As she officially opened Fakuma 2023 on Oct. 17, Bettina Schall, managing director of organizer P.E. Schall GmbH & Co. KG, stressed that contacts made at Fakuma lead to fruitful, long-term relationships.
She maintained this still holds true even as the German plastics industry faces a multitude of challenges such as high inflation, competition from low-wage economies and a severe shortage of trained professional staff, which all need to be solved simultaneously.
Nevertheless, she stated: "It will be shown at Fakuma that plastics are indispensable."
Project manager Annemarie Schur revealed that the 2023 show attracted 1,636 exhibitors, 44 percent of them from outside Germany. The number this year includes 16 companies with small booths in a new startup area.
Italy is the main foreign country from which exhibitors attend, with 134 companies present. China comes second (120), followed by Switzerland (79), Austria (70), Turkey (58) and France (55).
The so-called DACH countries of Germany, Austria and Switzerland have traditionally provided the largest number of exhibitors, but this has changed with China overtaking Switzerland and Austria in the ranking.
Further down the list, Portugal has 29 exhibitors, a significant number for a small country but with a large number of mold makers. The list continues downward with the Netherlands (26), Poland (17), Belgium (14), Czech Republic (11), United States (nine), Sweden (nine) and Japan (five).
The overall number is up 11.2 percent over the 1,470 exhibitors who participated in 2021.
Despite the 2023 growth, there is still some way to go to recapture the peak level of 1,933 exhibitors in 2018.
Schur's address was followed by a presentation by Ingemar Bühler, main managing director of the German plastics producers association PlasticsEurope Deutschland, who spoke about the circular economy and how artificial intelligence and digitalization will change the plastics industry.
The latter two "play a key role in reducing the plastics industry's ecological footprint," he said, because they "contribute toward higher performance with changes in working methods and sustainable transformation of the plastics value chain."
AI also improves products and reduces use of resources. Bühler said he asked ChatGPT why one should visit Fakuma and received seven replies.
Against a background of world plastics production expected to grow from 452 million metric tons today to 930 million tonnes in 2050, Bühler said the circular economy, also through product design and digital passports to aid recycling, has to save resources and keep them within what planet Earth can bear. He gave a product design example of a smartphone at Fakuma, which can be fully disassembled and recycled.
Marc Krebs, co-founder of Basle, Switzerland based Tide Ocean SA (Hall A1, Booth 1117), talked about how the company recycles ocean plastics into plastic granulate, which is already used in a number of different consumer product applications, such as Bluetooth speakers and carpets.
Krebs founded the company in 2019, after technical assistance from the IWK Institute for Materials Technology and Plastics Processing at the University of Applied Sciences of Eastern Switzerland (Hall A3, Booth 3111). He has meanwhile established a subsidiary in Thailand in 2022 and another one on the Costa Maya in Mexico in 2023.
Krebs said the company's recycled PET and polypropylene have up to 80 percent lower ecological footprint than virgin plastics, as has been certified by Carbotech and Myclimate. Tide Ocean also recycles high and low density polyethylene.