The best plastics design competition in the world, in my opinion, is the one that has been organized for 36 years by a group once known as the Structural Plastics Division (SPD) of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI). It was originally a showcase for components made with structural foam in which a blowing agent is added to plastic to allow production of large parts in low cost tooling and presses. The group soon added structural components made via blow molding, injection molding, and other processes. It was a great place to see new developments ranging from coinjection molded tractor hoods to auto grilles made with hybrid processes. The competition was good because of a core group of organizers who maintained high standards. I’m talking about people like Jack Avery, a longtime process development specialist at GE Plastics; Gary Vande Berg, Bemis Manufacturing; and David Shallenberg, FM Corp.
The design competition isn’t being held this year for reasons that escape me. Something to do with the economy, maybe.
But good news. The SPI as a whole is embracing the idea and establishing what it calls the first International Plastics Design Competition. It will be organized by the Alliance for Plastics Processors, the successor group to the SPD. Winners will be on display at the 2009 National Plastics Exposition in Chicago from June 22 to 26 at McCormick Place. The 2009 competition will be the first open to products in any end-use market and to entrants from any country in the world. Many products competing in the IPDC will be shown at a special pavilion in the new West Building of McCormick Place, while others—large-scale ones such as a concept automobile—will be displayed in the main concourses. If you’d like to enter a design, keep an eye on the APP Web site.
The NPE is the biggest plastics show in the Western Hemisphere, but in my view, it has not been very design engineer friendly, particularly in comparison to the giant German show, called the K. That’s because the K is organized by exhibitor type. You can go to the hall with the big materials giants, like Bayer and BASF, and see a brilliant showcase of new plastics applications. Likewise, the processors are grouped. At the NPE, though, everything is mixed like a giant bowl of different types of jellybeans. The new special pavilion offers an opportunity for change, particularly if show organizers use a lounge there as a entryway for design engineers. My suggestion: ask all exhibitors with examples of new plastics design to submit them to the SPI, which would organize those examples by material type and market category. If you’re looking for new electronics designs, you could find them quickly without doing the impossible: walking every aisle of the entire show.