Who we are
The Detroit section was the original section that started the Society of Plastics Engineers in 1942. Our members are mostly based in the southeast and northern Michigan area (see map at right), however many members from outside the Detroit/Michigan area join our section because we offer many educational and technical conferences centered around the transportation sector. We have over 800 members. Please join the Detroit Section (s01) when asked to join a group when you sign up for membership on the national website www.4spe.org.
SPE’s Detroit Section is active in educating, promoting, recognizing, and communicating technical accomplishments for all phases of plastics and plastic based-composite developments – particularly in the automotive industry. Topic areas include applications, materials, processing, equipment, tooling, design, and development.
SPE Detroit Bylaws and Guidelines:
The Society of Plastics Engineers, Inc., was originally incorporated by the State of Michigan on January 6, 1942 as the Society of Plastics Sales Engineers. At the time there were 120 members in good standing. On August 21, 1942, the name was officially changed to the Society of Plastics Engineers, Inc.
SPE has become the recognized medium of communication amongst scientists and engineers engaged in the development, conversion and applications of plastics. It is truly an international Society since a significant number of its members reside outside the United States.
1942: In Detroit, a small group of men led by Fred O. Conley was busy forming an organization called the Society of Plastics Sales Engineers.
Unsaturated polyesters were introduced, though not, initially, to the public–the U.S. Army was our first priority. While in combat, soldiers often had to deactivate unexploded bombs. On some occasions they were lucky; at other times, not. Polyesters could be poured in catalyzed form around a bomb’s fuse mechanism. When cured, they would lock the triggers, rendering the bomb harmless.
American CyanamidCo., Du Pont, Plaskon, Marco Resin Division of Celanese Plastics, and Libbey-Owens-Ford began to produce unsaturated polyesters. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. produced them in the form of CR-38 and CR-39, to which glass was added for wartime production of military aircraft, boats, and trucks. Low-density polyethylenes (LDPEs) were also introduced. Though developed in Germany, LDPEs were pioneered in the U.S. by Daniel E. Strain of Du Pont.
The printed circuit was born when Dr. A. Ellet and Henry Diamond of the Ordnance Division, National Bureau of Standards, reported their two-dimensional printing of electronics parts for the Army’s V.T. Fuse. C. William Cleworth founded Plastics World magazine, and The Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc.’s Plastics Pioneers Association was conceived.
SPE’s first publication, The Commentator, was initiated and published by SPE President Fred O. Conley.
1943: Silicones, pioneered by Eugene G. Rochow and Charles Reed of GE Co., and fluorocarbons, discovered by Roy Joseph Plunkett of Du Pont, were brought into use for the first time. John Reilly and Ralph Wiley of The Dow Chemical Co. completed the final work needed for introduction of Saran (polyvinylidene chloride), which had been invented in 1939. Saran monofilaments were also extruded for the first time.
The Hercules Powder Co. supplied cellulose acetate for the first plastic toothpaste tubes; Plax Corp. received a license to injection blowmold items under the patents of W.H. Kopitke; Moxness Co. developed mold sets used in quick-change die sets for transfer molding; and D-M-E introduced stock bases for molds.
Elmer E. Mills Co. produced injection molded cellulose acetate bugles for the Army; Plax Corp. manufactured early radome prototypes for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); and Swedlow made the first free-blown acrylics canopy for aircraft. The P-51 aircraft featured 88 parts made of Formica melaminelaminates. Wright Air Development Center approved aircraft structural sections composed of glass reinforced polyester laminates over various core materials.
In Springfield, Mass., John M. DeBell and Henry M. Richardson founded DeBell & Richardson, Inc., the first American company devoted entirely to plastics R&D and consulting. Several years later, the company moved to Hazardville, Conn.
SPE’s first Regional Technical Conference (RETEC) was held in Chicago. The event attracted more than 300 attendees, who heard six technical papers on dielectric heating. In Detroit, the first Annual Technical Conference (ANTEC) featured 59 exhibitors and registered 1775 attendees. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had asked for our best effort, and the plastics industry responded with a great year.
1944: Sodium carboxymethyl-cellulose (soluble cellulose gum) and cumeneperoxide were first produced by the Hercules Powder Co., and the in-line automatic plunger transfer molding process was patented by Novotnoy. George Lubin and H. Greenberg of Bassons, Inc., produced reinforced plastic hoops by filament winding. The Finn-Magnus all-polystyrene harmonicaappeared, and Lawrence Wittman of Republic Aviation developed low pressure thermosetprepregs. The B-15 aircraft, sporting a reinforced polyester sandwich fuselage, made its first successful flight.
One of the great inventors of all time, the Belgian-born American inventor Dr. LeoHendrick Baekeland, died at the age of 80. Dr. Baekeland’s immense contributions to the field of plastics included the invention of phenolics in 1909.
No SPE meetings were held because of wartime restrictions on travel.
1945: Cellulose propionate
was introduced. Virgil E. Meharg, of Bakelite, and Paul D. Zottu, a consultant, introduced dielectric heating. W. Brandt Goldsworthy, Industrial Plastics Co., molded the first all-fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) automobile-airplane for Consolidated Aircraft; four were ultimately made. Wayne F. Robb created the first molded hinged closure bottle for the Shaw Insulator Co.; Ritepoint, Inc., initiated a line of injection molded acrylics advertising “heads” for its new ball-point pen lines; and Frankfort Arsenal’s frangible
bullet was developed by transfer molding of a lead-filled phenolics compound.
Dr. Herman Mark founded the Polymer Institute at Brooklyn (N.Y.) Polytechnic Institute, and Dr. Louis F. Rahm started the Plastics Program at Princeton University. General Georges F. Doriot, U.S. QuartermasterCorps, sent a team of American observers to Germany to investigate technical plastics developments that could aid the U.S. in its wartime effort. Headed by John M. DeBell, the team included Walter E. Gloor of Hercules Powder Co., and William C. Goggin of The Dow Chemical Co. Results of the mission provided a healthy boost to plastics in the U.S.
The first FRP boat–reported by George Lubin–was produced by Bassons, Inc.
Again, restrictions on travel prevented SPE from holding meetings. The Society did, however, begin publishing its quarterly SPE News Bulletin.
1946: Rayonoutput surpassed a billion pounds, and American Viscosemerged with Sylvania Corp. Jim Hendry built a 2-oz screw injection molding machine. Van Dorn introduced a commercial hand-powered injection molder; Wayne F. Robb of Shaw Insulator Co. designed a fully automatic transfer mold; and R.E. Young and M.W. Kellogg designed a filament winding process for manufacturing rocket cases and pipes.
Chrysler Motors introduced acrylic molded taillights; Earl S. Tupper created a 7-oz polyethylene tumbler made, he said, of “Poly-T”; and Waldes Kohinoor Inc. brought out the nylon zipper. H.D. Justi sold a line of acrylic dentures, but Horsman Dolls achieved new realism with dentures formed of vinyl plastisols. In wall tiles, polystyrene became a substitute for ceramics; it also superseded phenolics in production of radio cabinets. The U.S. Navy received its first FRP boat, and H.W. Rahmlow built the first FRP radomes. Ritepoint, Inc., initiated a line of cigarette lighters with clear injection molded acrylic reservoirs.
The SPE News Bulletin became a magazine, shortening its name to SPE News.
1947: Epoxy was introduced, and The Dow Chemical Co. launched its Styron brand of polystyrenes for plastics housewares.
Donald Mackay, C. Edison, and Otis D. Black performed the first practical work on etched copper laminated plastic circuitry (manufactured by Synthane Corp.) at the Radio Corp. of America. Grayhill Moldtronics Inc. hired George A. Scherry to develop the first fully automatic transfer molding press for high quantity production; Rockford Machine Tool Co.’s Hyjector became the first fully automatic transfer molding machine to use electric preheat; and Plax Corp. demonstrated blown tubing. Badge Plastics Co. extruded phenolicclarinet bodies; Anahist used the first custom blowmolded package; and E. Bowman Stratton, Jr., developed vacuum-formed relief maps for the Army Map Service. Dow Chemical established a Plastics Technical Service Center for its customers.
Robert R. Dreisbach, of The Dow Chemical Co., and Dr. John J. Grebereceived the Hyatt Award for their polymerizationand production of pure polystyrene.
1948: Robert R. Dreisbach and J. Lawrence Amos of The Dow Chemical Co. jointly developed impact polystyrenes, commercially released as acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS). Development of polystyrene monofilaments and oriented polystyrenes soon followed.
Self-contained, auxiliary plunger transfer molding machines were developed and marketed by both Watson Stillman and the French Oil Mill Machinery Co. Charles Fields of Du Pont developed the extrusion coating of paper with polyethylene, and Admiral Radio produced a 35-lb television cabinet of molded walnut and mahogany phenolics. The Bird Co. introduced, under the trade name Birdair, air-inflated structures and buildings made of nylon and PVC
1949: Elmer E. Mills developed a process by which tubes could be extruded, indexed on a rotary table, and clamped. Insertion of needles through which air could pass allowed the tubes to be inflated, resulting in bottles.
Marlin and Clyde Keaton used a nonreciprocating screw to develop screw plastification with automatic transfer molding. The development took the form of Watson Stillman’s Keaton Plungermatic, and featured a screw-revolution count control that regulated the quantity of feed.
The Nash automobile incorporated three large PS instrument panel overlays; Shaw Insulator Co. developed cubic blowmolded bottles for the U.S. Medical Corps; and the first radome constructed of FRP was installed in Sault Sainte Marie, Mich., for the U.S. Weather Bureau. SPE News changed its name to SPE Journal.
1950: Although new plastics materials would not be invented until 1954, important developments were still occurring. R.W. Canfield developed the BNRinjection blowmolder for Plax Corp. Meanwhile, celluloid ceased to be an important plastic, and Rayon and cellulose acetate assumed prominence. Used as resin binders, phenolics began to widely replace shellac in paper, wood, and fiber laminates. Sealrite Co. introduced PVC-coated milk cartons, and Ritepoint, Inc., brought out a new line of ball-point pens consisting of extruded cellulosics and acrylics, swagged to shape.
In England, PVC was used in window frames, building facades, gutters and downspouts, piping and ducting, flooring, and wall coverings. ICIintroduced acrylics in England for use in fenestration.
1951: In Switzerland, Andre Strahm developed plastic tube containers with removable caps and licensed them to Plax Corp. Working under the patents of Swiss inventor Alfred Borer, Wheaton Plastics Co. developed a proprietary machine for high volume injection blowmolding of bottles. C.C. Coates of Royal Manufacturing Co. developed the process of rotary blowmolding on a vertical axis, and A.M. Howard and L.S. Meyer received a patent for the first pultrusionmachine.
L. Glazer of Revell, Inc., began producing injection molded hobby aircraft kits to replace those of balsa wood; R.L. Swiggert formed Photocircuits Corp. to produce etched circuitry; and Kalwall Corp. introduced a series of FRP sandwich panels without cores. The panels were attached to either side of aluminum block-sized extrusions. By now, the cellulose acetate butyrate
heel for women’s shoes was universally accepted.
In Columbus, Ohio, the Ohio Gallery of Fine Arts produced an exhibition entitled “Design in Plastics” to demonstrate the capabilities of these versatile materials. Among the exhibitors were Donald Desky, Charles Eames, Raymond Loewy, George S. Nalle, Jr., and George Nelson.
1952: DeBell & Richardson, Inc., developed the production of di-allyl phthalatemolding compounds and polyfluoren (monochloro-tri-fluoroethylene); the work was done for Acme Resins. William H. Willert of Egan Machinery Co. invented an in-line reciprocating plasticating injection molder, the patent for which was not issued until 1956. BFGoodrich Co. developed impact rigid PVC–a precursor of material used in plastic pipes–and Rex Bradt brought out fiberglass reinforced polystyrene, which he marketed through a new company, Fiberfil Corp. Plastigels, which would become a boon to the toys industry, made their commercial debut.
Bilnor Corp. and U.S. Fiber and Plastics were the first to demonstrate PVC liners for swimming pools; Edgar Kaiser of the Kaiser-Frazer Corp. announced plans for an experimental plastics-body sports car designed by Howard Darrin; and printed circuits were used in commercial production for the first time. Pointing up the possibilities of mass producing FRP, the Molded Fiberglass Tray Co. molded 400,000 FRP trays for Wonder Bread. The Marco Resin Division of Celanese introduced the Marco method as a viable means of molding FRP: Dry fiberglass was placed in a closed mold, through which catalyzed resins were drawn by vacuum. For the production of small and very large parts, the method was the precursor to resin injection molding and resin transfer molding (RTM).
1953: Using a reciprocating screw press based on W.H. Willert’s invention, Reed-Prentice built the first 600-ton clamp injection molding machine. Knapsack Griesheim AG, of Germany, ushered in fluidized bed and electronic spray coating. Polymer Process Inc. acquired the license for the coating under the U.S. patent, and introduced it in the U.S. as the Whirlclad Coating System.
Chevrolet began production of its Corvette, which used 41 FRP parts (17 of which were major assembly components) at weight savings of 190 lbs over steel. The car’s advanced FRP body design featured soft lines and curves not possible in steel. Meanwhile, Kaiser-Frazer offered the Kaiser-Darrin K-161 with an all-FRP body, and the Boeing B-57 aircraft was the first to use phenolic fiberglass ducting.
In a terrible accident in Houston, 40,000 lbs of powder exploded, breaking or twisting glass, ceramics, and metal structures beyond repair. FRP roof panels (produced by the Corrolux Division, Libbey-Owens-Ford) survived intact despite the devastation, confirming their potential as viable plastic building materials.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the Atoms for PeaceProgram; Dr. Howard L. Bender of Bakelite Corp. won the Hyatt Award for his R&D in the field of phenolic resin molecular structures; and Hermann Staudinger, the “father of modern polymer chemistry,” won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
1954: Styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) and polyurethanes were introduced, the latter in Germany. Giulio Natta polymerized polypropylene at the Polytechnic Institute in Milan, Italy.
The birth of the Kriedel flame treating process meant that PE could now be printed or silk screened. Ford’s new Thunderbird convertible came with an accessory FRPhardtop, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, NBC, and CBSbegan using FRP and vacuum-formed impact polystyrenes for movie and television sets and properties. Frederic M. Rea, owner of Western Business Publications, began publishing Eastern Plastics magazine.
1955: Food Machinery Corp. released allyl plastics, and Mobay Chemical Co. introduced polyurethanes in the U.S.
Unette Corp. initiated plastic tubes with sealed-off ends and “tear-off” openers; and Jules Pinsky and Alvin Nielsen developed the blowmolding of lined plastic bottles at Plax Corp. The Molded Fiber Glass Body Co. manufactured the body for the Chevrolet Corvette, and Plastics Technology magazine came on the scene.
For the 11th ANTEC, in Atlantic City, N.J., SPE published its first “preprint,” Volume 1 of its technical papers in bound form; 53 papers were included.
1956: Acetalwas introduced, and a patent was issued for the in-line reciprocating plasticating injection molder that William H. Willert had invented four years earlier. The machine was the first major development in injection molding technology since the torpedo, and it would revolutionize the process of injection molding.
1957: Three new plastics became available. H. Schnell of West Germany reported the introduction of polycarbonate resin, and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) were also brought to the marketplace.
Monsanto’s plastic “House of the Future” opened at Disneyland. Designed by Marvin E. Goody, the house was the brainchild of Monsanto’s Ralph Hansen; its structural engineer was MIT’s Dr. Albert G.H. Dietz, assisted by Drs. Frederick J. McGarry and Frank J. Heger, Jr. The building became the most widely publicized and visited plastic house in history: During its ten-year existence, more than 25 million people went to see it.
1958: Du Pont developed and introduced Corfam–a polyester reinforced polyurethane–as a substitute for poremeric synthetic leather. In France, Jean Pierre Fisholle invented Crystopal, a building panel made of polyester. The patent for cycloaliphatic epoxy resin was issued to CIBACorp., and, for the first time, graphite fibers were commercially produced from Rayon.
With the availability of finely divided micropulverized low-density polyethylene (LDPE) came the introduction of rotational (slush) molding, a process for which the McNeil Akron Division became the prime producer of machinery. DeBell & Richardson developed (for Cheney-Bigelow) the Fourdrinier screen with a nylon filament warp. An experimental Coca-Cola bottle was blowmolded of acrylonitrileby Monsanto, but legislation banned the bottle from the marketplace. An intercontinental ballistic missile used the first refrasil-phenolic ablative reentrynose cone. House and Home magazine sponsored a symposium, “Plastics in Home Building,” and noted more than 80 plastics applications in the construction of homes. At the Brussels World’s Fair, the U.S. pavilion featured a circular roof of brightly colored Kalwall FRP panels. The National Association of Home Builders introduced a means of providing safe and viable home building insulation–the use of foamed polystyrene boards as cores between plywood and gypsum boards.
1959: Chlorinated polyetherwas introduced; Du Pont began commercial production of acetal homopolymer; and Bayer began marketing polycarbonates in Germany. Texaco’s experiments with high strength Boronfibers in reinforced composites showed the fibers to have stiffness and high strength not possible in glass fibers.
As part of the first intercultural exchange between the U.S. and the USSR, the Soviet Union presented an exhibition at the New York Coliseum. The U.S. reciprocated by sending to Moscow a giant geodesicdome–constructed of steel struts and formed acrylic panels–and a series of larger-than-life FRP sculptures resembling giant umbrellas. Designed by George Nelson, engineered at MIT, and constructed by Lunn Laminates, the umbrella sculptures were pretested by propeller aircraft for resistance to wind loads. After causing a sensation in Moscow, the umbrellas were moved to Yalta, where they still stand. Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, John M. DeBell of DeBell & Richardson, and George Lubin of Grumman were among the attendees at the American National Exhibition.
Mattel, Inc., introduced the plastic Barbie doll, and Foster Grant converted the Schick shaver from ivory urea to nylon. The Lily Chair, designed by Erwine and Estelle Laverne, was formed entirely of acrylics except for its cushion. In Troisdorf, Germany, Dynamit Nobel erected an experimental dwelling known as the Troisdorf Kunststoffe Haus, to demonstrate as many plastics as possible.
SPE published Volume II of Processing of Thermoplastic Material and established the first Plastics in Automotive Group.
1960: Celanese Plastics introduced acetal copolymer, which had been developed by Frank Brown and Frank Bernardinelli, and Hercules Inc. developed Penton, a chlorinated polyether.
Both Burwood and Syrocco introduced polyester decorative overlays, and John Lucas & Co. brought out Luco-Tex, a colorful exterior paint consisting of acrylics emulsions. The paint was cleaner and easier to use than paints made of mineral spirits. A new trend started with the use of high impact polystyrene in furniture legs.
Borg-Warner built the Formacar, an ABS prototype automobile. Dow Smith began producing filament wound pressure pipes; Master Unit Die Products Inc. introduced standard quick-change mold components; and Consoweld Corp. installed the first large laminating press, capable of producing 180,000 f|t.sup.2~ of laminates daily. The press was 28 ft high and weighed 300 tons.
The Boeing 727 aircraft incorporated 5000 lbs of FRP parts, which were less expensive than metal and reduced cost by 33%. Meanwhile, the Douglas DC-8 used 2000 lbs of FRP. Leo Windecker’s Windecker Eagle became the first composite aircraft to receive FAA approval. At St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, all exposed electric wiring was sheathed in PVC pipes under floors and behind statuary.
The U.S. Information Agency (USIA) requested the assistance of The Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. (SPI), in presenting Plastics-U.S.A., the Second Intercultural Exchange Exhibition with the USSR. Among the industry specialists invited by SPI to form an advisory committee were Mason Gould, Owens-Corning Fiberglas; Pearl Hagens, Modern Packaging; Vera Hahn, Fairchild Publications; George Lubin, Grumman Aircraft Corp.; Hiram McCann, Modern Plastics; Tino Perutz, Omni Products; Harriet Raymond, Celanese Plastics; and this writer.
In Chicago, SPE’s 16th ANTEC attracted 2484 attendees and featured the presentation of 84 technical papers. The Society also held six RETECs, including the Newark Section’s “Blowmolding Comes of Age,” which drew a record crowd of 679 attendees. Staff-written articles appeared for the first time in the SPE Journal.
1961: The Plastics Institute of America was chartered. Founded by Jules W. Lindau III, the institute would grow to be one of the industry’s influential organizations. Lake Publishing Corp. founded Plastics Design and Processing magazine, and the Society for the Advancement of Materials and Process Engineering (SAMPE) sponsored the first Filament Winding Symposium.
A. Shindo experimentally produced the first high modulus graphite from polyacrylonitrile; continuous graphite filament was commercially produced for the first time; and SAN piano keys replaced molded acrylic keys. The Plasticsmesse in Copenhagen pointed up new and interesting uses of European plastics–especially thermosets and oversized rotationally molded tanks. SPE launched its publication of SPE Transactions and drew 3101 attendees to its eleven RETECs. The Society’s newly formed Technical Program Committee jumped into action by planning the technical program for the 18th ANTEC.
1962: Phenoxy was introduced, and Pennwalt introduced polyvinylidene fluoride under the trade name Kynar.
Alfred Duca of MIT invented the “Lost Styrofoam” process for metal casting. Professor Felix Drury of Yale University built experimental free-form houses made of polyurethane foam sprayed over formed screens and netting. Cavrock Co. introduced FRP sheets that simulated brick and stone walls, Johanna Lawrence received the U.S. license to produce Crystopal, and Raymond Loewy designed Studebaker’s Avanti automobile to have an FRP body.
SPE conducted seven RETECs. One of the Society’s most significant projects, however, was a joint meeting between presidents and executive secretaries of the five major plastics societies: The conference opened the door to the establishment of plastics standards. Dr. Herman Mark of the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute won the new SPE International Award in Plastics Science and Engineering.
1963: F.J. Stokes introduced the Injectoset, a 50-ton fully automatic transfer molder with a reciprocating screw. Richard G. Angell, Jr., invented the Union Carbide process for low pressure structural foam processing; and Frank H. Lambert developed the expandable bead molding system, a process for molding expanded polystyrene foam products. Equations permitting calculation of screw extrusion flow problems were summarized by H.R. Jacobi.
SPE sponsored nine RETECs, attracting 2018 attendees. Dr. Giulio Natta won the SPE International Award.
1964: At the New York World’s Fair
, FRP panels up to 60 ft in length formed a facade for the Bell Telephone pavilion. Other structures made of FRP included the 7-Up and West Virginia pavilions, outdoor telephone booths, marina floats and docks, and miscellaneous architectural details. Steel street lighting luminaires were constructed of rotationally cast globes of cellulose acetate butyrate, or of fabricated acrylics. Many buildings were constructed with air-inflated domes that were illuminated at night, and fountains were constructed of various plastic materials. Exhibits in numerous pavilions were interiorly constructed of–or decorated with–various plastics, as were many of the new products introduced to the public.
In industry, Du Pont introduced ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), Surlin ionomerresin, and polyimides. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., published Filament Winding: Its Development, Manufacture, and Design, by D.V. Rosato and C.S. Grove, Jr.; the book was the first on the subject of filament winding. Graphite fibers became available for R&D of reinforced polyester and epoxy, and a conical filament-wound, S-glass motor case was developed for the Sprint two-stage missile. Dr. Giulio Natta, the first to polymerize
PP and the recipient of the SPE International Award in 1963, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
At ANTEC, SPE began offering limited-registration educational seminars. The Society sponsored thirteen RETECs, attendance at which totaled 3970. A second symposium on plastics, exemplifying the effectiveness of SPE’s intersociety relations, was presented at the Metals Congress of the American Society for Metals (ASM).
1965: Polysulfone, developed by Alfred Farnham and Robert Johnson of Union Carbide, and parylene, developed by William Gorham and Dale Pollart of Union Carbide, were introduced. Du Pont introduced Aldyl, a polyethylene pipe designed for gas distribution, and began volume production of Corfam. Polybenzimidazoles, providing previously unavailable high temperature adhesives, were developed by Dr. Carl S. Marvel at the University of Arizona.
Owens-Corning Fiberglas Co. introduced the shippable forming package of glass (type 30) for filament winding, pultrusion, and weaving. Glass reinforced SAN appeared as part of the instrument panel on the Cadillac Calais; boron filaments became available for production usage; and Owens-Corning began constructing underground gasoline tanks made of FRP. The plastics industry opened major markets for widespread use of plastic pipes by adopting, as the standard for the pipes, Standard 14 of the National Sanitation Foundation.
A total of 3651 people attended ten RETECs, one of which–the PalisadesSection’s “Injection and Blow Molding of PVC”–registered a record number (888) of attendees. Dr. Turner Alfey, Jr., received the SPE International Award.
SPE Transactions was renamed Polymer Engineering & Science.
1966: Two new plastics materials–Noryl and polyphenylene oxide (PPO
)–were introduced by GE Plastics; the first Uniloy machine for producing HDPE blowmolded milk bottles, invented by Sam Rupert of Hoover International, was installed at the Heatherwood Dairy; and links between crystals in a polymer were directly observed for the first time in studies at Bell Telephone Laboratories.
Pontiac used nylon for its fender extensions; Phillips Products Co. blowmolded HDPE fuel tanks that weighed 9.5 lbs and held 20 gallons; and Bell Helicopter began using exterior surface PVC, laminated to interior surface ABS, on its Jet Ranger. Grumman Aircraft developed the first full-scale ballast tank for the PX-15 submersible; Raymond Loewy’s Chair was made of PVC, walnut, and cast aluminum; and Beylerian Ltd. imported the Italian Columbo Lamp and Columbina Mirror in acrylics for American markets.
SPE adopted its policy of selecting ANTEC sites seven years in advance. The Society also recognized continuing education–including training courses and special programs for plastics engineers–as one of its primary responsibilities to members. The Plastics Institute of America received a grant of $8000 for fellowships and educational grants-in-aid; eleven SPE RETECs were held, attracting 3949 attendees; and J. Harry DuBois won the SPE International Award.
Offering six technical papers in French with simultaneous translations to English, the SPE ANTEC became an international event. All told, 128 papers were presented.
1967: F.E. Brown invented the third process for forming plastic tubes. The Aragon Front-End Extruder entered the marketplace; its screw protruded into the hopper to allow escape of volatiles as it pumped material to the die. Dow Chemical Co.’s “Black Box” became commercially available; it fed proportional amounts of chipped fiberglass and resin into an injection molder, where a screw provided mixing and blending.
The U.S. Navy began research on uses of FRP in minesweepers, and Beylerian Ltd. imported German and Italian FRP chairs by Kartell. The chairs were the first high-style all-plastic chairs in American markets.
At EXPO ’67 in Canada, the U.S. pavilion was a giant geodesic dome (187 ft in diameter) with a steel frame to which 2400 formed gray translucent acrylic panels were attached. The Crane Co. introduced an all-reinforced plastics bathroom, designed as a modular drop-in unit.
ANTEC ’67 celebrated SPE’s silver anniversary and achieved the highest registration in SPE history (3502 attendees). A subcommittee was formed to organize National Technical Conferences (NATECs); total attendance at ten RETECs numbered 4118; Dr. Paul J. Flory received the SPE International Award.
1968: The year was the 100th anniversary of American plastics, which started with John Wesley Hyatt’s invention of celluloid (cellulose nitrate). SPE’s New York Section was in charge of ANTEC ’68, and this author was selected to write the souvenir book that would be presented at the conference. The book, illustrated by Brian D. Gilliam, was entitled 100 Years Young.
Nathaniel Wyeth used polyethylene terephthalate(PET), a new material developed by Eastman Chemical Co., to successfully produce a biaxially oriented stretch-blowmolded carbonated beverage bottle. Sterling Extruder Corp. introduced the Transfermix extruder, and Filon developed a continuous sheetmaking machine for production of laminated polyester/glass sheets–flat or corrugated, smooth or textured.
Oldsmobile selected chrome-plated polypropylene (a good metal substitute) for use in the radiator grill of its Toronado; General Motors employed polyurethaneelastomerbumpers on the Pontiac GTO and the Chevrolet Camaro; sheet molding compound (SMC) debuted as air deflectors on Chrysler station wagons; and the Ford Shelby GT incorporated FRP panels on its body. Boeing’s SST(supersonic aircraft) design included the projected use of more than 6000 lbs of reinforced plastics and an equal amount of unreinforced materials. General Dynamics Co. experimentally installed boron/epoxy rudders on the F-4 aircraft; author D.V. Rosato estimated that the U.S. aircraft industry was using more than 50 million lbs of plastics; more than half of it was reinforced material.
SPE sponsored nine RETECs, which drew a total of 2092 attendees, and the new Japan Section sponsored a RETEC entitled “Recent Advances in Plastics Processing Techniques in Japan.” Nine educational seminars were presented on subjects such as injection molding, thermoforming, extrusion, polymer science, and product design. The Society announced the establishment and operation of sixteen Professional Activities Groups (PAGs), and Dr. Raymond F. Boyer won the SPE International Award.
1969: U.S. astronauts landed on the moon, bringing several plastic items and components with them. The Construction Specification Institute recognized plastics as viable building materials, and Hooker Chemical Corp. sponsored an exhibition entitled “PLASTIC as Plastic” at New York City’s Museum of Contemporary Crafts. Beylerian Ltd. was granted the U.S. license to produce ABS injection molded chairs and tables designed by Kartell of Italy.
SPE conducted its first NATEC, “Plastics in Packaging,” in Dallas; the Society also held thirteen RETECs, which drew a total attendance of 4331. Dr. Richard D. Stein won the SPE International Award.
1970: Thermoplastic polyesters were introduced; Garfield Manufacturing Co. produced cold-molded plastics with melamine additives for improved arc-quenching properties; and Mykroy Ceramics used cold-molded, glass bonded mica to achieve absolute flatness and 25-year stability for Bell System’s electronic switching systems.
Richard G. Angell, Jr., invented the structural foam molding press, and two-piece containers were produced by thermoforming and spin welding on a new machine manufactured by the Brown Machine Division of Koehring Co.
Thermoformed ABS was used on an experimental car designed by Borg-Warner, and the automobile industry used over 300 million lbs of reinforced plastics in various applications.
In St. Louis, SPE held its second NATEC (“Plastics in Furniture”) before 684 attendees; total attendance for eight RETECs was 1911. SPE and SPI jointly initiated the Plastics Education Foundation, and Dr. Arthur V. Tobolsky received the SPE International Award.
1971: Du Pont introduced Kevlar, the first commercially available aramid fibers. Celanese Plastics discontinued production of cellulose acetate, and Du Pont closed out its production of Corfam. Foster Grant developed and introduced Myriad, a high density foamed polystyrene building board.
Chrome-plated ABS grills were used on the Chevrolet Caprice. In Sydney, Australia, Vittorio H. Moratelli of Sabemo Pty. Ltd. designed a 22-story office building, the exterior of which was clad in bright orange FRP panels. A sister building in Perth had bright blue panels. Disney World opened in Orlando, Fla. Its theme building (Cinderella’s Castle) and many others were constructed with colorful FRP facades and architectural details. The new Botanical Building in St. Louis was a large geodesic dome consisting of formed acrylic panels on a metal frame.
SPE held ten RETECs, attendance at which was 2284. Dr. Albert G.H. Dietz of MIT won the SPE International Award.
1972: SPE sponsored a NATEC in Pittsburgh entitled “Plastics in Building Construction: Realities and Challenges.” And the door to robotics opened when Martin Industries received a patent on its cam-actuated grabber, a high speed automated parts remover for injection molding.
In Canada, foamed polystyrene molds for concrete buildings were introduced; the foam could be used for insulation after the concrete had set. The International Development Consortium Ltd. introduced a new building method by which portable dielectric heating units permitted on-site assembly and curing of sandwich components.
The Plastics Hall of Fame was established, largely through the efforts of the late Sidney Gross, then the editor of Modern Plastics. SPE published a Division-oriented speakers list, and eight RETECs attracted a total of 1210 attendees.
1973: Polybutylene was introduced, and Phillips Petroleum Co. introduced and commercialized polyphenylene sulfide (PPS).
Nathaniel Wyeth received the patent for the PET beverage bottle and assigned it to Du Pont; Owens-Corning Fiberglass Co. mass-produced all-FRP bathrooms; and energy-absorbing microcellular polyurethane foam was pretested on taxis in New York City
and then used in Chevrolet’s Chevelle Laguna.
In London, a symposium entitled “Plastics Industries in a Developing World” was cosponsored by the Plastics and Rubber Institute, the British Plastics Federation, and UNIDO; in New Hampshire, the Gordon Research Conference featured “Research Materials for Building”; and in Chicago, the American Chemical Society conducted the symposium “Fillers and Reinforcements for Plastics.”
SPE changed the name of the SPE Journal to PLASTICS ENGINEERING. Nine RETECs were held, attracting 1788 attendees.
1974: Polyethersulfone was introduced; McDonnell Douglas began using carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy to construct upper rudders of DC-10s; and acrylic panels stiffened by FRP were formed as body panels for the Bricklin automobile. The first RIM fascia was installed on the Pontiac, and Norfield Corp./Don Beasley introduced NorCore–a semistructural thermoformed building panel available in PVC, polycarbonate, and other thermoplastics.
SPE’s largest NATEC to date–“Plastics in Surface Transportation”–drew 1206 attendees and featured the presentation of 77 technical papers and 44 technical displays. The Palisades Section RETEC, “VMC–The Processor’s Perspective,” drew a record audience of 945. Total attendance at eight RETECs was 2324.
1975: Nitrile resin barriers were introduced. The NATO
III Communications Satellite used a graphite/epoxy sandwich antenna horn; reaction injection molding (RIM) of polyurethane was first used on the front end of the Chevrolet Monza; and Monsanto introduced the biaxially oriented Cycle-Safe soda bottle. Later, legislation banished the bottle from the marketplace because of its acrylonitrile composition.
SPE held nine RETECs, attended by a total of 1832.
1976: In the year of the U.S. Bicentennial, William P. Lear designed the all-plastic LearFan jet airplane, and microwaveable plastic cookware was introduced. The New York City Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority investigated the possibility of using various plastic materials as replacements for ceramics in tunnel ceiling tiles. The Wright Yacht Co. built 42-ft sailing yachts with FRP hulls, interiors, decks, and masts.
Structural shapes provided substantial impetus to the pultrusion industry: 40 captive and custom pultruders produced 40 million lbs of composite parts. The National Plastics Center in Leominster, Mass., was founded; the Center was the brainchild of SPE’s Pioneer Valley Section.
By adopting “Guidelines to Professional Employment for Engineers and Scientists,” the SPE Council joined 27 engineering societies in endorsing reasonable employment practices. SPE held one NATEC and eight RETECs, which drew 937 registrants. The theme of ANTEC was “Progress in Plastics Through Education”; more than 2800 attended.
1977: Union Carbide introduced the Unipol low pressure process, which spurred large-volume production of LLDPE. The 2-liter PET bottle went into commercial production, and Chevrolet manufactured its 500,000th Corvette, which featured an FRP body.
The membership of SPE reached an all-time high of 19,251.
Air-expedited delivery of PLASTICS ENGINEERING was initiated for members outside the U.S. Ten RETECs were held, drawing 1519 attendees. The “Safety and Health with Plastics” NATEC drew 757 attendees; ANTEC drew 3086.
1978: Union Carbide introduced two new plastics–linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) and polyarylate; and Eastman Chemical commercialized green bottle resins so that plastic bottles would match glass bottles and be more easily accepted by the public. The U.S. Army conducted experiments that successfully employed graphite/epoxy as bridge components; Hercules and Reed-Prentice jointly produced the first plastic pail for latex paints; and a prefabricated FRP roof, 100 ft in diameter, was installed over a circular market in Argenteuil, France.
A special committee of three representatives from SPE and three from SPI embraced the task of considering a merger of the Plastics EducationFoundation with SPE. SPE sponsored three technical volumes and eight RETECs, which attracted 1786 attendees. Besides jointly conducting an industry conference with FRCA, the Society held an international conference, entitled “The 2nd Symposium on Macromolecules: Structure and Properties of Amorphous Polymers,” in Cleveland. ANTEC, with its theme “World Partners in Plastics,” drew 3414 attendees.
1979: ICI introduced polyetheretherketone (PEEK) in England; the Gossamer Albatross–made mostly of Mylar polyester film–became the first human-powered aircraft to cross the English Channel; and Sonoco tested the shopping/grocery bag potential of high-molecular-weight HDPE, concluding that it was favorable.
SPE and SPI granted formal recognition to the National Plastics Center and Museum. SPE’s 37th ANTEC, held in New Orleans, set an attendance record of 3652; some 200 papers were delivered in 56 sessions, augmented by 70 technical displays. An SPE NATEC drew 2052 attendees, and nine RETECs attracted another 1358. The Society also launched the Journal of Vinyl Technology.
THE ’80s & ’90s
1980-1992: During this period, plastics came of age as the stigma associated with them diminished and the names of many plastics became household words.
In 1982, GE introduced polyetherimide; the same year, Bayer AG of West Germany introduced a high purity polycarbonate for manufacture of compact discs. PEEK was introduced in the U.S. in 1983. The next year featured the introduction of aromatic copolyester; the year after that, liquid crystal polymers (LCPs). Polymethylpentane, rounding out the list of new plastic materials, was introduced in 1988.
In 1980, Apple Computer produced machines constructed of ABS at substantial savings over metal. Meanwhile, connector-housings of PET TPEoffered substantial savings in the electronics field. In 1982, Dr. Robert Jarvik designed an artificial heart (the Jarvik-7) composed of elastomeric polyurethane, polyester, and polyethylene. A year later, FCCshielding requirements spurred the development of conductive composites for computer cases. In 1984, Quaker State started using HDPE bottles for its entire line of motor oils. Two years later, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager demonstrated the capabilities of advanced composites on the Voyager aircraft, which circled the globe without refueling. The same year, Robert Wendt of the U.S. Department of Energy examined the possibility of building plastic domes over entire cities to reduce energy and preserve the environment.
By 1987, the plastics industry had become a $70 billion business in the U.S., providing more than one million jobs. In 1988, stereolithography made its commercial debut as a method of rapidly producing 3-D models and prototypes, and in 1989, Morrison Molded Fiber Glass Co. demonstrated pultruded Extren for structural building uses.
In 1980, Boeing’s use of carbon/epoxy elevators on the B-727 was its first certified commercial application of composites. Beech manufactured an all-composites turboprop
business plane in 1984, also the year in which advanced composites were used in constructing the twin turbo Avtek 400 aircraft.
In 1984, American passenger cars used the first plastic fuel tanks, blowmolded of HDPE by Bronson and treated with Dow’s sulfonation process to control hydrocarbon permeability. Also that year, Pontiac introduced the Fiero, which employed reinforced reaction injection molding (RRIM) of polyurethanes for its sleek, all-plastic body.
In 1982, the architect I.M. Pei used FRP forms for concrete work at the Javits Convention Center in New York City, and the architects Michael and Ellen Jantzen designed Hypertat, a modular housing system incorporating various plastics and wood. In 1984, the Bob Evans restaurant chain used FRP components on its buildings to simulate Victorian fascias; a year later, Rotoplas (of Mexico) developed a rotationally molded PE vacation house that could be produced in two hours. In 1989, GE unveiled its first “Living Environment,” featuring advanced plastics construction technologies.
In 1990, the Plastics Hall of Fame posthumously inducted Fred O. Conley, Wilbur L. Gore, Dr. John O. Grebe, Prescott Huidekoper, and Spencer E. Palmer.
SPE was busy during these years, offering numerous RETECs each year, reaching a high of 25 in 1988. In 1980, Polymer Composites began publication. The Society introduced the Fellow grade of membership in 1984; today, membership has climbed to 37,000. The 50th Anniversary ANTEC, which took place this month, opened a new chapter for SPE, whose goals now reach well into the twenty-first century.
This, then, is the story of SPE’s first 50 years. Surely, they were good years, but the future holds promise of even better.
This article is dedicated to the scientists and technicians who invented the many plastics materials and technologies, and to the practitioners who taught us how to use them to best advantage.
Information used in this article was obtained from the following sources: the personal archives of the author and George M. Beylerian, Beylerian Ltd.; Harold Koeln, Ritepoint, Inc.; Wesley S. Larson, DeBell & Richardson, Inc.; SPI; SAMPE; books and articles by the author and Scott Bader; C. Jackson Craven; the City of St. Louis; John M. DeBell; J. Harry DuBois; Display World magazine; Robert Freidel; Dan J. Forrestal; Walter E. Gloor; William C. Goggin; M. Kaufman; George Lubin; Raymond W. Meyer; Modern Plastics magazine and Modern Plastics Encyclopedia; Thelma R. Newman; Plastics Design Forum magazine; D.V. Rosato; SPE’s technical journals and PLASTICS ENGINEERING magazine; the Smithsonian Institution; and the USIA. A complete and detailed bibliography is available from the author upon request.