AMERSFOORT, THE NETHERLANDS — German suppliers accounted for more than a third of the hefty 12 percent jump in worldwide demand for plastics machinery in 2000, but matching that level this year may prove difficult, according to Helmut Eschwey, president of the K 2001 trade show.
Eschwey gave a generally upbeat report on the global plastics industry during a March 13 news conference in Amersfoort to preview K 2001.
The 15th K show, officially the Plastics and Rubber Industry International Trade Fair, will be held Oct. 25 to Nov. 1 in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Eschwey pegged global 2000 demand for plastics machinery at 18.5 billion euros ($16.8 billion).
The German machinery industry recorded growth of 16 percent in new orders and 14 percent in sales in 2000, compared to 1999. Orders jumped 21.4 percent in the biggest segment, injection molding machines, to 10,800 presses, he said.
"German manufacturers have had a particularly good year 2000. All the signs indicate that their production figures have reached an all-time high," Eschwey said. "It may prove difficult to equal these record figures in 2001."
One major question mark hangs over the equipment sector: Who will buy Mannesmann Plastics Machinery AG and its six companies? Eschwey predicted the matter should be resolved in late April or May.
Eschwey is chairman of SMS Plastics Technology, which makes machines under the nameplates of Battenfeld, American Maplan and Cincinnati Extrusion.
Although he called economic problems in the United States and Japan "clouds on the horizon," Eschwey said the international plastics industry is continuing to grow "at a dynamic pace." He predicts a U.S. upturn by the second half of this year.
The fortunes of some plastics sectors, such as film, already are recovering after a weak start. But, with U.S. housing starts down, producers of pipe, vinyl siding and other construction products have been hit by the slowdown, Eschwey said.
Global consumption of plastics, which rose 7.6 percent to 308 billion pounds during 1999, is expected to show similar growth this year. Official figures have not been released yet.
By 2010, Eschwey said, consumption is expected to grow almost 70 percent.
Also during the news conference, the K show president surveyed fast-growing end markets, including PET bottles, compact discs and digital versatile discs. Another hot market, fiber-optic cable, is fueling growth in polyethylene conduit pipe and tiny, plastic ferrule cable connectors.
Flexible packaging is seeing strong growth, in particular for cast stretch film for pallet wrap and food applications, Eschwey said.
He predicts "huge demand" for PE pipe from the natural gas industry, particularly in China. Massive infrastructure projects there include a government plan for a 2,600-mile pipeline from northern China to Shanghai that runs through 12 provinces.
While the PVC window profiles business may be more difficult in Europe, Eschwey said that China, where wood is scarce, is providing big potential for vinyl profile producers.
European plastics processors enjoyed a good year in 2000, in spite of soaring raw material costs and the weak euro. German processors enjoyed growth in real terms of about 5.2 percent, topping the 40 billion euro ($36 billion) mark. Another 5 percent growth is expected for 2001, Eschwey said.
Visitors to K 2001 will see some exotic displays, including the development of plastics for outer space, he said.