Over the years, Plastics News has reported on some strange trade-show mishaps.
But the theft of a truck, and subsequent damage to two Wittmann Battenfeld injection presses, is the weirdest one.
It's like something from a Carl Hiaasen novel.
You've probably already heard about this, so I'll keep the recap short: In the wee hours of March 12, thieves broke into a secure staging area in Ormond Beach, Fla., and stole a tractor-trailer truck.
The bad guys drove away and abandoned the trailer along a freeway exit ramp, where it sank into soft sand — probably slowly — and tipped over.
The presses, which had been bound for Wittmann Battenfeld Inc.'s NPE 2015 booth, were damaged. Just 10 days before NPE was about to begin!
Wittmann Battenfeld scrambled to get replacement machines. This is a case where company leaders of European machinery (Wittmann Battenfeld is based in Austria), are glad they have a major stock of machines at a U.S. facility.
You could see how they fared at Wittmann Battenfeld's NPE exhibit, Booth W2743.
“I've been doing shows for 35 years and this takes the cake,” said Tom Betts, regional manager for injection molding at Wittmann Battenfeld.
The audacious theft is strange enough. But what takes it up a notch on the bizarreness scale is what Florida police told Betts: These truck thefts are pretty common in Florida.
“What they do, apparently, is they'll steal the tractor and the trailer and then they just get away as quickly as possible,” Betts said. “And then they find an isolated area where they can swap out the tractor with a different trailer so the tractor and trailer no longer matches the description of the trailer that is stolen.”
Brilliant, right? Not when you pull off in a sandy area. You might as well try making the switch on Daytona Beach.
Then it gets even weirder. It was Bike Week in Daytona. Maybe the thieves thought the trailer was full of Harleys. That theory comes from an official of the trucking company.
The thieves always could have pulled the canvas back and seen that the truck held injection molding machines, not Harleys. Well, maybe they were plastics engineers. But I doubt it.
Since NPE ended, police in Florida have moved the investigation forward, after arresting truck thieves in another case who happened to have a key chain that belonged to the driver of the truck involved with the Wittmann Battenfeld theft.
Hiaasen, who writes bitingly funny crime novels set in Florida, could use this one. It reminded me of a cross between the television shows “Breaking Bad” and “Sons of Anarchy.”
This story blew away the other news about NPE 2015 machinery logistics: The labor dispute that brought West Coast ports to a near standstill.
And The Great Florida Injection Press Robbery got us thinking about other machinery foibles.
Back before NPE 1991, a 770-ton injection press — weighing 88,000 pounds — fell off a truck at the Port of Los Angeles when the driver went around a corner too quickly. The FCS-brand press was made in Taiwan, and had been destined for Excel Machinery Corp.'s NPE booth in Chicago.
We ran photographs of that incident, too. Guess what? A truck on its side with a busted injection press spilled out looks pretty much the same, in California, Florida or anywhere else.
Bregar is a Plastics News senior reporter.