Machines were getting sold, but in a much more relaxed fashion than you find at the K show in Düsseldorf every three years. Americans are always scarce at Fakuma, but I would encourage U.S. molders to try it, especially if they feel overwhelmed by the massive crush of humanity at K.
Experience-wise, Fakuma is the anti-K show. At Messe Friedrichshafen, you can leisurely walk from one end of the fair to the other in 10 minutes. Certainly you will see the big machinery players, the KraussMaffeis, Arburgs, the Engels and the Ferromatik Milacrons. But the show is a great opportunity to meet the smaller automation companies, mold builders and industrial controller folks. When it comes to technology, though, Fakuma is more like a mini-K. It's laid back, and doesn't have the K's earth-shattering product announcements. But Fakuma still has excitement.
Fakuma 2014 showcased doing everything right at the press — automatically if possible. That is one of the biggest trends since Plastics News began 25 years ago, when injection molding — at least in the United States — still was about molding a bunch of parts, putting them into a box, and shipping the box to the customer. Or maybe moving the parts to another area of your plant for quality checks, assembly or packaging.
Not so today. Automation has exploded. Five- and six-axis robots not only sweep in quickly to remove a molded part, but also rotate like a human wrist to present the part to a vision inspection system, decorating station, even hand it off to another robot. Mold-makers, machinery suppliers and material experts work together with advanced molders to set up in-mold labeling, or even in-mold assembly.
Arburg GmbH + Co. KG even linked insert-molding on an injection molding press to one of its new Freeformer 3-D printing machines, together in a work cell. You could walk away with fully customized scissors, bearing your name, in minutes.
Now you can use in-mold sensors to tell if a part is good or bad, before it leaves the mold.
Doing it all the press is becoming more common at U.S. molders. It's no longer the exotic stuff of the trade show, or of super-advanced Germany. This is happening right now in American plastics factories.
As 2014 winds down, America is a bright spot in the global economy. Manufacturing is a big reason why.
So my fellow Americans, I say, journey to Friedrichshafen! The next Fakuma will run Oct. 13-17, 2015.
Of course, next up comes NPE 2015, this coming March in Orlando, Fla. We could surely use more German food at North American trade shows. Walking by the food stands at Fakuma, you were enticed by the smell of beer, sausages and currywurst. Does this aroma get people in the mood to buy? Oh, Ja. Natürlich.
Memo to NPE Committee: Import this aroma from Germany.
Bregar is a Plastics News senior reporter.