New bells and whistles call us to NPE2024

April 15, 2024
Technology in the plastics industry has made tremendous leaps in the past six years. You should be there to see it.

By Ron Shinn

The last time we got together, injection molding machines could not adjust themselves, processing recycled resin was a mystery most molders shied away from, the most famous cobot at the time was named Sawyer and AI was sometimes confused with steak sauce.  

What a difference six years makes! 

NPE2024 attendees are going to see significant technological advances from the 2018 show. Processing machines have become smarter and easier to operate. Artificial intelligence-powered software is making entire plants smarter, more efficient and more profitable. 

You missed an opportunity to see the latest bells and whistles in 2021 when NPE was cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s one of the reasons seeing the latest technology at NPE2024 will be such an eye-opening experience.  

The other reason is that the pace of advancing technology is speeding up as machinery manufacturers look for ways to help alleviate your labor shortages and enable you to meet demands to do more with less. 

Every machinery manufacturer I talk with says their competitive advantage is their ability to make life easier and more profitable for processors. Machinery manufacturers are listening to customers more than ever before, and that is a very good thing. 

Most processors have spoken to their primary machinery supplier and perhaps one or two others during the past six years, but NPE2024 will give attendees a chance to kick the tires on equipment from just about every machinery manufacturer operating in North America.  

Seeing so much equipment in one place will be a valuable experience. 

There are also likely to be some very good deals available. Plastics processing machinery sales worldwide have been very slow since mid-2023, and the first half of 2024 does not look to be much better.  

For example, Arburg officials said recently that worldwide sales declined 11 percent in 2023 over the previous year and that there are currently no signs of improvement in 2024. Boy Machines, which specializes in small tonnage, high-precision molding machines, said sales were down by about 50 percent in 2023. 

There is one bright spot — a top Engel executive said North American buyers are buying more turnkey systems, which helps primary machinery manufacturers sell more of their auxiliary equipment. 

Three well-placed sources have told me recently that significant price discounting has been taking place. That’s not surprising because machinery manufacturers have huge, fixed overhead costs. 

The K Show in Germany in October 2022 offered some clues about to what to expect at NPE next month. The show floor was covered with highly automated work cells, gee-whiz in-line vision equipment, processing machines that could recover energy and adjust themselves on the fly, robots and plenty of other labor-saving devices.  

Just about every new machine was tied to improving sustainability, and that will be a central theme at NPE2024 as well. There will be 10,500 square feet of recycling demonstrations plus a new Circularity Hub. 

KraussMaffei is pushing its “Make plastic green” slogan to describe what it says are “pioneering possibilities in reaction process machinery for sustainable products and sustainable production.”  

Wittmann will show five work cells that demonstrate how its Wittmann 4.0 connectivity system enables sustainability, circular economy and energy efficiency. 

There are plenty of reasons to visit NPE2024 from May 6-10 in Orlando. Your next molding machine, extruder, blow molder or thermoformer might be on the show floor. The best deal you will see for a long time might be waiting.  

Raising the curtain on NPE tech 

The 111  Product Innovations in our April issue are just a sample of the new technology that will be on display at NPE2024. 

We hope this issue will help you build a checklist of the companies you want to visit at the show. 

These products were primarily researched and written by senior staff reporters Karen Hanna and Bruce Geiselman, and associate editor David Tillett. Associate editor/designer Marvin Brown produced the pages. 

This issue only raises the curtain on our NPE2024 coverage. There is extensive coverage scheduled through the September issue. 

I will be at NPE along with managing editor Lynne Sherwin, Hanna and Geiselman. Email us at [email protected] if you have a new product we should see. 

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.