ATLANTA — Last year's exhibit accommodations at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Thermoforming Division conference in Fort Mitchell, Ky., had some suppliers griping. But this year's convention center setup Sept. 13-16 in Atlanta set all that aright.
At the Fort Mitchell hotel that hosted the 1996 conference, exhibitors complained of close quarters in out-of-the-way locations — small rooms down labyrinthine hallways well off the beaten path. But this year's SPE Thermoforming Division attendees needed no trail of plastic pellets to find exhibitors — the cast of sheet, equipment and resin suppliers assembled for the event, held at Atlanta's Georgia International Convention Center.
While technical sessions took place as usual in an assembly room configured for speakers and overhead projectors, exhibitors staked out 38,000 square feet of accessible convention hall space, replete with good lighting and ceilings high enough for Thermwood Corp. to haul out its Model 67 five-axis, single-table trimming center. Thermwood of Dale, Ind., was the only exhibitor, out of 120 or so, to truck in big equipment — a first for this annual event. That number of exhibitors compares with about 75 at last year's conference, said the SPE division.
Registration for all, both thermoformers and suppliers alike, put attendance somewhere around 900, or about 150 more than last year's count.
``The exhibits have been encouraged for the attendees' benefits, their education in the latest technology,'' said conference Chair Lola Carere, who is sales coordinator at custom thermoformer Multiplastics, a Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based division of Curd Enterprises Inc.
But some, like Mike Bartholomew of thermoforming mold supplier Miller Mold Co. in Saginaw, Mich., said they see the conference going the way of a trade show as the number of exhibitors grows.
That, emphasized Carere, is not the direction the division has planned.
``We're still a technical educational conference,'' she said during the event. ``We don't want people to get the idea we're a trade show. The emphasis is still put on the educational part of it.''