You gotta love ANTEC

I don’t attend ANTEC, the Annual Technical Conference of the Society of Plastics Engineers, every year, but this year it was held in Anaheim, right here in Southern California, so it was easy for me to spend some time there. Like many conferences, it offered a mix of technical papers, keynote presentations and networking events. And, like most conferences, the travel and logistics can be cumbersome and exhausting. Still, you gotta love going to ANTEC. 

 

Meeting people

A big part of ANTEC is meeting people. You not only get to meet experts, you get to meet people with expertise. Most of them are not famous; they don’t use an agent, host a TV show or have 2.794K followers on Instapound (I mean Instagram). But each one has an area of expertise, often in a different part of the industry. 

Sure, you meet some people who are completely full of themselves. They shake your hand, smile politely and mumble some pleasantries as their eyes glaze over. “Nice to meet you,” they say, as they sashay over to the next big fish on their dance card. But for every one of those, there are a dozen other individuals, each one eager to meet you and engage in thoughtful dialogue.

You gotta love ANTEC.

 

Talking geek

Fifty-one weeks out of the year, when people ask me what I do, I have to hold back. At ANTEC, you don’t have to hold back—you can be as geeky as you want. So, when someone asks, “What do you do?” you can dive deep.  

“I am engaged in research on isotactic macromolecules and how they affect the polymerization of both amorphous and semi-crystalline polymers. It has important commercial applications, such as industrial piping, roofing tiles and golf balls.” 

You can bet your bippie that someone is going to respond with the likes of, “Wow! That’s cool.”

You gotta love ANTEC.

 

Learning something new

I have been working with plastics for more than 30 years now, and while I don’t claim to know everything, I think I know more than most. Sometimes, I find myself getting complacent and ask myself, “What am I going to learn by going to ANTEC?” But I sign up anyway, and when I get there, something amazing happens, usually on the first day of the conference. I might read a title of a paper on some topic of plastics technology that piques my interest, and when I go to the session I am presented with something that smacks me upside the head.

Say what?

You gotta love ANTEC.

 

Getting my mind blown

On top of learning something new, every time I go to ANTEC, I see or hear something that totally blows my mind.

“Wait a minute. You are molding a double flip-flop thing-a-ma-jig, using a mold cavity that was 3D printed with a reverse pull lifter with negative draft and positive compression, and you are molding parts with zero defects, zero failures, a Cpk of 1.33, and a ∆E color shift of less than 0.4. How in the world are you doing that?”

Sorry, I can’t tell you, it’s proprietary.

And then they stick out their tongue, tap their hands upside their head, and taunt you.

Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. 

You gotta love ANTEC.

 

The next generation

With over three decades of experience in the industry, I realize I am an old fart. However, as an old fart, I take pride in the next generation. I go to the student poster sessions and the networking events. I see the research they are doing, and I hear the questions they are asking. Oftentimes, I shake my head, as I remember that most them are barely 20 years old.

What is it with these kids today?  

You gotta love ANTEC.

 

Eric Larson

Eric R. Larson is a mechanical engineer with over 30 years' experience in plastics design. He has helped develop products ranging from boogie boards, water basketball games and SCUBA diving equipment to disposable lighters, cell phones and handheld medical devices.

Larson is owner of the Art of Mass Production (AMP), an engineering consulting company based in San Diego, CA. AMP provides services to manufacturing companies in the consumer electronics, wireless, and medical device industries.

Larson is also moderator of the blog site, plasticsguy.com, where he writes about plastics technology and its effect on people and the planet. His newest book, Plastics Materials Selection: A Practical Guide, can be purchased through his website.

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