Thermoformer of the Year
2013 Thermoformer of the Year
Richard Freeman has been involved in plastics manufacturing and design for over 45 years, the last 37 with Freetech Plastics where he has participated in the design of hundreds of products. One of the founders of the “West Coast” style of thermoforming, he has been a regular speaker at industry conferences including ANTEC, SPE Thermoforming Conference, and IDSA programs both in the United States and in Europe. Rich spent 21 years as a SPE Thermoforming Board member where he helped develop the annual thermoforming conference as a heavy-gauge program organizer. His unflagging efforts on behalf of the industry have benefited not just his own company, but thermoformers as a whole. As fellow SPE board member Haydn Forward said, “Rich forced us all to get better.”
His experience providing pressure formed products in the close tolerance, technically demanding, and highly competitive environment of Silicon Valley has led to a number of process and design innovations. It has given him a unique perspective on production, quality, marketing, and design issues. Freetech’s products have won numerous industry awards including the 1996, 1999, and 2004 People’s Choice Awards, the Thermoforming Industry’s top prize. Freetech has provided pressure formed parts for 12 ID/IDEO/Innovation Magazine award winners.
Rich’s articles, company and products have been featured in publications such as Plastics Engineering, Appliance Manufacturer, Innovation, Machine Design, Plastic News,
Mechanical Engineering and International Designer to name just a few. He has spoken on many issues important to designers and manufacturers over the years. While Chairman of the Asset Allocation Review Committee, he launched and managed the Thermoforming Division’s Machinery Grant Program which has placed equipment in over 25 schools and
universities. These machines have been used to produce thousands of student-designed parts, many of which have gone on to win national awards.
Rich started and continues to sponsor the IDSA Student Thermoformed Parts Competition that encourages schools to use the equipment donated to them and teach students about the thermoforming process while providing thousands of dollars in scholarships. Focusing on design schools and their students helps develop future demand for our industry and its products.
Rich has been an IDSA member since 1999 and has spoken on Thermoforming at several IDSA National and Regional Conferences. He has also been a sponsor of both national and regional IDSA conferences since 2000.
He organized three SPE Thermoforming Division exhibits at the Industrial Designers of America conferences. Starting in 1999 at the New Orleans IDSA Conference, the Division exhibited 60 products from 29 thermoformers. Two more major exhibits were put on, in Boston and in Monterey. This work has been instrumental in getting thermoforming recognized as a viable process by the design community. Rich has continued to do this on his own at IDSA the last 11 years.
He developed and maintained the first three versions of the SPE Thermoforming Division website. By putting industry resources such as Thermoforming Quarterly, Thermoforming 101 and other critical information online, Rich has helped give thermoformers a vast pool of knowledge on a wide range of topics from which they can draw, any time.
Rich readily acknowledges none of this would be possible without a dedicated and creative group of associates, several of whom have been with the company 20-30 years. Their enthusiastic support has allowed him to engage in a wide range of volunteer work while keeping the company on the cutting edge of the pressure forming industry.
Though he now concentrates on non-industry volunteer work, he still serves as chairman of the IDSA Materials and Processes Section, as an advisory board member of the Silicon Valley Chapter of IDSA, and as a board member for the Plastic Design and Development Division of SPE.