K2016 broke all the records: attendees, exhibitors, deal volume and possibly altbier and schweinhaxen consumption. To quote Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Chairman of the K 2016 Advisory Board, “I have never seen such a vast number of decisive customers willing to buy at a trade fair before! The number and magnitude of deals, some of which were concluded here spontaneously, as well as the many concrete enquiries about new projects by far exceeded our expectations. It was clear from day one that customers wanted to not only find out about new technologies but also purchase them. There is strong investment in all our customer industries and in all regions of the world.”
(Photo: Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann)
230,000 visitors from 160 countries participated in this year’s event, marking a high point for the world’s largest plastics exhibition. With just 6% of all foreign visitors, the proportion of visitors from the US and Canada remained stable. The US was fairly well-represented on the sell-side with 119 exhibitors showing their product. In addition to individual exhibitors, there were two US Pavilions which were organized by Messe Düsseldorf North America and co-sponsored by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association.
For us at CMT Materials and CMT Europe BV, we would agree with all of the official press. We had a record number of visitors from all over the world, with about 50% from Europe. Our new booth invited in-depth conversations with many toolmakers and thermoformers as they all had the opportunity to touch and feel polished finished plugs. And as we usually find at tradeshows, the number one question was still, “What is the best plug material for [X] material?” This opens the discussion to machinery, process conditions and tool design which allows us to put the plug material choice in a broader context.
HYTAC material could be found all over Hall 3, the primary location for thermoforming technology. All running machines featured our material, mainly B1X and FLX, and the vast majority of static tools also featured prominent HYTAC plugs.
It was very clear that all the macroeconomic trends that we have been hearing in Thin Wall Packaging Conferences and other data sources are creating increased demand for thermoformed products. The highest rate of growth continues to be found in Asia (both China and the ASEAN region) but innovation is primarily being driven by European investments in R&D and technology. Multiple OEMs reported multi-machine sales to large customers outside the NAFTA and EU regions. Tilt-mold machines continue to dominate the landscape for high-volume production with machines getting bigger and faster.
It seems safe to say that the thermoforming industry is enjoying a robust period of growth and expansion, despite increased global competition and some degree of consolidation. Market leaders Kiefel and Illig have expanded into China, while US-based OEMs like TSL have announced capacity expansions. Sales pipelines are full and lead times are getting stretched. As we head into the tail end of 2016, we are already planning to increase production in 2017 to keep up with demand for the #1 plug assist material. If you didn’t make it this year, we’ll see you in Dusseldorf in 2019.
 If you haven’t been to Dusseldorf, altbier is the local dark brew. Schweinhaxen is a regional dish of pork knuckle that is not for the faint of heart.