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Whether we realize it or not, plastic materials and products are an integral part of modern society. From toys, appliances and food and beverage containers to cars, medical devices and bullet-proof vests, plastics make our daily lives easier, safer and more convenient.
To showcase the latest advances in the field of plastics research and manufacturing, Nypro Inc. is holding a Global Technical Conference each year. UMass Lowell’s Department of Plastics Engineering hosted the first such meeting in late November at Wannalancit Mills. The four-day event attracted about 100 participants and highlighted programs geared toward transforming new ideas from the drawing boards to the marketplace.
Clinton-based Nypro is a leading custom plastics molder, with operations in 17 countries. The company has been collaborating with UMass Lowell for more than two decades, working with its faculty and students on product inception and commercialization. Nypro’s modern Precision Injection Molding Laboratory is sited at the Plastics Engineering Department.
To underscore the company’s long-term commitment to the University, Nypro President and CEO Ted Lapres presented a $250,000 check to Chancellor Marty Meehan. The amount will be used to provide scholarship to plastics engineering majors, to support research at the department’s labs and the Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing and to assist three College of Engineering scholar interns.
“We chose the University of Massachusetts Lowell for this conference because it is one of the world’s leading plastics universities,” said Lapres.
“Nypro wanted to focus on technology, especially ‘green’ plastics and nano manufacturing, two areas of significant advancement in the last few years,” said department Chair Robert Malloy. “The people at Nypro recognize UMass Lowell as a leader in these areas.”
The conference featured talks by experts from UMass Lowell, Nypro and other companies and institutions on market trends in areas like biodegradable resins, nano- and biomanufacturing, and safety and environmental responsibility in the plastics industry. Other speakers included Theresa Park, director of economic development for the City of Lowell, who discussed the transformation of the city from textile manufacturing to a world-class center for emerging technologies, as well as Profs. William Lazonick and William Mass and Dr. Edward March of the UML Center for Industrial Competitiveness, who spoke on the importance of product knowledge and innovation. At the end of the first day, attendees were given a tour of the Plastics Engineering Department and its labs.
UML graduate students also took part in the program, including a career night with company representatives on the conference’s opening night and nearly two dozen poster presentations of their plastics research on the final day. Dean Kathryn Carter of the College of Management and Profs. Steven Tello, Valerie Kijewski and Ashwin Mehta of the Department of Management helped facilitate the student sessions, leading three “ideation” workshops to discuss the students’ projects.
“The conference was a great success,” said Malloy. “A robust partnership with the plastics industry has always been the University’s strength, and this Global Technical Conference is a good example of that.”