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TAPPSA Honorary Life Membership award to Bob Heimann

Following his graduation from Wits University where he studied Chemistry and Applied Mathematics, he was employed by Usutu Pulp Company as a Day Chemist and formed part of the technical team lead by Dr. Hector MacKenzie from Courtaulds. His main duties were involved with the analysis of smelt from the recovery furnace and the development of a simple gravimetric test for the efficiency of the lime kiln to convert calcium carbonate to calcium oxide. Also in this period he developed a method of visualization of the colour change during a complexometric titration for sulphate in black liquor by placing the titration flask on a yellow photographic lamp. This method was adopted by SAICCOR (another Courtaulds-owned Company) to measure their sulphate in effluent streams.

He then moved to London where he was employed by Parke Davis Pharmaceuticals in their analytical Laboratories in Hounslow where he was responsible for installing their gas chromatography and paper chromatography facilities. These were used to assess the purity of synthetic hormones oestrogen and progesterone used in their contraceptive pill. He was subsequently employed by EMI Electronics in their chemistry laboratory in Feltham where development of epoxy and polyurethane polymers were tested for use in packaging of electrical controls. An interesting team project was the design of a safety glass for the Concord aircraft windows which was adopted in all the supersonic aircraft that were subject to higher temperatures and increased UV radiation at higher speeds and altitudes than conventional aircraft.

Returning to South Africa he joined a paper coating company Samuel Jones in Springs where they were about to start a new specialized paper coater for the production of gummed label paper and self adhesive label stock. After training in their UK paper coating mills he introduced an enzymatic conversion process for starch to dextrin gum which performed as well as the more expensive imported starch-ether product from Holland. An interesting variation of gummed label paper was a particle gum coated from a non-aqueous fluid which remained perfectly flat under all weather and printing conditions. This was used for car licenses that could be attached to windscreens without the need for a siliconised backing.

He then joined the East London company, Johnson and Johnson, and managed a small team of chemists and engineers who developed baby products such as shampoo, powders and nonwoven fabrics for feminine hygiene.

The new bagasse paper mill at Stanger attracted his attention because pulping, bleaching, paper and tissue making, as well as coated paper, were all made at the one location. He joined Stanger Pulp and Paper when it was managed by the Reed Group as laboratory coordinator. The coated fine paper had not been made before with bagasse fibre, but the management seemed to have the ambitious attitude of: "Just because it's never been done before doesn't mean we can't do it!" The mill suffered at first from a lack of steam to operate all its production facilities. Once this was rectified and the local printers accepted the coated paper grades, the mill was set for profitable operation.

He was next employed by Sellotape Products in Johannesburg where he became the Technical Manager and gained experience in the formulation of many pressure-sensitive adhesives including crepe paper, masking tape and plastic film backed packaging tapes. A new product he designed for the company was vapour corrosion inhibitor (VCI) which was supplied to local car manufacturers for shipment of car bodies to overseas assembly lines.

Bob's next position took him to Carlton Paper where he worked with a marketing and technical team to make nonwoven rayon fibre wipes. This company was taken over by Kimberly-Clark Corporation and after the nonwoven fabric facility in Wadeville was closed, he took up the position of Process Specialist at the Enstra tissue mill in Springs. Over a period of more than 20 years he gained experience in tissue manufacture and environmental challenges.

Retirement at age 65 was not a satisfactory option for Bob and he then took on a factory management position for Bidvest making high quality liquid soaps and other janitorial products. He has now taken up a position as a chemical consultant to Pratley Polymers in Krugersdorp where he is engaged in interesting developments in the field of adhesives based on epoxies and urethane polymers.

Because of the interesting and varied work encountered during his career, Bob accepts the Honorary Life Membership gratefully, acknowledging all the experiences the pulp and paper industry has afforded him.

Susanne Heimann Hon Award

Back to Volume 1 2011