A new era in NPE history begins today as the giant NPE2012 international plastics exposition opens in the first new venue for NPE in 40 years, bringing an innovative agenda, an influx of new exhibitors and attendees, and an upsurge in size and dynamism, it was announced today by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association. “Moving from Chicago to Orlando was the first initiative in SPI’s strategy of ‘breaking the mold’ by creating a broader-based and more exciting NPE with new benefits for exhibitors and visitors,” said William R. (Bill) Carteaux, president and CEO of SPI, which produces the triennial NPE. More than 1,900 companies are exhibiting at NPE2012, well over the totals in 2006 and 2009. NPE2012 exhibitors have taken 920,000 sq.ft. (85,500 sq.m) of exhibit space, 20% more than was occupied in 2009. Companies coming directly from outside the United States account for 40% of the total exhibitor count in 2012, a substantial increase from the one-third share for recent NPEs. Approximately 41% of these international exhibitors come from China—by far the largest contingent from that country at any NPE. Attendee registrations in 2012 are 30% greater than in 2009. International registrations account for 25% of the total, and fully half of them are from Latin America, attesting to the advantages of the Orlando venue for travelers from Mexico and Central and South America.
Visitors to the NPE2012 trade show will immediately be aware of the sheer dynamism of the exhibit floor, as plastics processing machines are demonstrated in full-scale operation, manufacturing film, sheet, bottles, and injection-molded parts. Described by SPI as “The Return of the Machines,” the upsurge in the number of equipment systems that suppliers have brought to the show is attributable to the recovering economy and the cost savings and streamlined logistics available to exhibitors in the new Orlando venue. Among the most elaborate equipment demonstrations are those of complete production cells—in effect, turnkey plastics processing plants that incorporate parts handling, decoration, assembly, and other functions. Among machinery exhibitors there is widespread emphasis on energy efficiency, increased productivity, and scrap reduction. Specialized technologies include micro-molding, multi-material processing, and in-mold labeling and assembly. Systems for producing medical devices, automotive components, and high-volume packaging are also prominent at the show. Along with the “return of the machines,” the overarching theme of the NPE2012 show may well be advances in technology for bioplastics. Dozens of exhibitors are involved, ranging from manufacturers of new bio-based resins, compounds, and additives to equipment suppliers that have developed systems specifically for processing these materials. Sessions of all three educational programs co-located with the show will also focus on bioplastics. Bioplastics suppliers aside, material companies are plentiful at NPE2012, noted SPI’s Gene Sanders. “There is more participation by resin manufacturers than we’ve seen in the last four or five NPEs, as these companies exhibit, host customer service centers, or sponsor special-interest initiatives such as our design competition.” While introductions of thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are especially prominent at NPE2012, there is a wealth of other new resins, compounds, and additives on the exhibit floor. Sustainability is a key theme among material suppliers, which have developed numerous formulations aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of end products, cutting back on the material content of packaging, light-weighting parts to reduce fuel consumption in shipping or in automotive applications, enhancing recyclability, or facilitating development of alternate energy systems such as photovoltaic, wind turbine, or film-battery applications. Many international exhibitors of equipment, materials, tooling, and specialty services can be found in thirteen international pavilions—those of Austria, Canada, China, Egypt, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Qatar, Spain, and Taiwan.