film machine. Toshiba never got into blown film, instead focusing on the bigger markets of injection molding machines and extruders. But it made an impact.
"I buried myself in this study and what led me to start getting involved with plastics was working with this project," he said.
Soon, he was moved to the design department for injection molding machines for a big Japanese customer — the maker of Kirin beer. Kirin was still using wooden crates to ship its beer but wanted to convert to plastic. Other breweries also were interested.
The young engineer worked on a team that developed an 800-ton press to mold the polypropylene cases. The machine was designed with a high plasticizing capacity and a homogenous melt, with good color dispersion.