“The last year has been very strong,” said Marko Koorneef, president of Boy Machines Inc. of Exton, Pa. The only market that has been slow has been medical devices, as some U.S. molders have put off expansion plans because of the federal medical device tax.
Koorneef said the first few months of 2015 have been slightly off the pace of 2014, but he suspects that molders are waiting until NPE to buy new machines. For Boy, energy savings are popular features, and the company also is making a big move into offering complete systems, including presses and robots.
For companies like Progressive Components International Corp., a big attraction of NPE is that it brings together not only processors, but also toolmakers and original equipment manufacturers.
“We're glad they're all going to be represented,” said President Glenn Starkey.
The 2015 show is the 10th NPE for Progressive, and the first that Starkey feels like the entire industry — including toolmakers — are on a roll.
“All throughout our history, for the most part, the wind has been to our faces. We had the recession in 1991, competition from China in the late 1990s, the Great Recession. With the economy and the positive vibes from our customers this year, we could be looking at smooth sailing ahead,” Starkey said.
On the injection machinery side, Lettau said molders are looking at upgrading their technology, especially with energy-saving servo-electric machines.
“What we're seeing fading away is anybody buying traditional hydraulic machines,” Lettau said. He and the other executives were interviewed at the recent UBM Canon trade shows in Anaheim, Calif.
Engel will have eight molding cells at the show — one more than it had at NPE 2012.
Borche North America, the U.S.-based sales arm of Chinese press manufacturer Borch Machinery Co. Ltd., brought just one press to the last NPE. This year it's bringing three.
“We're anticipating more business,” said Wally Salls, a Richardson, Texas-based salesman for Borche.
Chief Financial Officer Ken Mermuys added: “Basically if you want to be taken seriously, you have to have a big presence at NPE.” So Borche decided to quadruple its booth space since the last show.
Borche North America sells primarily to Tier 1 and Tier 2 auto suppliers, Mermuys said.
In the pantheon of global plastics trade shows, NPE has a reputation as a show where business gets done, in contrast to Germany's K show as the place where new technology is introduced.
But Bosch Rexroth Corp., a German-based company that sells automation systems to global machinery companies, is introducing several innovative products at NPE 2015.
“We view it as a global show. A lot of our customers are exhibiting,” said Kevin Gingerich, the company's manager of communications and ebusiness. “It's a great opportunity to have so many of them together in one place.”
Exhibitors expect both the quantity and quality of attendees to be strong this year.
“We believe that NPE will have a tremendous amount of visitors, both domestic and foreign, and that the show will be fantastic strengthening the plastics industry as a whole,” said Steve Petrakis, vice president of sales, U.S. and Canada, for the Conair Group of Cranberry Township, Pa.
The latest numbers from SPI back up Petrakis' prediction. SPI projects international visitors will account for 28 percent of the total attendance, including a record number from Latin America — an estimated 6,500 people.
Joseph Wnuk, vice president, elastomers, for Davis-Standard LLC of Pawtucket, Conn., added: “At NPE, we expect to receive a more sophisticated level of inquiries about technologies and materials. We anticipate seeing improvements in automotive and medical technologies and evidence of the growth of medical tubing and devises in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Maybe the real story for the 2015 NPE is that it's happening as the North American plastics industry is on an upswing — basically the exact opposite of the 2009 NPE, when the industry was in the depths of the Great Recession.
“We returned to NPE in 2012 after not exhibiting in 2006 or 2009. This year we will hold our global sales and finance meetings during the week before NPE,” said Nancy Tarbox, North American marketing manager for Synventive Molding Solutions of Peabody, Mass. “It appears everyone is planning to go to NPE so we know we will be busy.”
Chuck Roehm, co-owner of marketing specialist Turner Group of Vashon Island, Wash., said: “We'll be very busy with people with outdated equipment looking to catch up and needing to get into the technologies to stay competitive.”
Loepp is editor of Plastics News, Renstrom is a California-based correspondent.