AFA Strengthens Ties With Academia

Outgoing Chairman Tom Witham (L) is presented a plaque for his long time service by new Chairman Rajesh Shah

Outgoing Chairman Tom Witham (L) is presented a plaque for his long time service by new Chairman Rajesh Shah

RALEIGH, N.C. – During its 29th Annual Meeting at N.C. State University’s College of Textiles here recently, the American Flock Association (AFA) strengthened its ties to the academic world, discussed its goals for the coming years, honored a longtime member and chairman and elected a new chairman.

Formed in 1985 with 26 member companies, the association focuses on promoting the flock industry. Flocking is a fiber-coating technology that brings texture, comfort and warmth to practically any surface, including metal, foam, rubber, paper and plastic. Member companies are active in every aspect of flocking in North America. Member companies include flock coaters, equipment suppliers, flock consultants and providers of substrate, fiber, flock and adhesives. The association is affiliated with the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO).

In Raleigh, AFA honored Chairman Tom Witham for his leadership and lifetime dedication to the flocking industry. He retired from Spectro Coating three years ago and returned to the association shortly thereafter to accept another two terms as chairman (2013 and 2014), a position he had held years earlier. Witham, who asked to step down for 2015 to allow a younger member to serve, plans to stay active working on special projects for the organization.

“I was chairman for probably eight or nine years when we first started, and I became chairman because I missed a board meeting,” Witham deadpanned, in opening the business section of the meeting. “It’s been a real pleasure to serve this organization. After I retired, I was pleased to be asked to come back and lead the organization again.”

Rajesh Shah, an N.C. State graduate who now works at Claremont Flock/Spectro Coating of Leominster, Mass., was elected chairman of the association.

“When I was in school here, most of my professors didn’t know what flock was,” Shah said during a presentation to members.


Managing Director Steve Rosenthal

Through its university partnerships, AFA is hoping to raise awareness of this important industry sector, particularly among students and textile academia, according to Managing Director Steve Rosenthal. At N.C. State, the association is in its third year of sponsoring senior design projects.

While on campus, AFA leadership met with faculty members from the College of Textiles to discuss having flock in its curriculum at a greater level.  Specifics are being worked out and should be in place by the next academic year, Rosenthal said. To facilitate this increase in focus on the flock process, Spectro Coating is donating a laboratory flock machine.

Members heard presentations from several N.C. State professors and students. Dr. George Hodge, a professor in the College of Textiles, discussed supply chain challenges and opportunities for the flocking industry.

NC State students Eric Gardner and Catherine Pagan

NC State students Eric Gardner and Catherine Pagan

Drs. Jesse Jur and Russell Gorga of the College of Textiles, along with senior students Eric Gardner and Catherine Pagan, also spoke about the students’ senior design project focused on flock. As part of the day’s activities there was a tour of the N.C. State textile labs.

The AFA also has a 25-plus-year partnership with the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Currently the association is supporting its FEAM (Flock Energy Absorbing Material) project – a flocked composite to be included in helmets to lessen the potential of concussions. Witham updated the group on this project during the meeting. Every three years, the AFA sponsors “Flock School,” a two-and-a-half-day program held at UMass-Dartmouth. The ninth session of this triennial event will take place in August 2016.

Looking forward, the AFA is in discussions with Kettering University in Flint, Mich. to establish an academic relationship with a university that focuses on the automotive industry.

In his report to members outlining AFA’s future road map, Shah said the AFA updated its website,, this year. A fresh look, plus the addition of an active blog, has been very successful. The latest activity is an entry into social media with LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest.

Additionally, the group discussed its involvement in trade shows in the coming years. Exhibiting at various trade shows fosters its mission of raising awareness of flocking. These shows cater to various end users such as upholstery, apparel and automotive.

Another important mission of the AFA is to serve as the principal forum for scientific, regulatory and legal matters affecting membership. In the past, the association has worked closely with U.S. government bodies on flammability and health issues in the flocking operation.

For more information contact AFA Managing Director Steve Rosenthal at

By Devin Steele


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