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6/7/2019 | 3 MINUTE READ

PPA Presents Williams with Distinguished Service Award

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Long-time president of AEC acknowledged by Plastics Pioneers Association for his service to the group.


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The Plastics Pioneers Association (PPA), McHenry, Ill., presented Don Williams with the Distinguished Service Award for his years of service to the organization. Williams was acknowledged at the PPA’s recent spring meeting in Santa Fe, N.M. The award is presented to a candidate who has demonstrated long-term, outstanding service to and support of the PPA and its objectives.

Williams’ path into the plastics industry was circuitous, beginning after he graduated from Michigan State University in 1961. After earning an engineering degree, he went to work for a utility in the Chicago area. The company paid for Williams to attend the University of Chicago’s graduate school of business.

Williams’ decision to take a position with two young “visionary” entrepreneurs, who had founded a company called Application Engineering Corp. (AEC), represented his first foray into the plastics industry. The company was growing fast, specializing in refrigeration/cooling for the plastics processing, and Williams’ job as a field engineer gave him a lot of hands-on experience.

AEC’s owners had the innovative idea that cooling an injection mold is like cooling a heat exchanger, but, said Williams,  “it wasn’t being done that way.” AEC arranged a project with the University of Illinois, Chicago Campus to do research and analysis on cooling injection molds more efficiently. AEC engineers worked with one of the school’s engineering professors and developed a program for a mold cooling analysis. “In those days, moldmakers were not heat-transfer experts,” said Williams.

AEC soon acquired Whitlock, an auxiliary equipment manufacturing company in Detroit specializing in pneumatic conveying, blending and drying for plastics processing. “We could see that in the plastics industry there were a lot of people getting into water chilling and wanted to define ourselves as the auxiliary equipment company for conveying, blending, drying and chilling,” said Williams, who became president and CEO of AEC. Shortly thereafter AEC purchased Nelmor, another auxiliary equipment company making granulators, located in Massachusetts.

Williams managed the AEC group, which also got into pick-and-place robots, and was very active in all AEC businesses. He continued as president until 1987. Williams left AEC after 20 years with the company.

During his three-year non-compete agreement with AEC, Williams took over a struggling concrete company in Traverse City, Mich., which he sold when his non-compete agreement time concluded. Then in 1989, Williams founded Opti Temp Inc. and incorporated it in 1990. “I became serious about this business and got a patent on a refrigeration system that allowed the chiller to provide not only cold temperatures to molds, but also high temperatures for molding engineering materials such as nylon. “Instead of buying a chiller and a mold temperature controller, all they need is the chiller/heater,” explained Williams. Williams recently sold this business.

Williams became known for his expertise on mold cooling and material drying, and throughout his career gave speeches at Plastics Industry Association and SPE conferences on these topics. “I love the plastics industry and enjoyed it very much,” said Williams, adding that he was “shocked and numbed” when he was presented with the Distinguished Service Award from the PPA for the various ways in which Williams has given of his time to ensure the success of PPA. “I was not expecting an award, but I really appreciate it,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”

Williams explained that his desire to “give back” to the plastics industry through the PPA’s scholarship program and other endeavors is the primary reason he belongs to the organization.

Founded in 1948, the mission of the PPA is to build on the past and to advance the future success of the plastics industry by providing scholarships to students, educational programs, and supporting the plastics history museum at Syracuse University, all of which serve to engage the next generation in the world of plastics.