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Voters decided how to best answer the question ‘You know you’re a plastics engineer if…’ and PlasticsToday provides the results.

Rick Lingle, Senior Technical Editor

June 28, 2018

6 Min Read
Top 10 best definitions of a plastics engineer revealed

The people have spoken…or at least voted. PlasticsToday’s audience of plastics professionals have selected the best answers to complete the sentence “You know you’re a plastics engineer if…” that we posed throughout April.

In the first round that ran for a 30-day period starting in January readers provided answers that filled in the blank. These ran the gamut from the straightforward and thoughtful to the clever and tongue-in-cheek and all variations therein. Many made us nod knowingly; others made us smile.

We narrowed the many to an even dozen for the second round and asked readers to vote for the “best” among those. Participation was high—we tallied more than 230 votes that decided the Top 10 that we present now in reverse order.


We're also upping the interactive ante by using Graphical Interchange Format (GIF) files for short video snippets to accompany the selections, the first time GIFs have been used at PlasticsToday.

So grab your popcorn virtual or real and follow along to the big reveal of the #1 choice.

10. You start all of your part designs at the parting line and are frequently overheard stating "the parting line is the starting line" to anyone starting a new part design.


10. You know that HDTs are not High Definition TVs.    

Because you know that in this business HDT stands for heat deflection temperature.  

Caution: Curves ahead.

PLASTEC Minneapolis 2018 held October 31-November 1 is part of the Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event that also includes MinnPack brings you the latest in materials and additives, injection molding, rapid prototyping, coatings, automation, packaging and more. For details, visit PLASTEC Minneapolis.

The next two ended in a photo finish separated by a single vote, so we’ve paired them together even though they are an unlikely match. Both have test measurements in common. While #9 links a technical understanding with the savvy knowledge that comes with experience, #8 combines a standard polymer test measurement with a celebrity in an unexpected way.

9. You know the specific density of most materials without having to look it up.    


8. You’re more interested in rheology curves than you are in Rihanna's curves. 

Next: Little green men

The next two also finished neck and neck and again we’ve bundled them as a twosome.

7. Your spouse (who has not worked in the plastic industry) can also evaluate plastic parts in the store and identify and name all the molding defects.

While some people are married to their job, it seems a near-certainty that all of those same people are indeed married to their spouses. And through the process of osmosis, spouses over time exchange much of their knowledge professional and otherwise.


6. You laughed at the flash on the little green army men in Toy Story.

That scene resonated nostalgically with me, too, and the flash was a much-appreciated detail by “those in the know” who staged battles with those durable, skirmish-tested little green men back in the day.

On to the Top 5 countdown...


#5. You can say, write, spell and abbreviate "polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)" and you know common people call it Teflon.

Plastics is an industry abounding with acronyms, which make sense when some of the formal chemical names can be a mind-testing twister of the brain and tongue, and the above is exemplary of why terms like PET and brand names like Teflon have their place. They certainly roll off the tongue effortlessly and universally. But professionals can flash their know-how by reverting to the formal names, especially among like-minded colleagues.

Next: You know where to look.



#4. You look at the bottom of a plastic bottle to see if it’s blow molded or injection molded.

Plastics professionals have an inquisitive nature about all things plastic, you want to find out more through examination. It's simply second nature to pick up a part or container and assess it. Also, plastics are very touchy feely and that tactile experience reveals a lot about the object’s makeup and perhaps how it was molded.

Over time it becomes a habit that you may not even be aware of unless you draw the unwanted attention of a fellow shopper or store clerk.

Next: You are observant.


3. Regardless of timing or location, you notice plastic components everywhere...like on holiday, walking down the street or hitting the slopes. Plastic design is always around you.

This one is an extension of #4: those within the industry who are especially plastic conscious and those without would find it quite challenging to take a step without being within sight if not touch of plastic.  In fact, there’s close to a 100% chance that those reading this are holding something made with plastic or looking at a polymeric thing when they do. Or looking through polymers if you wear glasses or contact lenses.

From the ABS in the automobile dashboard to the EVA in our tennis shoes to the polyester in our clothes, we’re surrounded by plastic design because we’re surrounded by plastic.

Next: You have a critical eye.


2. You visually inspect and complain of poor design and quality on household items or any plastic item…anywhere.

You think to yourself or verbally point out to someone: Here's how I'd have done it, because you know that there's almost always room for improvement. It's something that's inherent in your nature as you assess molded plastic products everywhere and anywhere in your walk through stores and life.

And the #1 selection by PlasticToday’s audience of packaging professionals…


1. You can't put down an injected-molding part without finding where it is gated.

It’s a habit that for some goes with the territory. For those professionals and for all who have so much more to explore we wish you well in your journey of learning. It’s one that will likely continue into and through your retirement because old habits die hard—and you’ll always be a plastics engineering professional.

PLASTEC Minneapolis 2018 held October 31-November 1 is part of the Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event that also includes MinnPack brings you the latest in materials and additives, injection molding, rapid prototyping, coatings, automation, packaging and more. For details, visit PLASTEC Minneapolis.

About the Author(s)

Rick Lingle

Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday

Rick Lingle is Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree from Clarke College and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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