The world is an unpredictable place; still, you can see trends if you look. It doesn’t take much looking, though, to see that the economy is growing, and this time, so are the number of manufacturing jobs. A reduction in regulation has helped, as have the tax breaks for businesses. Whatever the causes, directly or indirectly, consumer optimism and spending are leading to business opportunities. As just one example, Apple has announced a $350 billion investment in America, creating 20,000 new jobs in the next five years. Many smaller businesses are announcing expansion and increasing production. Everyone wants to participate in this expansion and the opportunities it brings.

So, the questions for you are: How does this affect me? Am I ready to participate? As an individual, there are three areas of expertise you bring to your company and its success. The first, but not necessarily the most important, is your knowledge of your own company and what it takes to get things done. This is important, because it differentiates you from potential competition for your job from the outside.

In the other two areas of expertise, the Society of Plastics Engineers can help. The first of these is knowledge in the field of plastics (materials and process) and plastic decoration and joining (secondary operations). The second area of expertise is just as important: an understanding of your business customers’ needs, goals and expectations. Through its Annual Technical Conference (ANTEC), SPE offers many papers and presentations sorted both by field of expertise and by end user groupings, such as automotive and medical. When you attend, not only do you get to hear about the latest developments in your field, but you also can meet and ask questions of the recognized experts. Remember, although it is important to understand your own market, great ideas and solutions also can come from looking at other markets. Plastic processes are key to most industries, ranging from cosmetic packaging to high-tech telecommunications and consumer products.

This year, ANTEC is the joint meeting with the National Plastics Exposition (NPE2018). This brings together the largest gathering of plastics engineers and professionals in North America. It will afford the opportunity to see latest offerings in materials, manufacturing equipment, tools and secondary processes. It also is an opportunity to hear papers from both academic and industry leaders. The joint conference and exposition will be held May 7 through 10, 2018, in Orlando, Florida. This is an opportunity that happens only once every three years and must not be missed.

A multitude of conferences are available, but most of them have a fairly narrow focus on one technology or group of technologies. While these are very useful to develop skill and contacts in a specific batch of plastic decoration or joining, they tend not to provide the knowledge you need to select the best technique among all of those available. With more options, it becomes all the more important to know what is available, as well as the advantages and limits to each technology. This joint meeting is the largest in in the United States for the plastics industry, with 65,000 attendees and more than 600 technical paper presentations, covering both academic and technical marketing formats. The new technical marketing track will be organized into sessions focused on specific topic areas and is intended to be a forum where new products, processes and services can be effectively shared with attendees.

The Decoration and Assembly division looks forward to having you attend the ANTEC and to providing great papers and contacts that you can use to excel in your company. It is a great opportunity to learn what you need both to advance your career and enable your business to lead the industry.

Learn more at the Society of Plastics Engineers website,, or by contacting [email protected].

Paul Uglum
Technical Fellow, Aptiv Chair, SPE Decorating & Assembly Division

SPE’s Decorating & Assembly Division will host a half day of technical papers on Thursday, May 10, at ANTEC, held in conjunction with NPE2018 in Orlando, Florida. Paper topics will include robotic automation for pad printing, laser marking vs. digital inkjet, electron beam curing and laser welding, among others. Early bird rates are available through March 22, with discounts for SPE members. Registration includes access to the NPE show floor. For more information and a detailed schedule, visit