SPE names Lifetime Achievement Award winner

The Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers names Dr. Norm Kakarala as this year's recipient. The award will be given at the group's Innovation Awards Gala on November 12.

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Dr. Norm Kakarala, who has had a notable 46-year career in automotive plastics at companies like General Motors Corp., Delphi Corp., and Uniroyal Tire Co., has been named the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award winner by the Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE, Troy, Mich., USA). He will be honored for his role leading automotive plastics and composites innovations at the 44th-annual Automotive Innovation Awards Gala on November 12, 2014 at Burton Manor (www.burtonmanor.net) in Livonia, Mich. First given in the year 2000, the award recognizes the technical achievements of individuals whose work – in research, design, and/or engineering, etc. – has led to significant integration of polymeric materials on passenger vehicles.

Dr. Kakarala was selected as this year's Lifetime Achievement Award winner for his extensive work during a career spanning almost five decades as a technical specialist in the area of polymers, composites, and thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) formulations, including adhesives, coatings, and rubber. He is well known for his work in understanding structure-property relations, and the influence of forming processes like injection molding, sheet extrusion, and thermoforming on materials. He has a strong background as a technical liaison between product development and production implementation of automotive plastics. He also has designed accelerated laboratory tests to predict product-service performance of automotive plastic components, many of which have subsequently been adopted as industry standards.

Kakarala retired last year as senior technical fellow at Inteva Products LLC (Troy, Mich.) where he received awards for TPO formulations for auto interior applications. Kakarala joined the company in 2008 when Delphi Automotive Systems (Troy, Mich.) spun off its interiors business as Inteva.

Before that, Kakarala was a senior technical fellow from 1996 to 2008 at Delphi where he validated closed-loop recycling systems for interior TPO skins using sheet extrusion and thermoforming, developed in-house TPO formulations for sheet extrusion and thermoforming, and managed the company's interior materials and parts testing laboratory for quality and durability evaluations.

From 1981 to 1996, Kakarala was a staff development engineer at General Motors Corp. (GM) at the company's technical center in Warren, Mich. While there, he worked with vehicle groups in the selection of materials for new programs on notable cars like the Chevrolet Camaro, and on plastic/composite-bodied vehicles like the Chevrolet Corvette and Pontiac Fiero sports cars, and the Chevrolet Lumina, Oldsmobile Silhouette, and Pontiac Trans Sport minivans. He also developed industry standards on adhesives and composites through his work as GM's representative on the Automotive Composites Consortium of the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR), the precompetitive research consortium for General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler Corp. (now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles). Kakarala also managed a materials development and testing group at GM to support both vehicle and component development teams. When GM spun off its part production operations as Delphi in 1996, Kakarala went with the business. Before his work at GM, Kakarala was a staff research engineer at Uniroyal Tire Co. (Detroit, Mich.) from 1967-1981.

Kakarala has organized numerous technical sessions and presented over 30 technical papers at conferences from SPE, the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM), and SAE International (previously called Society of Automotive Engineers). He also helped found the SPE Automotive Engineered Polyolefins Conference and has served as the event’s technical program chair or co-chair for its entire 16 years. He also holds eight U.S. patents for different TPO material formulations for vehicle interior skins and molded parts. He has developed ASTM and SAE standards for testing plastics and polymer composites during his years working for General Motors. He holds a doctorate degree from University of Detroit, an M.S. degree from Wayne State University, and a B.S. degree from Andhra University ―all in Chemical Engineering.

On November 12, Kakarala will be honored for his significant contributions to automotive composites and plastics at this year’s SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Gala starting with the VIP Cocktail Reception at 4:30 p.m that is sponsored by Celanese Corp. At 5:00 p.m. the main exhibit area will open for general admission and guests can review this year’s Automotive Innovation Awards part nominations, as well as enjoy the specialty and antique vehicles that are always a highlight of the show. Dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the awards program itself will last from 7:00-9:00 p.m. For those who wish to extend merrymaking and networking activities, the ever-popular Afterglow – also sponsored by Celanese – will run from 9:00-11:00 p.m.

For more information about the SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Competition and Gala or to download nomination forms and rules for this year’s competition, please see http://speautomotive.com/inno and http://speautomotive.com/awa.