Arthur Gustafson: Inventor, Entrepreneur, Pioneer
If you talk about heat sealing and thermoforming technologies—especially rotary automatic heat seal machines —chances are you’ll talk about Arthur Gustafson or some of his inventions. He’s led the packaging industry in these technologies for more than 40 years.
Gustafson’s career began on his family’s farm, where he showed an aptitude for repairing and enhancing mechanical items. Machinery was his passion however, and in 1954 he signed on as an apprentice machinist in the die shop of Plastofilm Industries. He progressed well, enjoying frequent promotions in engineering, operations and management positions, while continuing to help on the farm.
Plastofilm was an early pioneer in visual carded packaging, and Gustafson began to look for ways to improve efficiency and quality in assembling a carded blister package. In 1961, working out of a chicken coop on the family farm, Gustafson founded Alloyd Packaging Company (today called Alloyd Brands) and focused his goals on better, faster and more cost effective blister packaging. By 1966, Gustafson had designed and built the first-ever fully automatic six-station rotary blister sealing machine. The machine quickly became the industry standard, and elevated Gustafson to “pioneer” status.
However, something was missing. To ensure optimum performance, his new breed of sealers required a more accurate and consistent thermoformed blister to allow for automatic feeding. and to meet that need, Gustafson built his own. The resulting thermoformer was unique in its ability to produce a very accurately cut custom blister at speeds high enough to maximize the capacity of the automatic sealers. In 1989, Gustafson sold Alloyd Packaging Company, which had grown from a one-man chicken-coop operation to a $40 million, 300-person firm.
After a few years in “retirement,” Gustafson re-entered the industry he had so influenced. He formed Algus Packaging, Inc. in 1995 with new concepts for packaging equipment he wanted to build and bring to market. He’s still introducing new products, including a next-generation blister-sealing machine (the U-8), and Algus has grown to more than 100 employees. The company’s goal remains “to define blister packaging for the 21st Century.”
Gustafson’s impact has gone well beyond packaging lines, however. His custom machine system is part of the Toymaker 3000 display still on exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry—and he donates the time and resources to have employees ensure it’s in working order. He has given generously to food banks, animal shelters, Boy Scouts, schools and even to employees in the wake of personal tragedies.
From blister packs to the Boy Scouts, Arthur Gustafson has worked to make the world a better place.
Five industry leaders where honored at Las Vegas Hilton reception.
The Packaging Hall of Fame Class of 2011 spans a range of expertise and even a generation or two. But what each of the five inductees has in common transcends any of those differences: generosity of spirit and commitment to education.