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The world's largest trade show and conference devoted to plastics, NPE will celebrate its 28th anniversary when it returns to Orlando, FL, on March 23 to 27, 2015. More than 2000 exhibitors from all strata of the plastics supply chain will fill one million square feet of space at the Orange County Convention Center. Upwards of 60,000 attendees are expected to visit the event to discover new technologies on the show floor and gain technical and market insights at the ANTEC 2015 and SPI Business of Plastics conferences.

Norbert Sparrow

November 24, 2014

5 Min Read
It's not too early to start thinking about March madness, NPE style

The world's largest trade show and conference devoted to plastics, NPE will celebrate its 28th anniversary when it returns to Orlando, FL, on March 23 to 27, 2015. More than 2000 exhibitors from all strata of the plastics supply chain will fill one million square feet of space at the Orange County Convention Center. Upwards of 60,000 attendees are expected to visit the event to discover new technologies on the show floor and gain technical and market insights at the ANTEC 2015 and SPI Business of Plastics conferences.

Event producer SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association fully expects 2015 to be a banner year, surpassing 2012 numbers. "Overall, we are about 20% over [in booth space] compared with the last show," says Brad Williams, Director of trade shows marketing and sales for SPI. The growth is largely attributable to exhibitors booking larger booths, he adds. "More machines will be on the floor, and you need more space to accommodate them," says Williams.

There is also a sense that the economy is coming back, and that plastics, again, has a bright future. That was a dominant theme at the space draw in February 2014, when Bill Carteaux, SPI President and CEO, engaged in some industry cheerleading. Domestic consumption of plastics took a real hit in the recession, he said, but the industry is on track to reach prerecession levels of demand by the end of 2014 or early 2015.

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Williams expects international participation on the exhibitor side to be consistent with the record-breaking 2012 results, with about 40% of exhibitors coming from outside the United States. China sent the most international exhibitors in 2012, but the event also attracted 28 exhibitors from Mexico and South America, the most ever at an NPE event. Leaving the windy city for the sunshine state had something to do with that, and there is no reason to believe that participation of companies from south of the border in 2015 won't match or exceed that number.

While the 2012 event went well in Williams' estimation, there is always room for improvement, notably in transportation, he concedes. There will be more taxis, he promises, and attendees can look forward to happy hours at the event after the day's closing bell. The happy hours are designed to give attendees and exhibitors more opportunities to meet and network, but also provide them with an enjoyable way to wait out those long bus lines.

When you organize what is essentially a must-attend event for an industry, there can be a temptation simply to keep doing what has worked so well in the past. To SPI's credit, the association has resisted inertia and made an effort to keep pace with the evolution of technology and industry, and to question past assumptions. At NPE2015, it has decided to give a special emphasis to additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) and sustainable industrial practices, starting with the opening ceremony.

Recycled materials strike a pose

Just before the doors open to the exhibition floor on day one, attendees will be greeted with a fashion show. Models will parade clothing designed by students from Savannah College of Art & Design using postconsumer recycled materials. "The fashion show also will highlight 3D-printed accessories," notes Williams. The clothing and accessories will be displayed at the Zero Waste Zone during the run of the show.

Located in the south hall of the convention center, the Zero Waste Zone will showcase, among other things, what happens when you throw a recyclable can into a bin.

"We will collect materials from the show floor and bring them to the Zero Waste Zone to demo how recycling actually works," says Williams. The entire cycle will be shown in the zone from cleaning the material to putting it into a chipper, where it is reborn as flakes. A product showcase will highlight the materials' second lives as flooring, consumer goods, electronics, furniture, and other products. A recycling pavilion, populated by suppliers of recycling services and technologies, and a sustainability pavilion will be adjacent to the Zero Waste Zone.

"Our goal is to call attention to zero waste strategies and get industry up to speed," explains Williams. "This initiative also represents a call to action. We will be [erecting] a wall of commitment, where industry associations and partners will show how we can reduce our carbon footprint. We are inviting attendees to pin their business cards to the wall and show their commitment, as well," adds Williams.

And if that's not enough to get you to wander on over, how about a beer garden? Granted, it has nothing to do with recycling and sustainability in anything but a metaphorical sense, but it will inevitably boost the ambiance, as Williams notes.

Introducing NPE3D

Approximately 5000 sq ft of exhibition space will be devoted to additive manufacturing/3D printing at NPE3D, which is slated to become its own annual event. The special section, open to all NPE attendees, will include such high-profile exhibitors as Stratasys and 3M Advanced Materials and several conference sessions.

The vision, says Williams, is to take a bigger look at additive manufacturing. "How 3D printing is going to change the manufacturing process and impact the lifecycle of plastic products will be the larger theme," he says. In keeping with that, associated conference sessions will address sundry legal and regulatory issues; material options; software development; and the business impact of what many are calling a disruptive technology. On the latter point, there is plenty to talk about, some of which may lie outside the comfort zone of traditional NPE exhibitors.

As Clare Goldsberry wrote on the PlasticsToday site in June, "A few mold manufacturers have adopted 3D printing and are printing prototype parts, and cores and cavities . . . but not many take this business seriously. They should. Materials have evolved to the point that many companies are using 3D-printed parts in jet engines, vehicle components, and much more. They're skipping the mold. And that's why mold manufacturers need to be worried. Not that the capability exists to make these 3D-
printed parts in volume. It can't. Yet."

Food for thought, that you can digest as you walk the NPE3D floor.

Norbert Sparrow

Norbert Sparrow is Senior Editor at PlasticsToday. Follow him on twitter @norbertcsparrow and Google+.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.

www.linkedin.com/in/norbertsparrow

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