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CHICAGO — NPE 1997 looks splashy and polished now, but unexpected move-in problems in the new South Hall plagued suppliers of the really big injection molding machines. Several exhibitors said they had to use two cranes instead of one to move in the massive injection molding machines, ones with clamping forces of 1,000 tons and larger. Some companies said they were told the South Building's ceiling is 12 feet lower than the other McCormick Place buildings — a fact disputed by McCormick Place management.

A lower ceiling would mean cranes could not be fully raised, so they could not lift the maximum amount of weight, requiring an additional crane in several cases. ``Crane capacity was diminished,'' said Bob Netzel, services manager of Cincinnati Milacron Inc.

Milacron has the largest amount of booth space at NPE — 21,000 total square feet and 19 machines. Its largest press, a 1,760-ton machine, was moved into place June 5 before the show.This is the first NPE to use the huge, 840,000-square-foot South Hall. Everyone contacted Monday liked the South Hall, but Milacron and some other big-press makers exhibiting there were frustrated.

``They built a building, a world-class facility, that can't accommodate the size of equipment that we're bringing in,'' said Sid Rains, vice president of sales and marketing for Van Dorn Demag Corp.

Van Dorn Demag had problems moving in its 1,760-ton injection press. It ended up taking two cranes to move instead of one.

Moving equipment into NPE is handled by GES Exposition Services of Las Vegas. Paul Romer, general manager of GES' Chicago branch, said Monday the company would not comment.

Several exhibitors said the South Hall ceiling is lower than the ceiling of the upper level of the North Hall. But in reality, the ceilings of North and South are the same — 40 feet high — said John Devona, senior director of marketing for McCormick Place. The East Hall does have a higher ceiling, at 50 feet high, he said.

The U.S. average for exhibit space is 35 feet, Devona said.

``It's possible that some of these exhibitors have been in the East Building in the past,'' Devona said.