Organizers hope a break with tradition will add prestige and scope to a design competition that has drawn fewer entries and interest in recent years.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. will make its next design competition an international event and hold it in conjunction with NPE 2009, scheduled for June 22-26 in Chicago.
The International Plastics Design Competition will be the first time the long-standing design contests organized by SPI's Alliance of Plastics Processors will be open to anyone worldwide and to virtually any type of design.
Washington-based SPI said the competition will extend its reach to new categories including packaging products, bioplastics, nanocomposites, and products that address energy efficiency and sustainability.
In the past, the National Plastics Design Competition was mostly restricted to U.S. entries and limited to load-bearing parts, enclosures and structural parts. The Structural Foam Division, APP's predecessor organization, launched the annual contests in 1974. That unit later changed its name to the Structural Plastics Division.
SPI recently canceled the product design contest that had been scheduled to take place at the Plastec Midwest show Sept. 23-25 in Rosemont, Ill., and now is focusing on promoting next June's event.
``This is a huge audience that is vastly different from past years. It will give them the opportunity to be on display for potential customers and mold makers,'' said an NPE spokesman.
But locating the show at NPE isn't a guaranteed boost for the design competition, suggested one former SPI staff member involved in the SPD/APP conference and design contest for several years.
``The APP discussed participating at NPE for years with always the same outcome: Too expensive, too big, no time to coordinate,'' said the former staff member. ``It was felt that there was little value to the exhibitors [because] competition displays are not near booths and the space-time continuum keeps them from being at two places at once,'' and because typically few designers and original equipment manufacturers attend NPE.
Less than half the APP parts competition winners exhibited at NPE 2006, and the traffic through the parts pavilion was extremely light, said the source.
SPI said it was unsure whether the design competition will continue to be an international competition in non-NPE years, or whether it would be a stand-alone competition or paired with another event.
Attendance at the SPD conferences that featured the design contests routinely drew more than 500 participants from the late 1980s through the early 1990s. Attendance declined to 275 in 1998 and to around 160 last year.
The number of entries, which twice in the early 1990s topped 90, declined to 31 in 2007 with 12 of those from one company.
``As a showcase for innovative engineering, IPDC will complement other programs and events that are also new to NPE and focused on advanced technologies,'' said Bill Carteaux, president and chief executive officer of SPI, in a statement.