More than 200,000 people will visit K 2019 in Düsseldorf, Germany, in October, but many more will stay home running extrusion lines, formulating and buying materials, and selling and using the products. The K is by far the biggest plastics show in the world—three times the size and attendance of our NPE—and, therefore, a showcase for anyone with anything new. So, you can’t afford to miss it, right?
Well, not quite. People say they go to see what’s new, but trade journals (notably PlasticsToday, of course) will be there to report on that, helped by the promoters of what’s new, who get better and better at making sure we see them. During show time—Oct. 16 to 23—set aside some time to get the news from The Big Show.
Actually, what’s new is not the only reason to go to the K (or to read about it) and maybe not even the most important one. Buying and selling machinery has always been big—many machines are sold off the show floor, and many more orders are taken, so expect longer delivery times after October than right now. Maybe it’s already too late for that. The show allows comparison of vendors, but any buyer of primary equipment that may cost a million dollars or more shouldn’t depend on the few minutes they get on competitive stands, nor on the relative lavishness and hospitality on the stands themselves.
Every exhibitor wants to put its best foot forward, and you may see impressive demonstrations that make products that you want to make, but visitors must ask about the resin used; its grade; the maker; its physical properties; and, if formulated, the specification of additives and blend components. Also important but easier to see is the motor power (3kW = 4 HP) and the line speed/product dimensions, from which you can get lb or kg/hour. The companies may tell you—look for the signs—and I believe their rates are possible, but I still want the numbers. Trust, but verify. I learned that lesson at a long-ago K show (I have been to 16 of them), when I saw an impressive demo of flat-die rigid PVC film, run all day and still clear and yellow-free at the end of that day. Not so easy, until I asked how much stabilizer, and what kind, was used.
What you can’t get online or even from the exhibits is the personal experience “in the trenches,” only with no war. If you’ve had dinner at Zum Schiffchen in the Altstadt or lunch in the Dutch Fischwagen (a food truck) parked somewhere outside between the 17 halls, you’ll remember who you were with and have something to share, maybe 20 years later.
What will be visible, though not exactly new, is more of what the public calls “high tech.” To extruders, that means real-time measurement of thickness and automatic feedback to keep the process as consistent as possible. This requires recording, analysis and feedback to something, such as little heaters to expand bolts or change air flow, axis-skewing of sheet-cooling rolls, or speed adjustments of a puller. This also includes predictive maintenance, avoiding shutdown. I said it was nothing new, and some of you will remember its “youth” in the 1970s, but not everyone uses these tools yet, and today we have more ability to inexpensively feed signals to devices that do something. So, if I were walking around hall 16 (the main extrusion hall), I’d be asking suppliers what they have, how much it costs new or retrofit, and the skillsets needed to make it work with minimal downtime. Extrusion visitors will spend much (most?) of their time in this hall.
The driving force is lower thickness and less scrap, resulting in lower material costs. Higher speed is nice, but it doesn’t pay for itself unless you can sell more. A few extrusion applications like medical catheters don’t worry as much about material costs, but they have their own needs for precision. Unfortunately, the human body is variable, so nothing is perfect.
There are some new things, of course, I’d like to know what Kuhne means by "liquid-phase polycondensation" and learn about the physicals of Bruckner’s “stone paper,” an oriented PP film with 60% calcium carbonate. Maybe PlasticsToday will tell me next month.
Fifty shades of green
Europe is less conflicted about fighting global warming and embracing green, but that means different things to different people. At the show, the buzz words will be sustainability, recycling, waste control. Nothing new, but a bigger wave. Less power consumption, thinner products, lighter weight, less incompatible multilayers means more recycling. I’m inspired to paint a picture that has 50 or some other big number of squares, each with a slightly different shade of green (art fans, think Malevich and Reinhardt). I’ll post it here if I do.
There will be talk about banning or taxing bags and straws, strong support of recycling (even if energy usage isn’t cut) and a positive view of degradability, but this is becoming more rational, as degradables degrade recycling streams, too. The public sees electric cars as green, and maybe they are if they use non-fossil sources of electricity. It may be a desire to convince legislators as well as the public that plastics are a necessary good, more than a necessary evil.
Allan Griff is a veteran extrusion engineer, starting out in tech service for a major resin supplier, and working on his own now for many years as a consultant, expert witness in law cases and especially as an educator via webinars and seminars, both public and in-house. He wrote the first practical extrusion book back in the 1960s as well as the Plastics Extrusion Operating Manual, updated almost every year, and available in Spanish and French as well as English. Find out more on his website, www.griffex.com, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Griff conducts live seminars across the country. The next ones are scheduled for Atlanta on Oct. 15 and Toronto on Oct. 17. Seminars in your plant are also available. If you can’t attend his live events, he offers a Virtual Seminar, which can be seen any time, any where. E-mail Griff at the address listed above for more information.