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11th March 2020, Tacoma, WA

Interview with General Plastics President & CEO, Dr. Mitchell Johnson

General Plastics, President/CEO, Dr. Mitchell Johnson. © General Plastics.General Plastics Manufacturing company is a Tacoma, Washington state-based manufacturer of composite core and custom moulded parts for aerospace, automotive and other markets. In the run up JEC World, Inside Composites caught up with the company’s President and CEO, Dr. Mitchell Johnson to discuss its LAST-A-FOAM rigid and flexible polyurethane foam products.

Inside Composites (IC): General Plastics was founded back in 1941 as a manufacturer of preservative coatings for wood and other organic materials. How did you get involved in the composites industry?

Dr. Mitchell Johnson (MJ): General Plastics’ original founder, Lou Schatz decided to diversify into plastics and composites when WWII began. During that time there was a need to produce a number of materials for aircrafts, such as the B-17 bombers. General Plastics seized the opportunity and began producing acrylic fabricated windows and phenolic parts for the aircraft. Shortly after the war ended, General Plastics invented their LAST-A-FOAM rigid and flexible foam product series and introduced it to the market. Since then it’s continued to provide its flagship product for numerous applications for aerospace, military and composite-manufacturing companies.

IC: You say that General Plastics LAST-A-FOAM is unrivalled in the market. What does the range include, what are the applications, and why is it unrivalled?

MJ: General Plastics’ LAST-A-FOAM rigid and flexible polyurethane foam products are unrivalled because they provide the strength, stability, uniformity and unique mechanical properties needed to meet the needs of numerous applications. Available in a range of densities we offer high-strength, durable PU foam solutions to a wide variety of industries including aerospace & defence, automotive, doors & windows, thermal blocks, marine, medical, nuclear containers, sports & recreation and many more. It is used for numerous applications such as tooling, core material and prototyping. It’s also an ideal material for models, signage and various aerospace and automotive panels and padded parts.

General Plastics rigid foams. © General Plastics.General Plastics rigid foams. © General Plastics.

General Plastics has seven decades of experience performing quality assurance to the most exacting standards for our own products. We couple consistent performance with our proven ability to execute various test methods, specifications and customer requirements. Rigorous inspections and testing, plus our numerous certificates of conformance guarantee that the products received meet customers’ drawings and exact specifications. General Plastics is certified to ISO 9001:2015/AS9100D and purchases from ISO 9001 partners.

IC: Your LAST-A-FOAM WSF Series high-density polyurethane flexible foams are flame-retardant, durable and self-skinning (also known as integral-skin foams). Can you tell us more about them and which applications they are suited to?

MJ: General Plastics’ flexible WSF self-skinning foam series (also known as integral skin foam) are used extensively in aircraft flight decks, interiors and cabin applications. This durable, flame-retardant aerospace polyurethane foam conforms to CFR 14 Part 25.853, 12-second vertical flammability properties. It can be pigmented, tinted or painted in a variety of colours.

The material is ideal as a flexible seal where aesthetics are important, such as gap management for aerospace interior. It is also used by airframe manufacturers for decorative overmoulding, padded moulded and fabricated flight-deck parts. This self-extinguishing, integral-skin flexible urethane foam can be custom-molded to the exacting specification.

IC: General Plastics fabricates and machines custom-moulded parts to customer specifications using high-density flexible and semi-flexible polyurethane LAST-A-FOAM materials. Can you tell us more about that part of the business?

MJ: General Plastics Manufacturing Company is ideally qualified and equipped to manage all aspects of a moulded-foam part program. Our high-capacity production facilities enable us to scale production to project needs – from a small, short-term run of specialty parts to an extensive, ongoing OEM multi-year contracted parts program.

We have seasoned estimators, CAD/CAM designers, procurement specialists, product development chemists and engineers on staff to custom-develop any build-to-print program. Our team can support customers with part and tool design, mould tooling manufacture and production of parts through all phases to completion. When necessary, we will also custom-formulate appropriate foam systems to make just the part needed, with all the physical properties and other attributes required. Within the aerospace industry alone, these build-to-print parts serve as flight deck components, armrest pads, bin-to-bin closeout seals and header seals.

IC: Sustainability is the biggest single issue in the industry today. What's your long-term vision for the company in that respect?

MJ: General Plastics manufactures commercial high-density foam products that are eco-friendly. Our “green” content combines post-industrial, post-consumer and rapidly renewable material resources. In addition, LAST-A-FOAM is designed to last for the duration of the product and due to long term property retention, it will not need to be replaced limiting the life cycle impacts that other plastic products may struggle with.

Find green content in General Plastics’ LAST-A-FOAM FR-4500, FR-4600, FR-7100 and R-9300 foams series. The percentage of green content varies by product line and density.

For example:

  • Each sheet of our FR-4500 product in the 6 lb. density diverts the equivalent of 32 water bottles from landfills
  • In the 50 lb. density, each sheet of our FR-4500 foam diverts the equivalent of 512 water bottles from landfills
  • Our R-9300 Continuous Insulation Series foam blocks for industrial and cold-storage building construction applications may contribute to LEED certification with material containing up to 11% green content

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