Thermoformer of the Year: Past Winners

Past Winners


Barry Shepherd
Shepherd Thermoforming & Packaging, Inc.

Throughout the 1960s, Barry Shepherd worked for several different packaging companies in sample making and design. He joined Kodak in 1970 and began designing packaging for cameras, film and related products. One of Barry’s first plastic projects was to develop packaging for Kodachrome slides, an early groundbreaking use of thin wall injection molding.

During the mid 70s and early 80s, Barry worked for several corrugated packaging companies in positions ranging from sales to president of a small box company, but he always stayed involved in his passion: the design and development side of the business. In 1984, Barry was introduced to the Alloyd Company, which specialized in thermoforming medical and consumer packaging as well as sealing equipment, and was intrigued by plastics and blister packaging.

In 1985, Barry launched Shepherd Packaging, selling plastic blisters, trays, clamshells, sealing equipment and other packaging materials. Shepherd Packaging expanded its manufacturing business. In 1997, Shepherd entered the heavy gauge thermoforming market by developing a custom thermoformed plastic pallet for Lear, which they use to transport automobile seats to the assembly lines. Under Barry’s leadership in 2006, Shepherd Thermoforming & Packaging, Inc. opened its 43,000 square foot custom thermoforming facility near Toronto, Canada, where the company operates seven thermoforming and two CNC milling machines. Now retired, Barry remains active in development projects at his company.

Barry joined the SPE Thermoforming Division Board of Directors in 1997 and worked on several committees, including the Executive Committee, before retiring from the Board in 2010. During his tenure, Barry also served as technical editor of the Thermoforming Division’s award-winning publication, SPE Thermoforming Quarterly® magazine.



BillKent_2014ToTYBill Kent
Brown Machine, Michigan

Following a stint at Western Michigan University, Bill began working for Brown Machine at Gaylord Brown’s side in 1961. He began as a technician, assembling machinery on the shop floor and traveling to customer facilities for machine installation and service needs. By 1965, Bill had worked his way up to the position of sales engineer and for the next 46 years, he worked in customer and technical related roles. Bill was promoted to Vice President of Advanced Technology in 1985 and held a management role until his retirement in May 2012. Bill retired at the apex of his 50-year career at Brown Machine.

As the market segments for thermoformed products continued to expand, Bill was well-versed in the products, machinery (roll-fed and sheet-fed) and the requirements for end-use markets such as food packaging, disposable containers, point-of-purchase, medical, horticulture, agriculture, construction, RV, recreational, dunnage, appliance and automotive. Bill worked through the evolution of new materials from the early beginnings of polystyrene through APET, PP, TPO and bio-resins. Bill also participated in the development of thermoforming equipment and tooling in forming and post-trimming processes, direct inline forming with extrusion, hot-sheet direct-coupled extrusion, forming and cutting with steel rule/forged high die, single station and rotary thermoforming equipment for vacuum, pressure and twin sheet applications and countless special machines and applications across the globe.

Technology continued to evolve and Bill participated in this progression from primarily mechanically-actuated equipment to electrical- and servo-actuated equipment; from cal-rod heaters to quartz and panel heaters; from pneumatic to electric single station and rotary equipment; from flywheel to servo trim presses; from single screw to multiple screw lip rollers; from limit switches and push buttons to sophisticated computerized control systems. Bill was the messenger from the market to the design engineers. He traveled everywhere to deliver the “What’s new?” message to a hungry market. During his career, Bill logged over six million flight miles as he traveled around the world, expanding Brown’s footprint and promoting the thermoforming industry.

Bill was one of the founding members of the SPE Thermoforming Division Board in the early 1980s and was re-elected to the Board of Directors in 1998 where he served through 2011. During his tenure on the Board, Bill was active in the Machinery Committee and worked on the technical programs of many successful SPE Thermoforming Conferences. Throughout his career, Bill delivered countless technical presentations, participated in panel discussions and moderated many sessions at the conference. Bill attended virtually every NPE show from 1966 through 2012 and every SPE Thermoforming Conference from inception in 1988 through 2011. He educated customers and audiences about materials, processes, equipment and tooling to help them achieve their goals.



Rich FreemanRich Freeman
President, Freetech Plastics
Fremont, California

Richard Freeman has been involved in plastics manufacturing and design for over 45 years, the last 37 with Freetech Plastics where he has participated in the design of hundreds of products. One of the founders of the “West Coast” style of thermoforming, he has been a regular speaker at industry conferences including ANTEC, SPE Thermoforming Conference, and IDSA programs both in the United States and in Europe. Rich spent 21 years as a SPE Thermoforming Board member where he helped develop the annual thermoforming conference as a heavy-gauge program organizer. His unflagging efforts on behalf of the industry have benefited not just his own company, but thermoformers as a whole. As fellow SPE board member Haydn Forward said, “Rich forced us all to get better.”

His experience providing pressure formed products in the close tolerance, technically demanding, and highly competitive environment of Silicon Valley has led to a number of process and design innovations. It has given him a unique perspective on production, quality, marketing, and design issues. Freetech’s products have won numerous industry awards including the 1996, 1999, and 2004 People’s Choice Awards, the Thermoforming Industry’s top prize. Freetech has provided pressure formed parts for 12 ID/IDEO/Innovation Magazine award winners.

Rich’s articles, company and products have been featured in publications such as Plastics Engineering, Appliance Manufacturer, Innovation, Machine Design, Plastic News, Mechanical Engineering and International Designer to name just a few. He has spoken on many issues important to designers and manufacturers over the years.

While Chairman of the Asset Allocation Review Committee, he launched and managed the Thermoforming Division’s Machinery Grant Program which has placed equipment in over 25 schools and universities. These machines have been used to produce thousands of student-designed parts, many of which have gone on to win national awards.

Rich started and continues to sponsor the IDSA Student Thermoformed Parts Competition that encourages schools to use the equipment donated to them and teach students about the thermoforming process while providing thousands of dollars in scholarships. Focusing on design schools and their students helps develop future demand for our industry and its products. Rich has been an IDSA member since 1999 and has spoken on Thermoforming at several IDSA National and Regional Conferences. He has also been a sponsor of both national and regional IDSA conferences since 2000.

He organized three SPE Thermoforming Division exhibits at the Industrial Designers of America conferences. Starting in 1999 at the New Orleans IDSA Conference, the Division exhibited 60 products from 29 thermoformers. Two more major exhibits were put on, in Boston and in Monterey. This work has been instrumental in getting thermoforming recognized as a viable process by the design community. Rich has continued to do this on his own at IDSA the last 11 years.

He developed and maintained the first three versions of the SPE Thermoforming Division website. By putting industry resources such as Thermoforming Quarterly, Thermoforming 101 and other critical information online, Rich has helped give thermoformers a vast pool of knowledge on a wide range of topics from which they can draw, any time.

Rich readily acknowledges none of this would be possible without a dedicated and creative group of associates, several of whom have been with the company 20-30 years. Their enthusiastic support has allowed him to engage in a wide range of volunteer work while keeping the company on the cutting edge of the pressure forming industry.

Though he now concentrates on non-industry volunteer work, he still serves as chairman of the IDSA Materials and Processes Section, as an advisory board member of the Silicon Valley Chapter of IDSA, and as a board member for the Plastic Design and Development Division of SPE.



Randy Blin
Exec. Vice President of Blin Management Co.
Raleigh, N.C. 

Randy A. Blin has contributed dedicated service over an extended period of time to the Thermoforming Industry and to the SPE Thermoforming Division. Randy continues to carry that dedication and focused organizational structure in numerous endeavors. It is clear from Randy’s career that if you have a plan and the desire to do what ever is necessary to act on that plan you will make a difference.

Randy Blin has a lifetime of making a difference.

Randy became an Eagle Scout at the age of 16. This is the same year he entered into the business world as a dishwasher at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Within a year at the age of 17 he was the store manager; he was just getting started. From that early introduction Randy has honed an extensive diversified business career.

As the Executive Vice President of Blin Management Co., Randy directs the business activities of the Blin Family enterprises. BMC serves as the conduit for legal, accounting, and financial advising for managing the day to day activities of over 50 entities. These operations include; the Blin Farms Limited Partnership, Star Lake Cattle Ranch Hereford Ventures, LLC, Independence Bank Shares, Inc., and Heartland Acres, as well as numerous business consulting initiatives.

As for community activities Randy is making a difference. Since 2002 Randy has volunteered as Director and president of the Independence Area Dollars for Scholars. Heading up fund raising for scholarships to local students is a priority. Randy has been active in leadership at the First Presbyterian Church of Independence Iowa as president of the congregation and chairman of the finance committee. Randy serves on the Board of Directors of the Hereford Youth Foundation of America where they have worked to build a $2 million dollar endowment fund.

Randy continued to make a difference.

In the Thermoforming community, Randy really made a difference. As a manager and corporate officer in the areas of sales, accounting, manufacturing and administration covering a 20 year career at Triangle Plastics Randy was a dynamic leader. Triangle operated as a family owned thermoforming business and grew from a basement operation in 1965 to the largest heavy gauge thermoforming company in North America by 1998. Randy was closely involved in that growth, providing creativity and innovation with an emphasis on customer relationships, process optimization, materials development and strategic acquisition management.

Randy has a keen ability to analyze a situation and effectively formulate a successful action plan. He was a pioneer in the Thermoforming Industry leading the way in the transformation to CNC automated trimming and cellular manufacturing. His visions created the benchmark for the sheet fed Thermoforming industry to effectively form and finish parts with repeatable accuracy at a very competitive price.

Randy became an SPE Thermoforming Division Board member and made a difference.

After serving 2 years as treasurer he became the Thermoforming Division Chairman serving a two year term, 1997 and 1998. He continued as Past Chairman serving on the Executive Committee in 1999 and 2000. As Chairman Randy stayed focused and committed to establishing a committee format that improved the efficiency of Board meetings. It was under Randy’s leadership that the organization developed a structure for continuity and sustainability. That leadership was paramount in developing much of the respect thermoforming has earned within the engineering and plastics processing community.

In 1996, as Co-Chairman of the Conference in Northern Kentucky, Randy’s passion for success was contagious. Randy expanded the exhibit format and introduced a sponsor level for added value opportunity to exhibitors. Those changes and that passion were instrumental in developing the trade show environment of the conference model today. Randy clearly communicated that the conference is presented to provide a service to the Thermoforming Industry with a mission to provide an educational event that broadens the exposure of thermoforming technology.

With the vision of communicating the value of the Thermoforming Industry as a quality, engineering based process Randy provided the leadership to further change the Division newsletter from the traditional to a high quality technical / industry publication.

In 2004 Randy received the Thermoforming Division Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his impact to the success of the SPE Thermoforming Division. The advancements of the SPE Thermoforming Division over the last 15 years, and with many aspects of the thermoforming industry, are the result of Randy’s take charge strength, contagious energy and inspiring leadership.

Experience and leadership in the Thermoforming Industry as a business owner and innovator, service to the professional society leading to the growth of resources to further thermoforming education, continuing corporate success with strategy development and dedicated community service, and his ability to be there as a friend and confident are the true attributes of Randy Blin’s career.

There is little doubt that Randy Blin has and continues to make a difference.



Stephen MurrillStephen R.Murrill
Owner and President
Profile Plastics, Inc., Lake Bluff, Illinois

Stephen R. Murrill is a heavy gauge thermoformer specializing in vacuum, pressure and twinsheet processes. Steve Has a BSChE from Purdue University and a MBA from the University of Chicago. Prior to his Purchasing Profile in 1987, Steve worked for Signode Corporation in Glenview, IL. As a New Ventures Manager in their New Business Development and Acquisitions Department. Prior to Signode, he held several positions at Exxon Chemical Co. USA, Houston, Tx.

Steve was exposed to plastics at an early age. Steve’s father Randy Murrill worked at Dupont For 39 years. They lived in Orange, Texas; Parkersburg, West Virginia; and Wilmington, Delaware. Randy was involved making Teflon, Delrin, and Lucite which went into such products as fishing Line, brushy fibers, and glazing.
In high school Steve belonged to Junior Achievement and was president of a company called JASAP which was sponsored by Marbon Chemical. Named the 1967 JA Company of the Year, Produced and sold a unique playing card holder and score card keeper made out of what else, but Plastic.

Steve earned his BS ChE from Purdue University where he was the editor of the Purdue Engineer. During college he was a summer intern with Kodak and the Exxon.
Out of college Steve went to work for Exxon spending time in Houston and then ending up in Chicago marketing polypropylent. He then went to work for Signode Corporation originally in Their Palode Division (plastic pallet strapping). Steve moved into Signode’s New Venture Group where he became aware of Profile Plastics.

In 1987 Steve purchased Profile Plastics from John Grundy. Profilde Plastics was started in 1960 in a garage in 1960 by John Grundy and grew to be one of the leaders in the industry especially with the development of pressure forming. During Steve’s ownership and direction, Profile Plastics continues to be at the forefront of thermoforming in both technology and business operations. He has been a long time proponent of molded in color and texture and has led many of Profile’s customers away from injections molding or painted structural foam especially for those products requiring large, highly cosmetic covers in low to medium volumes. In 1995 Profile Plastics moved to a new 100,000 square ft. facility. In 2003 Steve bought the assets of cross-town competitor Arrem Plastics in Addison, IL and actively oversaw the transition of hundreds of molds in the Lake Bluff Facility. Again in 2008 Steve purchased Pullman Industries out of Rochester, NY further expanding Profile’s customer base and sales volume. Twenty-four years since his purchase of Profile Plastics, Steve is still deeply involved in every facet of the business – even running the weekly Production Meetings. Currently using 13 state-of-the-art formers and 15 state-of-the-art 5 and 6 axis CNC Routers and robots Profile continues its record sales growth through Steve’s leadership.

He has been a member of SPE since 1976, served on the Thermoforming Division Board of Director’s since 1987, and served as its Chairman for two years. He has been active in every annual SPE Thermoforming Conference since its inception and was the Chairman for the 1992 Thermoforming Conference held in Midland, Michaigan. Steve has also been in the SPE/SPI Thermoforming Conference held at the NPE. He has been a speaker, moderator and program chairman for the Thermoforming Conference and many other SPE Conferences and RETEC’s, held by other Divisions and Sections. He received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Thermoforming Division in 2001.

He has held strongly to the late John Griep’s vision that the thermoforming industry to grow it must have a vehicle for the free discourse of those who work in the business. To that end Steve has put much of his energy into the SPE Thermoforming Division. People who have met Steve will attest to his openness in discussing what many consider to be “secrets” of our business. It is that willingness to share knowledge of the business which has helped us all to grow thermoforming into the acceptable plastic process that is is today.



Roger KippRoger C. Kipp
Vice President of Marketing & Engineering
at McClarin Plastics, Inc., Hanover, PA

An Innovator and Visionary Helping to Expand an Industry

Roger C. Kipp is Vice President of Marketing & Engineering at McClarin Plastics, Inc., located in Hanover, PA.  McClarin Plastics is a leader in heavy gauge thermoforming and fiberglass molding.

His contributions to the plastics industry include hands-on development of tooling innovation, processes and procedures, furthering education initiatives, and developing successful business models.

Roger C. Kipp’s passion, contributions and innovations for the plastics industry began in 1967 while a partner in a non-ferrous foundry in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Looking at the benefits of value added operations, he saw an opportunity to become a one-stop source for plastic process tooling by combining pattern making with foundry and machining skills.  This vision produced the groundwork in 1968 for Kipp to develop the first cast-to-form aluminum injection mold for a major Cincinnati toy manufacturer.  Shortly thereafter, the venture expanded to include tooling heavy gauge sheet thermoforming, rotational molding, compression molding and numerous other processes.

From 1967 through 1983, Kipp partnered with his father and brother to grow their pattern and foundry business in Cincinnati.  As Operations Manager and Treasurer, he focused on business development with the expansion of a permanent mold division and creation of the plastics tooling division.  Kipp eventually chose to narrow his focus on plastics, and in 1983 spun off the plastics tooling division from the family foundry.

For over 25 years, Kipp devoted his attention to the construction of aluminum tooling. He developed innovative processes which improved heat transfer, developed techniques for forming undercuts, designed molded-in inserts and improved overall cast tooling quality.

As the industry evolved, so did Kipp’s focus.  His many years of working with captive forming and molding operations led to a growing interest in developing new plastic components that extended beyond tooling.  He capitalized on his knowledge of various metals with regard to their values and limitations.  Utilizing his tooling engineering expertise, he turned his attention to the expansion of large part thermoforming applications and markets, with an emphasis on metal-to-plastic conversion.

In 1987, Kipp directed the start-up of a vacuum forming and rotational molding facility in Sidney, Ohio.  While he continued to oversee tooling construction, this position saw Kipp’s first foray into the sales and marketing aspects of the industry. It was in this capacity that he developed millions of dollars of new plastics applications by introducing plastics innovation to numerous markets, including waste management, agricultural & construction equipment, sound systems, air handling, and playground equipment.

Seven years later, Kipp joined McClarin Plastics in Hanover, Pennsylvania, as Vice President of Marketing & Engineering.  At McClarin, he has partnered with a senior management team focused on value added contract manufacturing featuring lean principles. In this position, he has made it a priority to be involved in strategic and functional initiatives to further the company, as well as the plastics industry through affiliation with various professional organizations.

Kipp became a board member of the Society of Plastics Engineers’ Thermoforming Division in 1992. Since then, he’s maintained an active role in the organization by serving as Conference Chairman (1996), Conference Treasurer, Division Treasurer (2000-2002), Chairman (2003-2006) and Past Chair (2006-2008).  He also served as a Division Director from 1997 to 2000 and is currently a Division Councilor (2007-2010).

As a member of the Society, he has served as the Communications Committee Chair (2007-2009), Communications Committee Member (2009-2010) and on the Foundation Executive Committee (2007-2010). He is also currently serving as a Committee Member on the Corporate Outreach Committee (2008-2010).

In 2002, the SPE Thermoforming Division honored Kipp with the Outstanding Achievement Award. Additional recognition was given in 2003 with the Lifetime Achievement Award and again in 2008 with the Honored Service Member Award.

Adding to his activities with the Society of Plastics Engineers, Kipp also serves as a member of the Plastics Manufacturing Center’s Advisory Board at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, an affiliate of Penn State University.  Through them, he is active with the Pennsylvania Plastics Initiative and was instrumental in the conception and development of the Thermoforming Center of Excellence.  Most recently, Kipp accepted a position on the Board of Directors of MANTEC, a Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center.  His passion and interest toward the future of manufacturing can be seen in his affinity for education.  Shortly after receiving his Bachelor of Science in Manufacturing Engineering, he accepted a part-time, associate professor position teaching manufacturing processes at his alma mater, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Since then, Kipp has assisted in the development of numerous industry-wide educational programs as well as a comprehensive, in-house program at McClarin Plastics.  The McClarin program offers its 200 employees about 40 classes with content that covers such topics as blueprint reading, lean certification, metrology and economics.

Kipp’s fervent belief in the teaching of tomorrow’s worker also made him instrumental in supporting McClarin’s aggressive programs focused on area high school students.  These programs, which include job fairs, internships and hands-on projects, are designed to spark interest in the industry and expose students to opportunities within the field.  Students active in the program receive early exposure to the manufacturing arena and access to Kipp’s extensive knowledge and experience in the plastics industry.

He and his wife Sandy currently reside in Hanover, PA.  They have three children and five grandchildren.  Mr. Kipp is an alumnus of Miami University and has volunteered in their Alumni Recruiter Organization.



David BestwickDavid M. Bestwick
Tray-Pak Corporation, Reading, PA

David M. Bestwick was born October 3, 1933 in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Dave graduated from Grove City College in 1957 with a degree in Business.

Bestwick joined General Fireproofing as a salesman in 1957. He bought his first business, Business Equipment and Supply and moved to Reading, Pennsylvania in 1967, selling the company to a partner in 1974.

David Bestwick, along with partners acquired the thermoforming operation of W. R. Grace in 1975. Tray-Pak started with eleven machines and thirty-six employees, manufacturing cookie and candy trays. In 1981, Dave bought his partners shares and created a vision for Tray-Pak that is followed today: Focus on what the customer needs and direct all of your effort toward supplying a quality solution in a timely and cost effective manner.

David Bestwick introduced HIPS trays to the mushroom industry in 1977. The transition from pulp to thermoformed trays increased shelf life in the supermarkets 30- 40%.

Dave has always maintained a focus for Tray-Pak to support the development of new materials and their application in the marketplace. Tray-Pak was involved in the early development of CPET – dual ovenable trays in the 1980’s. Tray-Pak’s early involvement in sustainable packaging was further enhanced in the mid- 1990’s when they were thermoforming recycled or post-consumer PET. Tray-Pak continued to stay in front of the sustainable industry, co-presenting to the industry on NatureWorks PLA material.

In the early 1980’s, under Dave’s guidance, Tray-Pak began working with customers to introduce new designs created for customers to sell more product. In 1982, Tray-Pak added in-house tool fabrication through the purchase of S. R. Schlegel. In 1991-1992, along with Ben Franklin Partners, Tray-Pak integrated their process into CNC and Autocad Technology. Bi-Color Clamshells were introduced and Tray-Pak’s I-POPTM (Images Printed on Plastic) put pre-printed sheet in the marketplace in 1995. Tray-Pak’s Design and New Product Development groups added rapid-prototyping and digital scanning to their in-house capabilities. Twelve people now provide creative solutions for a variety of industries.

Dave’s vision always challenged his employees to look at new markets and products to enhance the value of Tray-Pak to its customer base. In 2000, TPSource was added to support the needs of captive thermoformers. It supplies tools, materials, and tech support to customers a la carte. In 2003, with the help of the late, Scott W. Bestwick, Tray-Pak launched Fusion-Pak, this unique concept that married the graphic capabilities of printed board to the flexibility of thermoformed packaging. This package eliminated the need for the “box”. Tray-Pak utilized this platform for direct mail programs earning them over 20% response. Tray-Pak was awarded a 2009 American Design Award from Graphic Design USA for this program.

David Bestwick has grown Tray-Pak from 36 employees in 1975 to over 250 dedicated employees today. Operating forty-four thermoforming machines in nearly 200,000 square feet of space, Tray-Pak offers custom design, in-house tooling and engineering, and automation expertise. Tray-Pak converts a myriad of material types- polystyrene, polypropylene, HDPE, LPDE, PET, and PVC as well as co-extruded and laminated materials. Dave also directed Tray-Pak’s efforts into markets such as food and food service, automotive, consumer, electronic, health and beauty, industrial, medical, and pharmaceutical products.

Bestwick and Tray-Pak have also received the 2002 Pennsylvania Department of Commerce Award, the 2003 Ben Franklin Technology Partners Grant for Economic Development, and the 2007 Ben Franklin Technology Innovation Award.

David Bestwick has served on the Berks County Manufacturers Board of Directors, the Ben Franklin Partners at Lehigh University, and the Reading YMCA Board of Trustees.

He is a member of the SPE, SPI (Society of Plastics Industry), and the Ben Franklin Technology Group.

David Bestwick continues to serve his community and support the growth and the sustainability of the plastics industry.



George LuekenGeorge J. Lueken
Mullinix Packages, Inc.

Born April 2, 1929 in central Illinois, George Lueken served in the Marines during the Korean War and reached the rank of Buck Sergeant. After leaving the service, he received his business degree from the University of Illinois in 1957.

George joined Dow Chemical where he first developed an interest in plastics. In 1965, with three partners, he started a plastic extrusion company called ALCHEM. He eventually sold his interest to start Mullinix in the back of a small machine shop in Saginaw, MI. Mullinix was incorporated in 1970 and remains a closely-held manufacturer of custom thermoformed packages serving the disposable food packaging industry.

In 1976, Mullinix moved the company to Fort Wayne, IN to be closer to their primary customer, Peter Eckrich & Sons Meat Company supplying them a Barex luncheon meat package known as the “Meat Keeper”. Mullinix rapidly developed a reputation for identifying new applications for thermoformed packages, including the use of barrier films for the meat processing industry. Superior design and rapid development of new manufacturing technologies allowed Mullinix to capitalize on new business opportunities during the early stages of a product’s life cycle.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the company was recognized as a leader in crystallized PET (CPET) thermoforming for airline food service applications and dual-ovenable prepared foods packaging. Allegheny Airlines (later US Air) was an early customer. Mullinix worked with Lyle Machinery on this project and was the first to develop the two-stage CPET forming process. In 1982, Mullinix became the first company to conventionally form APET when they developed a rim rolled cup for creae cheese which by 1984 developed into a two layer coextruded silver/white PET container which was double-seamed. Clear containers followed including an ice-cream container for Breyer’s Ice Cream. In 1988, Mullinix developed the Impromptu Line with General Foods. It was the first retorted CPET shelf-stable package ever developed for dinner entrees. Mullinix was instrumental in forming the package with sealing techniques to stand the pressures of retorting. Mullinix continues to work with most of the major national food processing companies.

By 1995, the company had developed technology for wide-web inline forming of polypropylene giving Mullinix a significant strategic advantage over the competition. Gladware® was the breakthrough product line where the technology was applied and the company was awarded several patents for this development.

In 2000, Cryovac /Sealed Air chose Mullinix to be its exclusive supplier of barrier polypropylene trays for the case-ready meat market. The product is distributed throughout the US.

George has been a member of SPE since 1962 and in 1996 was awarded the Jack Barney Award for recognition of his contributions to the sheet extrusion industry. Specifically, Mullinix worked on the development of the gear pump (melt pump) with Eastman and Welex which greatly enhanced the ability to run PET quality sheet and subsequently the quality of thermoformed parts.

Mullinix Packages currently occupies 400,000 square feet in Fort Wayne, IN, employs over 450 dedicated people. George Lueken continues to play an active role in the company and is known for being one of the most progressive and respected business owners in the thermoforming industry.



Curtis ZamecCurtis J. Zamec
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer
Wilbert, Inc.

Curtis J. Zamec was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and was introduced to the plastics industry, as many of us were, through Dustin Hoffman’s famous scene in “The Graduate.” Mr. Zamec’s Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Marketing at Kent State led him to his first job, fresh out of college, at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company (Akron, OH). He was involved in a division that marketed polyester films. The division was closed soon after he joined the company and he was part of the close-out team. This provided valuable business experience that would serve him well later in his career.

Goodyear led him to F. B. Wright Company (Cleveland, OH), a distributor of plastics and rubber products. Continuing to grow and learn about the plastics industry, he soon accepted the position of President at R. B. Plastics (Rochester, NY), a small heavy-gauge thermoforming company that had been in Chapter 11. This was his first experience to turn around a failing company. Rather unusual was the fact that the outstanding debt was paid off at 100 cents to the dollar.

Time was a problem, not dollars, and a great deal of time was spent with the bankruptcy judge convincing him of granting the company more time. During the same period Zamec Industries was started out of necessity because R. B. Plastics could not afford to purchase machines from Brown Machinery Company. Zamec Industries designed and manufactured single-station thermoforming machines that centralized all control and was the first company to use a computer (driven by the old IPM punch cards) in thermoforming process equipment. After his stint at F. B. Wright, R. B. Plastics and Zamec Industries, Mr. Zamec became Vice President of Operations at a large regional thermoformer owned by Wilbert, Inc., Thermoform Plastics, Inc. in St. Paul, MN. He was promoted to Executive Vice President/GM and then President of the company. His first acquisition, Plastivax (Cleveland, OH and Gastonia, NC) occurred during this period. He integrated the Plastivax Company into Thermoform Plastics and expanded their geography of influence to include Cleveland, OH and Gastonia, NC. Before moving from Thermoform Plastics to his current position, the company became the second largest thermoformer in North America. The company built a new 300,000 square foot facility in St. Paul, MN and a 100,000 square foot facility in Belmont, NC dedicated exclusively to the thermoforming process. At the time, these two facilities housed the industry’s largest four-station rotary thermoformers (10’x22′) and pressure formers.

With a successful career in the plastics industry now underway, the next challenge for Mr. Zamec was in 1999 when he became the President/CEO of Wilbert, Inc. (Chicago, IL), the parent company of Thermoform Plastics and Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc. After a small plastics acquisition, TransPak USA, a thermoform packaging company, Wilbert, Inc. decided to expand its death care business by attempting to acquire the stock of York Caskets, the nation’s No. 2 casket manufacturer, a public company considerably larger than Wilbert. The acquisition was not to be, but the profit from the sale of the York stock made the future acquisition of Triangle Plastics, TriEnda Corp., Capri Bath and Synergy World from Alltrista Corporation possible. This acquisition made Wilbert, Inc. the owner of the largest heavy-gauge thermoforming company in the world.

Up until this point, Wilbert, Inc.’s plastics acquisitions were solely in the thermoforming industry. Wanting to roundout the company and provide a better solution for its consumers, the most recent acquisition was of Morton Custom Plastics, a thermoforming and injection molding company, with locations in Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Today, Wilbert, Inc. and its plastics operations are continuing to evolve and develop their core interests, Wilbert Plastics’ expertise lies in large-part thermoforming, pressure forming, twin-sheet forming and large-part (3,500-ton) injection molding. Together the multiple processes, along with Class A painting and assembly, Wilbert Plastics headed to be a plastics solution resource for the company’s customer base. The company has 10 plants in 9 states, $244 million in annual revenue, approximately 1,400 employees and 1.8 million square feet of manufacturing space. Each facility is either ISO of QS 9000 certified. The thermoforming equipment includes 58 three- or four-station rotaries, and 73 CNC trimming stations. The injection molding equipment includes 118 machines that range in size from 85 ton to 3,500 ton. Approximately 130 million pounds of plastic are processed each year.

Since his introduction to the plastics industry, Mr. Zamec has been a member of the SPE and SPI and seen growth in the industry from its first thermoforming division meeting in Portage, WI to the last convention in Indianapolis that had attendance in excess of 1,000 people. Mr. Zamec enjoys a wonderful association with customers, competitors, employees, and vendors who contribute to the growth and success of this industry.



Paul AlongiPaul V. Alongi
MAAC Machinery Carol Stream, Illinois

Paul Alongi was born and raised in Chicago. His ffirst job out of college was to work for Power Transmission Equipment Co. (PTE), one of Chicago’s largest and most prestigious power transmission engineering firms. There for 15 years, he honed his skills as a transmission specialist and also where, in 1970, he was introduced to the thermoforming industry. One of his assignments was to become account manager to Comet Industries, where he provided engineering and product selection to one of the largest manufacturers of thermoforming equipment in our industry. As the years progressed with the engineering firm, Paul was provided with an opportunity to become the engineering source with start-up companies named Kostur and CAM. These were short-lived arrangements, but whetted his appetite for manufacturing thermoforming equipment. In 1982, he created MAAC Machinery Co. He has managed his firm to become one of the largest cut-sheet thermoforming machinery manufacturers in the world. MAAC machines are located all across the world and are known for their performance, innovativeness, long life, and low maintenance.

In 1996, he purchased Comet Industries and had the pleasure, once again, of working with Bob Kostur during the final years of his career. In 1998, he purchased CAM and now all three companies are represented by MAAC. Paul has always been very supportive of the SPE Thermoforming Division and its mission to advance technology through education, application, promotion and research. MAAC is one of the senior sponsors of the conferences since 1993. Paul has orchestrated numerous fundraising events for the scholarship fund, donating all proceeds from these events to the Thermoforming Division’s scholarship fund. The latest event at Milwaukee was the most successful ever and netted $30,000 to the scholarship fund. Beginning in 2001, Paul pledged to match the SPE Thermoforming Division’s equipment grant of $10,000 per college. This program is ongoing today and has been very successful in providing many universities with brand new equipment. Paul has been an engineering force behind the technical development of the cut-sheet thermoforming machinery.

Many of the industries’ standard machinery features today are the direct result of his creativity. Paul, along with his engineering department, has developed many of the innovations that have since become the benchmark for today’s machinery standard. For example, high sheet line design, breathable ovens, color changing elements, finite element zoning, on voltage heating elements, oven energy saving software, standard non contact sheet temperature measurement, adjustable clamp frame, absolute encoder motorized platens, etc. During his career, Paul has taken on many difficult projects to assist thermoformers across the country and the world. Providing turn-key services which takes on full responsibility for the machine, mold, material, process, finished part and cycle time, which has eliminated the age old problem of split responsibilities. There are many people who are successful in the thermoforming business today because of Paul Alongi. Paul has always been a proponent of education. The training program at MAAC could have been limited to instructions on how to operate the machinery. Instead, it encompasses oven-zoning techniques and includes training on forming temperatures, materials, molds and forming sequencing.

Paul is a long-standing member of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) and has been active and supportive towards the SPE Thermoforming Division. Many of our members will testify that Paul was responsible for their introduction to our division. MAAC has been a sponsor for the annual conference since 1993, a sponsor for the European Division since its inception, and has funded MAAC employees to be active members of the Thermoforming Division here and in Europe. Paul is CEO and Director of Engineering of MAAC Machinery and is continually driving the processes’ capabilities to the next level. Paul’s 25 years at the helm has produced a consistent direction of business development of new equipment for the thermoforming industry. His most recent new product line was the Royce Router, which was introduced last September. Paul is very active in the business and also has the pleasure of working with three of his four sons and his brother who have joined him in his pursuit of making the best thermoforming equipment.



Manfred JacobManfred Jacob
Jacob Kunststofftechnik GmbH

Manfred Jacob was born in Furth, Bavaria, Germany in 1942. His first contact with plastics came in the family kitchen as his father experimented with expanded polystyrene and started the first of many Jacob plastic enterprises business in the late 40s. Manfred went on to become a world-class gymnast but a back injury forced him off the German Olympic team. Unable to launch his own body into space, he joined the German Air Force to make the moves in a plane that he could no longer make in the gym.

When Manfred was mustered out of the air force he made an attempt to buy a well-established thermoforming business but could not come to terms with the owner. On his way home an almost chance encounter with a friend’s widow left with a small packaging business led to his purchasing the equipment and Jacob Kunststofftechnik was born 1st January 1973.Manfred’s goal: To be an expert in his chosen field.

The equipment consisted of two Illig UA 100 thermoforming machines, two horizontal band saws and one roller trim press. Total employment for this new company was 2.5 people with the main thermoforming machine operator being Manfred. So he set out to learn his chosen craft. I don’t know about the band saws but the original Illig Thermoformer is still in Manfred’s plant to this day.

Driven by this vision of becoming an expert, Manfred Jacob Kunststofftechnik has become one of the largest thermoforming companies in Europe.

The Jacob Group’s capabilities now include:

  • High pressure formed technical components
  • Highly demanding Twin Sheet formed technical parts
  • Thermoforming of continuous fiber advanced composite
    materials and the cutting technology associated with this process
  • Traditional custom thermoforming business in producing
    quality thin gauge and large area thick gauge parts
  • Decorative Insert Molded foils and parts with particularly
    complex trimming associated with this process

A short list of cars using Jacob Dash and Interior Trim components include: Ford Mondeo, Ford Focus, Mercedes SLK, PT Cruiser, Renault Clio, Rover 45, and Toyota Agenesis.

Manfred’s inventions are many. One is cavity floor which uses thermoformed parts and self-leveling cement to create a solid floor with multiple track ways below for air conditioning, electrical wiring and plumbing. This development would allow the services to run anywhere on an entire floor plan and had become a standard in Europe. Currently, over one million square meters of Cavity Flooring are used in German office buildings alone. Cavity Floor is also used in buildings in Tokyo, London and in South America.

His twin sheet baking pan has replaced wooden trays dating back to the dark ages, and his Thermoformed composite auto bumper is on its way to being the standard for all of BMW cars. To list all his inventions and innovations in thermoforming would take more time and kill more trees than is ecologically responsible, but it’s safe to say if you buy German thermoforming equipment, or are in the packaging industry, Manfred’s 5 Thermoforming QUARTERLY ideas and enhancements are all around you. His parts regularly win awards in the annual thermoforming parts competition.

Manfred is unquestionably a visionary of some standing. He also has the unique ability and willingness to transmit the message and his inbred enthusiasm to all those around him, as any visitor to his plant can testify. He was also responsible for forming the consortium that supplied forming data in relationship to simulation programs on thousands of parts enabling T-Sim to refine their software and make it more accurate.

One of his visions was in approaching a number of local small, but highly technical design, tooling and plastics companies, and all experts in their fields, to consider a form of amalgamating together under one roof. This has had a dramatic effect on all involved. Not only has it formed a tremendously successful and professional group, but each individual company has profited by this close association, an example of synergy in its purest form. This organization was known as QIC and was established in 1995. Much in the way of new technology and product ideas have come out of this collaboration.

This philosophy of becoming stronger through association with other thermoformers and a willingness to share his knowledge also played a major part in Manfred’s long involvement with the Thermoforming Division of the SPE and the ultimate birth of the highly successful European Thermoforming Division. How did this come about?

Manfred became closely associated with two like minded companies, one in Holland and another in the United Kingdom. Personal relationships flourished and they started to meet regularly to share ideas and set standards for processing within their companies. They also would regularly visit the U.S. for the annual thermoforming conferences.

Since those early days, Manfred has been an active participant in the annual thermoforming conferences. Many of us remember his presentation of the “State of the Thermoforming in Europe,” given at the 1995 conference in Independence, Ohio where he made many of us aware of some very interesting alternatives to the way things were done in the U.S.

Knowing that most European producers would neve make it to the U.S. for conferences, the idea of a European thermoforming conference began to take shape. With help from the thermoforming division, a European “trial” conference was held in the spring of 1997 at the Manfred Jacob Kunststofftechnik facility, Wilhelmsdorf, Germany. It was here that the term “Spirit of Thermoforming” was first used.

Spurred on by the success of the event in Germany, a group of six European Thermoformers visited Chicago for a meeting with the SPE and the Thermoforming Division to discuss forming the European thermoforming division. The decision was made not only to form the division, but also to attempt to hold an International thermoforming conference in March 1998 in Ghent, Belgium. since then four more highly successful European conferences have been held and in the first SPE Division outside of the U.S. “The European Thermoforming Division of SPE” was founded.

At the last conference in Viareggio, Italy, Manfred was honored as the father of that division. He was awarded for his services to the ETD and to the European thermoforming industry in general.

Now semi retired, Manfred still spends time inventing, teaching his grandchildren English, as well as golfing, skiing and driving as close to mach speed as the autobahn allows.



Stephen HasselbachStephen D. Hasselbach
CMI Plastics

Steve started on his thermoforming career at age 15 in his dad’s model airplane kit factory forming cockpit canopies and managing the thermoforming plant in 1962. He purchased the operation in 1980. During this period, he became friends with many of the pioneers of the industry (Boyd Stratton, Gaylord Brown, Bill Obeiloeir, Bob Butsko and Joe Ligget). Currently, he operates his firm with a 50+ employee team (CMI Plastics, Cranbury, New Jersey, a fully vertical integrated thermoforming operation) with the aid of his three sons. All work – design, development, tooling, testing and production – is done under one roof and Steve has personally physically executed all of the above tasks as well as educating his customers.

Many of his clientele in the pharmaceutical industry who use thermoformed packaging have strict quality standards for the trimmed edges of a part. Steve has developed a systematic knife-like die trimming program using a unique makeready procedure which produces a relatively angel hair and loose particle-free trimmed edge. He has disseminated these techniques of trim die setup at various SPE thermoforming conferences.

Because the medical industry cannot tolerate plastic sheet which contains dirt or burnt particles, Steve developed in-plant internal inspection systems for all sheet entering his plant. He has described at SPE forums some simple tests to inspect incoming sheet to later avoid plastic material problems at the thermoformer.

With a lifetime of experience operating and constantly upgrading thermoforming technology, he has a demanding schedule helping others in our industry.

  1. Member of board of directors SPE Thermoforming Division for 20 years – Chairman of Board – presently Councilor representing Division on the SPE council.
  2. Working with SPE Europe and John Griep, Steve helped establish the European Thermoforming Division.
  3. While Chairman of Board of this Division, he set up an executive committee to promote efficient use of the board’s meeting time. He developed a structure of technical committees to increase meeting effectiveness.
  4. Steve is presently starting a project to help schools and universities make productive use of their thermoforming machines by donating molds and formed parts for student forming demonstrations.
  5. Steve acts as a technical consultant to many consumer product manufacturers that have in-plant thermoforming packaging operations.
  6. He lectured on thermoforming to Rutgers University, New Jersey package engineering classes.
  7. His open-book manner to provide detailed thermoforming techniques contrasts with the often foxhole mentality of some in this industry.

Awards and Achievements:

  1. Several “Packager of the Year” titles and awards from Food and Drug Packaging Magazine.
  2. Named on two patents for food and drug packaging.
  3. Received numerous awards for cosmetic packaging and point of purchase (POP) thermoformed products.
  4. Supplied components to the lunar landing module for NASA which to this day is still on the moon.

Affiliated with following technical groups:

  1. Society of the Plastics Industry Thermoforming Institute
  2. Packaging Institute
  3. New Jersey Packaging Club



Bill BenjaminBill Benjamin
Benjamin Mfg. Co.

Bill moved from Ohio to California in 1959 and began working in the plastics industry. In 1967, he started Benjamin Mfg. Co. in Downey, CA. Bill began thermoforming parts on thermoforming machinery he designed and built himself since the type of machinery that he imagined using was not available for purchase. Bill continued to design and build several more of these machines. These original machines are still in use at his plants in California and Georgia. Bill also designed and built a two-station biforcator thermoformer. Bill has six patented products and has three trademarks. His first registered trademark is for his “Lustre-Lav” which was made from the forerunner of DR Acrylic ABS material. This material is a big part of the spa and plumbing industries today. In 1980, the second plant was opened in Lithia Springs, Georgia.

In 1968, Bill thermoformed acrylic and ABS materials, backed with fiberglass, for his products. Since fiberglass is such a labor intensive, messy and environmentally unfriendly process, Bill longed for something better and continued working on developing a better material. Some of Bill’s early products include a line of sanitary ware: Lustre-Lav sinks, Switch-Hitter bathtubs, tub and shower enclosures and tub protectors. These products were all thermoformed on Bill’s machinery.

The tub protector was Bill’s first patented product. This bathtub liner needed to follow the inside shape of the bathtub but also have a large flat skirt that is bent down to protect the tub’s exterior. Additionally, it had to accommodate the laminating of a foam sheet on the bottom of the tub portion of the liner. Bill’s machinery allows for part of the sheet to be heated and also the lamination of the foam to occur in the same thermoforming cycle.

ABS sheet, in the 60’s, left a lot to be desired. Much of the original material contained die lines, gels and other defects. Bill requested that his sheet be run in specific directions so that the lines would not be as visible, but that was just the start. Wanting to eliminate fiberglass altogether from his products, but at the same time keep the high gloss look of acrylic, Bill continued to develop and test various materials.

Bill began working with Jim Armor of Alchem Plastics to develop a better quality material resulting in a better quality product. An extrusion die block was developed to help flow the acrylic onto the ABS more evenly; thus an Acrylic/ABS co-extruded sheet was developed. Bill developed more products, thermoformed out of this material, and eventually trademarked this material as “Akralac.” Today, you see the result of Bill’s work; acrylic and ABS have become commercial standards in both the plumbing and spa industries as well as in the automotive, marine, and recreational vehicle industry. Benjamin Mfg. Co. still specifies the direction of the extrusion to best suit the needs of the products to be thermoformed.

Over the past thirty-six years, Bill has developed, patented and trademarked many products. Some of these products include:


Switch-Hitter Bathtub (1977)
This design enables the vacuum formed bathtub to be manufactured and installed with the drain on either the right or left side. It also allows easy access to the pump on a whirlbath system. Many major bathtub manufacturers use this today.

Nipple Tray (1991)
This product is part thermoformed and part fabricated from plastic sheet. Plumbers can now carry an assortment of different size pipe nipples to the job site.

Glue Carrying Tray (1992)
This tray is for the modern plumber who now uses glue for plastic pipe. The plumber can carry both PVC and ABS glues.

Cut-Mate (1993)
This food preparation system was inspired by Bill’s early days, in Ohio, as a meat cutter. The Cut-Mate preparation board fits easily onto the top lip of a thermoformed tray. The Cut-Mate comes in several sizes and can be used by the backyard BBQ’er to professional chef.

Color Spot (1993)
A color plug is inserted into a food cutting board that tells the chef which food item is to be cut on that specific board. This color plug system helps eliminate cross contamination of foods.

Metal Surfaced Plastic Water Heater Pans (1999)
These thermoformed pans are used under water heaters to eliminate water damage from leaking water heater tanks. This metal skin meets the builder code requirements.

Capstone Surfaced Outdoor Patio Tables and Accessories (2000)
Acrylic particled co-extruded cap on ABS. This Weatherable plastic has the look of granite.

Through the years, Benjamin Mfg. Co. has also manufactured paper bathtub protectors, closet bend protectors, shower protectors, sewer and dryer vent hoses, photographic developing trays, tote trays, chrome and vacuummetalized thermoformed plastic cleanout cover plates to name just a few. Benjamin Mfg. Co. also manufacturers a line of outdoor furniture, thermoformed from weatherable material. The company also has a very large custom forming business.

Bill is still active in his company and continually strives to improve product quality and design new products. His two sons, Jeff and Rick, work alongside him at his California plant. Bill has always believed that it’s not the degrees you hold but the commitment you bring to the industry that make for a successful line of thermoformed products.


Winners from 1982-2003 Show