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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

R.I.P. William Lester - Inventor of the Platsic Injection Molding Machine 

Saw this on Hyperscale a while back. Besides the obvious connectin to one of my hobbies, think about how much impact this man's inventions have had on modern life.

"HyperScale Forums

All HScalers and, for that matter, modelers all over the world should take off their hats bow their heads and engage in a moment of silence for William Lester who died at the age of 97 on Saturday March 12, 2005.

According the NY Times obit (from which I quote liberally), he revolutionized the plastics industry with his design for an automatic molding machine 70 years ago. Lester took a mere 10 weeks in 1935 to develop what became known as the Lester machine. based on longstanding methos for shaping rubber, it injected molten plastic into a cavity formed by engraved metal slabs that jouined together, much like a waffle maker. Using hydraulics, his device applied thousands of pounds of pressure to shape the plastic in seconds.

Other so-called injection machines existed, but they were smaller and often hand-cranked. They could take several minutes to create a molded part, while Lester's machine could finish in as few as six seconds.

With rubber supply lines blocked in WWII, Lester's innovation took on crucial significance and helped place the nascent plastics industry at the forefront of American manufacturing.

Sixty years later, injection molding remains one of two methods for producing palstic products; the other (according to the article) is extrusion, generally used for large or lengthy products (I bet that vacuform modelers might have an opinion on a third method).

Born in Brooklyn on Jan.14 1908 to immigrant Russian-Jewish parents, his father a blacksmith. Lester was still in school when he started designing molds and casting machines. He graduated in 1928 from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering.

In 1939 he founded the Pyro Plastics Corporation, which became a leading producer of injection molded plastics. After selling Pyro in 1972, he turned his attention to tamper proof packaging (Okay, so even though we now know who to blame for our frustration in opening up all kinds of packages and medicine bottles, consider the fact that we're less prone to being poisoned and our small children are less likely to swallow deadly stuff thinking it's candy).

We all enjoy this maddening hobby of building models because of Mr.Lester and his miraculous injection molding process. It's gratifying to know a bit of its background and the industry's innovators, such as Mr.Lester.

Sleep tight and rest easy Bill, and thanks for many, many years (43, in fact, for me) of the pleasure of building models, the friends I've made and the accomplishments I achieved, all as a result of this wonderful hobby.

Mike Dobrzelecki
Modeler since 1962"
Great story. No wonder Pyro's toys were so innovative.
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