A careful walk along Argenplas 2006 aisles unveiled a reality beyond that of the show's records in terms of exhibition area, booth numbers and international participation.
Unfavorable market circumstances kept some machinery makers from taking state-of-the-art machinery to Argentina, such as fully electric equipment, large-scale blow molding machines and PET preform injection molding machines.
``The show is beautiful, bigger than ever, but it adds nothing in terms of technology,'' said Hernan Solveira, a partner of Latinplast srl of Pilar, Argentina. Latinplast manufactures high density polyethylene bottles for the car oil, personal hygiene and cosmetics sectors.
The major economic crisis that affected Argentina five years ago virtually terminated every credit line locally available, repressed consumer product demand and squeezed profit margins, which compromised local processors' capacity to reinvest.
PET blow molding machine maker SIG Corpoplast GmbH & Co. KG of Hamburg, Germany, portrays a good example of how current market conditions affected the technological level of goods displayed live at Argenplas 2006.
At the company's booth, one could find machinery posters in all sorts of sizes and colors, as well as detailed catalogs and even a real Speed-Loc mold system for quick changes, which equips SIG's stretch blow molding Blomax Series III line. However, there was not a single machine.
``We haven't brought any unsold machine to Argenplas since 2000,'' said Jorge E. Oleskow, president of SIG's subsidiary in Argentina. ``We took a risk in 2000 and came to Argenplas with two unsold blow molding machines for PET and PE. But since Argentina's peso devaluation, our equipment has become three times more expensive than in 2000,'' Oleskow said.
``To bring a machine down to Argentina and have to send it back to Germany or maintain it here in inventory is not economically worthwhile. It's easier to invite a client to travel to Hamburg, where we can show the entire constructive system of our machines.''
Oleskow's general impression about the show was very positive, though. ``I'm real glad - my direct competitors are not here, and we have made plenty of good contacts,'' he said.
Buenos Aires-based Gmo. Gabelsberger & Cia. SA, which represents Battenfeld injection molding systems in Argentina and Uruguay, paid the price and brought an unsold HM 100/250 Unilog B4 hydraulic injection molding machine to the show.
``Bringing an unsold machine is a big effort; assembling a booth is twice as much effort, and competing with the low prices of the Chinese suppliers is a triple effort,'' said Gabelsberger's director, Herma F. Gabelsberger.
He said, however, that Battenfeld offers financing to some clients, which is an advantage.
Monza, Italy-based blow molding machine supplier Magic MP SpA experienced a friendlier situation. A few months before the show, the company sold to Buenos Aires-based Plastinort srl a Magic IBL 2D hydraulic-electric hybrid machine, which was displayed at its show booth.
``Of everything that I saw at the fair, this is perhaps the best machine displayed,'' said sales manager Jorge A. Reznik. ``In addition to technical features, it was the only one that could manage to run at an industrial pace every day, from the time the fair began until it ended.''
The Magic model cost $378,200 and blow molded high density polyethylene containers of 1 liter.
Magic's sales to Argentina totaled $1.89 million in 2005 and $315,150 the year before. ``Several potential deals were negotiated during Argenpl s. We are optimistic about 2006, especially due to the considerable interest from certain players in the packaging sector that require high quality and repetitiveness,'' Reznik said.
Another machinery supplier that took advantage of the show's business atmosphere was Cincinnati Extrusion GmbH of Vienna, Austria. The booth emphasized attractively priced machines, especially Delta models that produce profiles, tubes and hoses.
``The fair was a big surprise for us. There are a lot of companies interested in machines such as the new Delta 45 which, despite its small size, contains all of Cincinnati's basic technology,'' said area sales manager Enrico Buran. The machine costs $28,000.
All four extruders Cincinnati took to the show sold before they left Austria, including a bigger model - Proton 90 - which can process 1,540 pounds of PE tube per hour.
Buran is confident that Cincinnati's extrusion activities may reach $1.26 million in sales this year, against roughly $375,000 in 2005. ``My expectations are based on Argentina's development in general, which is pushing molders to invest in newer, larger lines,'' he said.