Aug 05, 2023

Kickstart: It's like MAPP, but for rubber

Plastics News readers should be very familiar with MAPP and AMBA. But in the alphabet soup of trade associations, have you heard of ARPM?

Andrew Schunk has a good story about ARPM — the Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers — in our sister publication Rubber News. He notes that the Indianapolis-based group is now 13 years old and has 105 member companies.

I think of ARPM as like MAPP — the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors — except it's for rubber processors and their suppliers. Letha Keslar, the group's managing director — and a familiar face to everyone in the plastics sector — told Schunk that ARPM is "healthy and thriving."

That's in part because the group helped its members weather the challenges of the past 13 years, including the pandemic.

"We still hear from many company owners and presidents who tell us those conference calls and what we offered as far as educational forums and best practices during the pandemic helped them make it through," Keslar said. "Even through COVID we were running between 90 and 92 percent of participation with our membership, which was amazing."

MAPP is a little older than ARPM, dating back to 1997. I wrote a column a few years ago with my take on how MAPP managed to thrive. The prescription sounds exactly like what Keslar is doing with ARPM.

AMBA, the American Mold Builders Association, is 51 years old, but it joined MAPP under Troy Nix's First Resources LLC umbrella in January 2010.

If plastics readers know ARPM, it may be because MAPP and the rubber group have co-hosted an annual safety conference. In fact, PN benefited from the relationship this year, because we got to run Schunk's safety conference coverage.

Kudos today to Ascend Performance Materials, which shared the news that its Ascend Cares volunteers from its Houston and Chocolate Bayou sites in Texas recently teamed up to help Kidz Harbor, a facility that offers medical, physical, educational and psychological assistance to abused and abandoned children.

The Ascend Cares crew assembled 200 personal hygiene kits to donate to Kidz Harbor.

With kids going back to school the next few weeks, it's great to see volunteers helping to make sure students and teachers have everything they need for a successful year. Especially coming off the pandemic, our schools can use the help.

Hats off, too, for companies like Ascend that are giving volunteers the opportunity to help.

My favorite plastics research project today is from the University of Wisconsin, where engineering students are using PVC pipe to fool sophisticated voice identification systems.

Automatic speaker identification is becoming more common as a way to prevent data theft. Basically it's like Siri on an iPhone, only responding to the owner. But now banks and other companies are using it to confirm customers' identities.

"The systems are advertised now as secure as a fingerprint, but that's not very accurate," says doctoral student Shimaa Ahmed. "All of those are susceptible to attacks on speaker identification. The attack we developed is very cheap; just get a tube from the hardware store and change your voice."

WUWM radio said the students used PVC pipe to disguise their own voices — think of how when you were a kid and you talked to your sibling through a paper towel roll.

To test the technology, the students imitated celebrities including Lisa Kudrow and Kelly Reilly.

The imitations were "good enough to get through digital attack filters of a voice authentication system and fool it," the radio report said. The UW-Madison engineers said they were able to deceive security systems 60 percent of the time.

I can only hope that one of the tests involved singing "Smelly Cat."

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