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NPE2018 watch (literally) and 4 more cool things from the show

NPE Holographic bottle square
Attendees could leave the show with a nifty LSR souvenir watch robotically assembled on-site, step inside a booth made 100% of IML materials, view a holographic video of a breakthrough bottle and more.

PlasticsToday reported on 5 cool things we saw during the 5-day run of NPE2018 (those links are found at the end of this report), which covered 1.2-million square feet of exhibition space for 2,180 exhibitors. Because there was so much in Orlando to draw from, our daily reports barely scratched the surface of what we saw as interesting and innovative. 

Which brings us to this sequel that supplements the original quintet of cool with five more worth pointing out that are just as innovative, based on my 30 years’ experience as a packaging reporter.

In short, the largest-in-history NPE NPE2018 was awesome and overwhelming, everything anyone could want in a tradeshow.

Our cool sequel starts with a booth that literally stopped attendees in their tracks and compelled them to stand dozens deep in line for about 30 minutes (photo above).

What was worth that kind of wait that drew many hundreds of visitors to the booth of Arburg (Lossburg, Germany)? It was the incentive for them to receive a souvenir watch assembled before their eyes by a robotics-driven work cell that itself helped pass the time in line.

The demo was an example of Industry 4.0 for the individualized automated production of single-unit batches by an electric two-component Allrounder 570 A that produced two, two-color wrist straps molded from Liquid Silicone Rubber. Thanks to the Multilift V 15 linear robotic system and an assembly station, the watches were complete with housing and fastening and ready to use in 70 seconds. Besides watches, the system is appropriate for packaging, medicine and additive manufacturing.

Ironically, I didn’t have time to wait in line for a watch as my natural curiosity and the fact that there were so many dozens of aisles to explore beckoned me more.

It wasn’t the only attention-getter in the booth: A separate line formed on another side of the packed and expansive booth where visitors could leave with a molded and assembled small folding stepstool.

At a show of this magnitude, getting attention amid the considerable “noise” meant going way over the top. I’m sure there was more to see here, too, but it was time to move on.

EastPack 2018 held June 12-14 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City offers the latest in manufacturing and automation, a dedicated 3D Printing Zone, hundreds of exhibitors and a jam-packed 3-day packaging conference. For more information, visit the EastPack website.

Next: The incredible waste-reducing additive

A. Schulman (Fairlawn, OH) specializes in functional additives for value-added packaging, and that is as true of its latest innovation as any: Polybatch EasyPour masterbatch. The product enhances customer experience and improves dispensing from stand up pouches and other packaging formats and directly addresses the challenge of product and food waste. The additive influences the inner surface properties of polymers to enable the contents to pour more smoothly, and is applicable for both flexible and rigid multilayer constructions.

My initial impression when chatting with Chris Kerscher, the company’s market development manager for packaging, was that it sounded akin to LiquiGlide (see LiquiGlide slips into higher commercialization gear, published June 2017). A key difference is Polybatch EasyPour uses different chemistry and is added prior to extrusion where it becomes part of the polymer makeup rather than a coating like LiquiGlide, which requires a secondary step to apply.

A. Schulman supplies Polybatch EasyPour as a pelletized, additive masterbatch.  “Typical use rates are less than 10% by weight and can vary depending on formulation and performance requirements,” Kerscher points out.

He notes that the FDA-cleared material is scalable, “applicable from sachets to refill pouches to bag-in-box films to bulk IBC bins.”

It’s appropriate for use across the spectrum of packaged products from household items including soaps and detergents to personal care products to foods and beverages. When asked to identify where he felt the initial applications may be headed, Kerscher anticipates that to be in foodservice packaging.

“Either restaurant/catering markets that include products such as ketchup, peanut butter and sauces or for bulk processing of industrial food ingredients,” he responded. “Interest is also strong in consumer applications such as liquid refill pouches for soap and detergents.”

Next: An ultra-light-weighted hologram bottle

When vendors have important breakthrough to share at a major tradeshow, they have a number of options of how to present the news, but KHS Group (Hamburg, Germany) decided to take the rarely-used holographic route. And it worked because as I scoured the show aisles for new and innovative products the display specifically got me to step into the booth to watch a projected 3D holographic video presented on a small stage inside a display cabinet.

It was a riveting and edutaining holographic infomercial of a revolutionary PET water bottle, Factor 100, in development jointly with preform-making machinery supplier Husky Injection Molding Systems (Bolton, Ontario). The name references the fact that the weight of the 500-mL bottle is a meager 5 grams. The video pointed to the amazing leafcutter ant, which can carry nearly 50x its weight, which is only half the capability of the even more amazing Factor 100 bottle.

That yields a dramatic 30% material reduction from the previous lightest weight bottle for this volume, and makes it a double win for brands and the environment, with as much a material-saving sustainability improvement as it is a cost savings.

Preform and bottle molding require extremely precise distribution of the PET with optimum stretching. KHS notes that the bottle’s grip is optimized and the sophisticated geometry was derived from virtual prototypes.

I asked the company’s product manager Arne Wiese, “Doesn’t this degree of thinwalling make it more of a pouch than a bottle?” His response:  “The bottle is actually thinner than a pouch, but the special support rings designed in the mold give it structural strength.”

That fact was as amazing as the hologram. Wiese said that the bottle and design needed to be further top-strengthened to allow the filled bottles to be stacked six high “without losing the sustainability benefits.” With major companies indicating “high interest” in the development, Wiese expects a “technical solution” to the above challenge in 2018.

Next: Breakthrough booths including the world’s first (and only) made of 100% in-mold labeling materials.

We usually don’t report on booths, but this was not your typical tradeshow and these two examples were highly unusual booths. Both were distinctive and impressive due to the layout, design and/or materials that tied directly to the exhibitor’s proposition.

One was the World’s First Booth Made 100% using In-mold Labeling (IML) technology,  done by IML specialist Creaprint USA (Miami). The entire 30ft x 30ft booth including flooring, walls, tables and chairs was IML. The concept was executed so thoroughly seamlessly it came across as an amazing over-the-top integration of branding and NPE presence.

According to Creaprint’s Ignacio Guillem Pico, ceo, it took three months’ development to source, execute and bring all these diverse and unusual IML elements together.

Floor and walls were sourced in the United States, he told PlasticsToday, and the chairs were sourced from Europe. Because it would have to withstand a lot of foot traffic, “the flooring took extra consideration and was the most complicated,” Pico explained, “and required a strong, scratch-resistant 100-micron label.”

From among a wide range of IML markets that include food containers, electrical and medical parts and household items, Pico said “IML is growing more in packaging than other applications.”

And yes, the booth displayed plenty of IML packaging and products, including a child’s plastic motorcycle; the decoration was provided by an impressively single large IML label that followed the contours of the molded toy.

One other vendor also similarly impressed me as creatively marrying branding with the booth’s physical makeup as well, and could be noticed from a distance.

Next: The dramatic molecular matrix

The goal of Tosaf (Tnuvot Industrial Zone, Israel) for NPE2018 was to introduce the company to the American market as one of the leading global masterbatch producers, with a new state-of-the-art plant in Bessemer City, NC.

And it did so with a dramatic booth design that could be seen from several aisles away: An artistically captivating "molecular lattice” or matrix that extended from waist level to the girders above the booth as a kind of virtual wall. The matrix, which changed in perspective as you walked around and through the booth, pointed to the molecules of the company’s plastics additives and tied to the supplier’s dot-pattern branding via textured brochures and more.

It may have been the most distinctive of thousands of booths I've seen over the years.

The molecules were soft, blue rubber balls 2.5-inches in diameter and imprinted with the company logo. I learned from global communications manager Ronit Segal Hayoon that 2,816 of them were strung on 330 nylon cords to create the 20x30-foot booth’s striking molecular look. Designed, manufactured and assembled in Israel over a five-day period, it was the first time Tosaf has used this booth setup.

According to the company, “we’ve had a lot of great feedback about the booth. It creates a wall without having a wall.”

The company provides additive and color solutions for film and packaging as well as agriculture and construction.

For more cool things from Orlando, here’s a summary of the daily compilation of the coolest things we saw on…

Day 1 A large cutaway filter built entirely of the iconic plastic bricks

Day 2 3D-printed mask sleeved over a limited-edition PepsiCo Black Panther can

Day 3 Large, 3D-printed aerodynamic roof fairing that could be viewed using AR

Day 4 Color-changing thermochromic PET bottles

Day 5 Shell Polymers makes a big splash

Also visit PlasticsToday’s NPE2018 news page.

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