Positive projections permeate pre-K gathering

July 22, 2016

I had an opportunity in late June to attend the pre-K press event in Düsseldorf, Germany.

This is a plastics industry event that is unique to the K Show. Messe Düsseldorf brings in the trade press from around the worldthere were 80 journalists representing 85 publications from 34 countriesso that K show exhibitors can make presentations about their new products.

And the companies that pay for stage time and the right to mingle with the international press take it seriously, sending their top executives. Gerd Liebig, chief sales officer, made the pitch for Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery GmbH; CEO Bernd Reifenhäuser led a contingent of six presenters from Reifenhäuser Group and CEO Jean-Michel Renaudeau made Sepro Group's pitch.

It was a big deal. So what did we learn?

Worldwide, the plastics industry is strong and the outlook is positive, so there will be plenty of exhibitors with new products and attendees filling the aisles. Hundreds of all types of machines will be running during the show. Approximately two-thirds of the 19 exhibit halls are devoted to processing machinery and auxiliary equipment.

Sepro's Renaudeau said his company will bring 26 robots — "our biggest display ever at K" — including five that will be shown for the first time. Other pre-K presenters made similar pronouncements.

But here is the buzz:

Industry 4.0: Nearly every company at pre-K told us about Industry 4.0 and how their equipment can be integrated into tomorrow's smart factory. Even recycling giant Erema talked about its new Industry 4.0 smart technology.

Plastics processing is becoming a digital industry, which supports smart-factory initiatives. Smart factories offer the promise of double-digit increases in efficiency, speakers said. That's why every machinery and auxiliary equipment manufacturer wants to be seen as an Industry 4.0 leader or at least for their equipment to be recognized as Industry 4.0-ready.

3-D printing: This could be the most noticeable addition to K 2016. Additive manufacturing and 3-D printing applications in prototyping, mass production and spare parts will be everywhere. There were a few at the last K show — notably the Arburg Freeformer 3-D printer — but expect many more and expect to see them more realistically integrated into the manufacturing process than older versions.

Lightweighting: The automotive industry is pushing technology boundaries to making vehicles lighter. Nearly all the major machinery makers are saying that new lightweighting technology will be part of their K show exhibits.

This is an ongoing priority but now seems to be working its way to the top of the list. Think about the mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, known as CAFE, that require U.S. carmakers to achieve fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon for new cars and trucks by 2025. The 2025 models will be on designers' drawing boards in two to three years.

Resource efficiency: This is not as sexy as Industry 4.0 or 3-D printing, but expect to see subtle improvements to machinery that support this effort. This can mean reducing energy consumption by recovering energy during machine deceleration and using it for other movements. Heat recovery is similar.

Another way to use resources more efficiently is to reduce changeover times and shorten startup. That means a machine can spend more time making parts and waste less resin. You will see plenty of examples of energy and heat recovery as well as faster startup and changeovers on machinery at the K show.

So are you going to K 2016? If you are reading this, the answer is probably "No." Less than 4 percent (8,100) of the 218,000 attendees at the last show came from the U.S. and Canada.

There is still time to reconsider. It is true that the crowds are huge, traffic is heavy, hotel rooms are expensive and it is in another country. But you will likely forget about all those inconveniences the first time you step into a massive exhibit hall with more new machines running than you have ever before seen in one place.

In June, we profiled Currier Plastics, and President John Currier described how Currier officials have gone to the K show to see the latest extrusion blow molding technology. Those visits led them to buy a Kautex KBB 60 extrusion blow molding machine, which was introduced at the last K show.

The K 2016 website at www.k-online.com has everything you need to plan a trip, as well as a host of planning tools and social media apps to navigate the event.

But if you decide not to attend, Plastics Machinery Magazine will publish K in Focus, a magazine filled with new products that are being shown for the first time at the K show. Subscribers will receive it with their November issue.

Exhibitors who want their new or upgraded products included in K in Focus just need to send a product description to [email protected] before Sept. 1. Don't forget to include a high-resolution (300 dpi at 3 inches wide or larger) color photograph.

Ron Shinn, editor

[email protected]

About the Author

Ron Shinn | Editor

Editor Ron Shinn is a co-founder of Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing and has been covering the plastics industry for more than 35 years. He leads the editorial team, directs coverage and sets the editorial calendar. He also writes features, including the Talking Points column and On the Factory Floor, and covers recycling and sustainability for PMM and Plastics Recycling.