History of the SPE Product Design and Development Division

The Product Design and Development Division (PD3) congratulates SPE on 80 years of helping to educate the members of the ever-evolving plastics industry. Over the years, SPE created Regional chapters around the world, and Technical Divisions to address the new plastic materials and processes as they evolved. PD3 is one such Division.

Al McGovern, PD3 Past Chair, and Glenn Beall, Founder (right); Mel Friedman (left) and Henry Finkel admiring their Founder’s plaques, March 8, 1984 (bottom)

Glenn Beall, SPE Distinguished Member and current PD3 Historian, recalls the origin of this division commencing in 1984 when Henry Finkel, a well-known Montreal, Canada-based industrial designer, petitioned the SPE Executive Committee (EC) to create a plastic product design division. The EC recruited Mel Friedman, the highly respected editor of Plastics Design Forum magazine, and Glenn, a Chicago-area plastic product designer, to help form the division. PD3 received its charter in 1995 and, by 1998, its membership had grown to approximately 2,200 members.

These 3 Founders recognized:

  • Plastics processors can only produce what engineers design.
  • If there is no design, there’s no need for plastic materials, molds or machines.
  • There is nothing to produce, nothing to sell and, thus, no profit to be made.
  • Therefore, nothing happens without plastic product and part engineering and design.

They further understood that, while some designers work, e.g., at extrusion or thermoforming companies designing profile extruded or thermoformed parts, there were many more designers who worked for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), where they used many different materials and processes to produce their products. With very few universities then (and, now) teaching plastic part and product design for the different combinations of materials and processes, there was (and still is) an obvious and critical need for an SPE technical division to provide expertise on most of the major plastic material groups and all the primary processes. These founders envisioned PD3 would present both novice and experienced engineers/designers with the unique learning opportunity to acquire the knowledge they needed from experts in these areas.

Based on this foundation, the PD3 Objective is the continual improvement in the quality of the design and development of plastic products. That ongoing goal will be achieved by providing a forum for designers, their suppliers, customers and educators to share technical information that is of specific interest to the plastics product design community.

PD3 encourages and invites all plastic part and product engineers and designers to join our division, where they can learn and share their own experiences with the broader community. Visit the website to get started,


Toensmeier, P. (Ed.). (2022, July). SPE chapter profiles: product design and development. Plastics Engineering, 78(7), 93.