CHICAGO (July 28, 5:30 p.m. EDT) — Michael Morningstar went to NPE 2000, hoping to find some information about thermoforming with the possibility that Dwyer Instruments might take up the process.
Morningstar, a toolroom supervisor and mold engineer for the Michigan City, Ind.-based Dwyer, said a paid seminar at the triennial show inspired him.
"I used their concept," Morningstar said. "We didn't have the equipment, so I used two acrylic blocks, drilled some holes in them, and with a 5-gallon bucket, a vacuum cleaner and an oven I made one. I was pretty darn happy."
But aside from making home-grown machines, many companies and visitors got some benefit out of the triennial trek to Chicago's McCormick Place for NPE 2000.
According to the DuPont NPE plastics industry survey given to show exhibitors June 22, 47.9 percent of respondents rated the quality and number of visitors as good, with an additional 35.1 percent rating their visitors as excellent. No one issued the poor rating.
Bernd SchÃ¤tte, exhibition coordinator for German mold equipment supplier Hasco Verwaltungs GmbH and Co. KG, said there was no shortage of visitors.
"We really were surprised to get so many visitors," SchÃ¤tte said. "We are very satisfied with the show. We don't go to a show to have better sales. We go to a show so the customer can come to us. We like to show the new products from us."
Most exhibitors felt they benefited from visitor traffic to their booths.
"It's a good way to introduce new products and new services," said Ken Sanborn, vice president of HA Industries, based in Sterling Heights, Mich. "You can reach a big market in a small amount of time."
Sanborn added that most of his visitors had planned to see the company, while many others randomly stopped by. He said the company has good prospects for sales from the show, but no exact figures so far.
Sanborn said it was "just exposure" that made NPE 2000 surpass its predecessors.
But with more than 2,000 exhibitors seeking exposure from more than 90,000 visitors, NPE 2000 was all about competition.
David Mitchell, molding manager for medical component manufacturer Avail West Coast in San Diego, was able to take advantage of the competitive marketplace in McCormick's halls.
"I've already paid for my trip by negotiating discounts on equipment I was going to buy," Mitchell said. "I've paid for my airplane, my hotel, food, everything. You'd talk to one company, get a bid, talk to his competitor, get another bid and head back to the first one."
The sheer abundance of people also helped companies become known.
"We found plenty of contacts to follow up with," said Lars Ziegler, mechanical engineer for Plymouth, Mich.-based Molds & More. "We didn't sell a mold at NPE, but that wasn't our intent. Instead, we had hoped that other people would see what we had to provide. We had a lot of show traffic, and people stopped to look at our booth. Now we need to follow up with them to see how good those leads will be."
Besides just getting contacts, many companies reported seeing customers who were especially eager to buy.
"More interested people came looking to buy equipment instead of just looking," said Mark Zelnick, vice president of thermoforming equipment maker Zed Industries Inc. He added that the strong economy could be a big factor in buyers' confidence.
While most visitors and exhibitors relished each other, some attendees felt the show did not have too much innovation.
"I saw more stuff that is evolutionary," said Bob Wilson, director of engineering at Uniloy Milacron Inc. "Nothing that really makes you go, `Wow.'''
Overall, 49.3 percent of respondents to the DuPont survey said the level of innovation was good, and another 38.4 percent said it was excellent. About 6 percent thought it was fair, with fewer than 1 percent marking it as poor.
By comparison, at the end of the 1997 show, 42 percent of respondents thought the level of innovation was excellent, with another 45.3 percent rating it as good.
But Morningstar said a lack of stunning, eye-popping innovation does not mean there were few advancements.
"I didn't see anything I hadn't seen before, but as far as introducing innovation, they don't come as regularly," said Morningstar, who came to Chicago for the third time this year. "There were things there that wowed people three years ago, but this time they had honed the technology.
"At NPE they have the latest and greatest of everything in the plastics industry," he said. "It sparks the imagination of the engineer."
Of the respondents who attended both NPE 2000 and NPE 1997, 51.1 percent thought this show surpassed the one in 1997, while 45.6 percent rated the shows about the same. Of the total respondents polled, about 40 percent did not attend NPE 1997, highlighting NPE's accomplishment at attracting new visitors.
In 1997, 57 percent of respondents thought the show was better than 1994, and another 41.9 percent thought it was about the same.
"There's much more to see and business is much better compared to 1997," said Peter Locker of Spartanburg, S.C.-based Rieter Corp. "There wasn't as much business then. Things have changed and people are willing to spend money to invest (in equipment)."
Even if attendees generally thought NPE 2000 was a good opportunity, some agree it would not work as an annual show, not only because of the unnecessary suffering of finding taxis and hotel rooms.
"If they did it more often than every three years, I don't think it would have the pop that it has now," Mitchell said.