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Column: Of rubber, plastics and 'Rubber & Plastics News'

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There often has been confusion about the name of our publication. It was launched in 1971 as Rubber & Plastics News by Ernie Zielasko, father of our current publisher, Dave Zielasko.

The publication from the start targeted the tire and rubber product industry as its main audience. Ernie apparently intended to broaden the scope to include plastics, but that never happened on a broad scale.

He later sold the publication to Crain Communications, remaining as editor and publisher. More than a decade later, Crain Communications did launch Plastics News as a publication to serve the broader plastics market.

While most of you know RPN as tied to the rubber industry, having the word “plastics” in our name still brings in phone calls or emails that would be more suited to our sister publication. That especially is true in the weeks leading up to the NPE show taking place this week in Orlando, Fla. And while many of the releases are from plastics firms, I did notice an increasing level of participation at NPE from rubber-related companies.

There are, of course, some crossover areas of interest for RPN and Plastics News. That includes some polyurethanes and thermoplastic elastomers. With TPEs, it is a matter of making a product that acts like an elastomer but is processed like a plastic.

More recently, Plastics News has stepped up coverage of liquid silicone rubber, or LSR. At RPN, we've focused on LSR for more than two decades. I wrote an in-depth piece in the early 1990s about how LSR wasn't quite as simple to process as originally touted by materials suppliers, but it was starting to gain ground in the market.

More plastics firms are entering the field lately to broaden their scope, but the rubber folks still maintain they can better master the technology. I heard a different opinion lately, where a tooling maker said LSR should be its own category, because those who understand that the material needs to be treated differently than either rubber or plastics will be best at processing it.

Years ago our former publisher considered changing the name of our publication to “Rubber News”—our website, in fact, is www.rubbernews.com. He decided against it when further study said the new moniker wouldn't help us generate more revenue. Rubber & Plastics News, it was determined, had built-in equity with our readers.

Don Loepp, editor of Plastics News, and I do a pretty good job to make sure we share the load when it comes to firms we both cover so we're not chasing the same stories.

There are times we both want to claim somebody for our industry. Such is the case with Weathertech and its Super Bowl commercials. In his blog, Don called them a thermoformer. I studied the firm's website and found they use a proprietary thermoplastic rubber. So I guess we were both right.

Meyer is executive editor of Rubber & Plastics News. He can be reached at bmeyer@crain.com. Follow him on Twitter @bmeyerRPN.