Sponsored By
Clare Goldsberry

March 28, 2016

3 Min Read
Ian Strachan named Thermoformer of the Year

Ian Strachan’s career has been dedicated to the thermoforming industry. On September 27, 2016, the Thermoforming Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE; Bethel, CT) will honor Strachan with its highest honor: Thermoformer of the Year for 2016. The award will be presented at an awards dinner held in conjunction with the 25th SPE Thermoforming Conference at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel in Schaumburg, IL.

Ian Strachan

Strachan entered the thermoforming industry in 1971, when he became General Manager of the Elvinco Group of Companies. He was involved with the development of new technologies in thermoforming, injection molding, blowmolding and extrusion. Prior to his appointment, Strachan worked in specialty high-tech metal production and with the South African Mint to upgrade and implement its production management and control systems.

From 1974 to 1988, Strachan served as Managing Director for Nampak Mono Containers, a thermoforming and steam chest molding company. Nampak was the largest diversified packaging group in the world at the time. Strachan went on to manage several subsidiary companies that specialized in thermoforming and extrusion, where he developed new packaging processes that are still being used in those markets to this day. With the support of an old friend, Frank Nissel, Mono Containers developed the first applications of multi-layer barrier packaging outside the United States. Strachan was also the first to introduce CPET packaging outside the United States, with the blessing of a previous Thermoformer of the Year, George Lueken, who invented the process.

Strachan also developed thermoformed in-mold labeling and several other techniques for Unilever in the mid-1980s, which later won the Unilever International Award for most innovative packaging technology in thermoforming. From 1988 to 1992, Strachan served as CEO and Deputy Chairman of the Sun Packaging Group, one of the largest packaging firms in South Africa. He later formed MGA Southern Africa Pty Ltd, and MGA Inc., an international consulting firm specializing in technology and process improvement in the packaging and thermoforming industries.

More recently, Strachan acquired ToolVu LLC, which offers a process management system that monitors what is happening in a thermoforming mold in real-time.

“I am both surprised and honored that I’ve been chosen for this award,” Strachan told PlasticsToday. “I am not one for accolades but nevertheless appreciate the efforts of the SPE Thermoforming Division for this award.”

Over Strachan’s long career, he has witnessed many technological advances in both materials and machinery that have allowed the thermoforming process to achieve tremendous growth in a variety of markets. “The two biggest technological advancements that I have been privileged to experience first-hand would be the development of sheet co-extrusion for high-tech thermoformable structures, and the ability to thermoform PP containers cost effectively,” Strachan said. “Many other developments have advanced the thermoforming industry in my time, but these two stand out in my mind.”

Strachan said that if he could name one thing that has had the biggest impact on making the thermoforming industry more competitive with other processes, it would be the tremendous advances in the technology of thermoforming and the design of thermoforming machines—as well as related equipment such as automation—that have enabled these developments to be realized and commercialized.

“These advances have enabled thermoformed containers to compete with metal and glass, where barrier properties are required, and also to compete cost effectively with injection molding, particularly where lightweighting and special properties are required,” Strachan said.

“Ian Strachan is a major contributor in process development and improvement in the thermoforming industry,” said Bret Joslyn, SPE Thermoforming Division Chair. “He continues to innovate and to consult around the world to help improve thermoforming and auxillary processes. Ian has also played a pivotal role in assisting developing countries to adopt thermoforming technology for the food and fruit processing industries.”

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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