The plastics and rubber industry will be presenting its complete product and service spectrum and the entire diversity of its innovative applications at K 2016, the industry’s international flagship fair, which will be held from 19 to 26 October in Düsseldorf. 3,285 exhibitors from every continent will be unveiling their latest developments for every industrial segment. With a net display area of 173,966 square metres, all 19 halls at the Düsseldorf trade fair venue are completely booked out. Werner Matthias Dornscheidt, President and CEO of Messe Düsseldorf, is looking forward to the eight days of this event. “The largest plastics production site on earth will be open for business in Düsseldorf tomorrow, and exhibitors will be showing the world what they've been planning and developing for many months. And once again it's absolutely clear that nowhere in this world is it possible to experience the complete spectrum of raw material, processing and application technology so completely as at K in Düsseldorf. In addition to plastic and rubber processing companies around the world, the innovations presented here are also of major interest to experts in the automotive and aviation industry, packaging, electrical engineering, electronics and communications, the building industry and medical technology. We expect over 200,000 trade visitors from all over the world to take advantage again of the opportunities K 2016 provides.”
Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Chairman of the K 2016 Exhibitors’ Council, is optimistic with regard to the future of the global plastics and rubber industry. “Obviously, some markets such as Russia and parts of South America are currently experiencing difficulties, but all indicators point to growth in Europe, Asia and the US.” In particular, the sector in German-speaking regions has enjoyed very successful figures for the first half of 2016 and is extremely confident with regard to the rest of the year. Reifenhäuser is convinced that K 2016 will give fresh impetus to the industry. “We can look forward with real anticipation to the innovations exhibitors will be presenting! The focus is on energy, resource and material efficiency, new materials, lightweight construction and – probably the most exciting topic – Industry 4.0. We'll be experiencing amazingly interesting offerings and innovations on the exhibitor stands at K 2016 while, at the same time, listening to stimulating presentations and discussions and learning about the opportunities and threats faced by production systems that network physical and virtual systems to enable more efficient and sustainable production processes.”
Global acceptance of polymer materials
The global success of this industry is most evident in the growth in utilisation of plastic and rubber. Use of these materials rose on average by 8.5 % annually from 1950 to 2015. Growth rates may not be as significant today as those recorded between the 1950s and 1970s, but we have still recorded 4 to 5 % annually since the turn of the millennium. However, significant differences are apparent, depending on the region, product or application.
The trade association PlasticsEurope estimated that global production of plastic reached 322 million tonnes in 2015. About 270 million tonnes of this consisted of plastic materials, meaning materials processed to make plastic products. The remaining 50 million tonnes were used for the manufacture of coatings, adhesives, dispersions, varnishes and paints. According to analyses conducted by the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG), almost 29 million tonnes of rubber were manufactured and consumed within the same time period. 12 million tonnes of this consisted of natural rubber, with synthetic rubber accounting for about 17 million tonnes. With a share of 49 %, Asia now produces almost half the plastics manufactured globally. Europe and North America are responsible for 18 and 19 % of world production respectively, the Near and Middle East and Africa account for 7 % together, South America produces 4 % and the former CIS states produce 3 %. Asia also dominates rubber production, traditionally accounting for 73 % of natural rubber, but in the meantime also manufacturing 61 % of synthetic rubber.
Production of machinery for plastics and rubber
The production value of machinery for plastics and rubber reached a global volume of EUR 33.9 bn in 2015 (2014: EUR 32.5 bn). European plastics machinery manufacturers generated 40 (40) %, equivalent to a production value of EUR 13.6 bn (13.0). According to Euromap, the umbrella organisation that includes machine manufacturers from Austria, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey, the Europeans managed to maintain their leading role in 2015 with around half of global exports. Despite numerous uncertainties, Euromap anticipates a further increase in global production of 3 % to EUR 34.9 bn in 2016 and growth in European production of 2 % to EUR 13.8 bn.
European plastics industry
According to Eurostat details compiled by PlasticsEurope, the plastics industry in the EU28 (which employs 1.45 million in 62,000 mainly small and medium-sized enterprises) generated a turnover in 2014 of EUR 350 bn and contributed EUR 18 bn to the EU trade surplus.
Plastics and rubber industry in Germany
In the international competition between locations, the plastics and rubber industry of the three German-speaking countries continues to stand up well. It has been the technology leader for decades in many segments of plastics and rubber value chains. Germany is the largest single market in Europe.
Performance indicators for this market show that the plastics and rubber industry in Germany generated a turnover of about EUR 105 bn in 2015. As one of the most important economic sectors employing a workforce of almost 470,000, it holds a share of 6 % in domestic industrial production. According to information from PlasticsEurope, 18.5 million tonnes of plastic were produced in Germany in 2015. Sales of plastics producers totalled EUR 24.4 bn, and both output and turnovers remained at a constant level in recent years with only slight fluctuations.
Plastics and rubber machine construction in German-speaking countries has maintained its position for a long time as the technology leader in machine and process engineering. Manufacturers from Germany ended 2015 with a production value of EUR 7.0 bn for core machinery, an improvement on the previous record year of 2013. With a 20.7 % share in global production, they rank after China (32.5 %) in second position and far ahead of third-place Italy (with 7.8 %). In global trade, German machine engineering with an export value of EUR 4.7 bn and a share of 22 % in global export outranks China (with 15 %), Japan and Italy (both 9 %). The VDMA Plastics and Rubber Machinery Association anticipates a real increase in turnover of 2 % for the current year. An increase of 2 % is also expected in 2017.
German plastics processing generated a turnover of EUR 59.8 bn in 2015. The throughput was about 13.6 million tonnes. Rubber processors in Germany manufactured 1.56 million tonnes of rubber and generated revenues of EUR 11.56 bn.
According to kunststoffland NRW, around 1,000 companies who employ over 140,000 workers, associations and scientific and educational institutions form the plastics cluster in North Rhine-Westphalia alone. The North Rhine-Westphalia plastics industry exported goods with a value of around EUR 24 bn in 2015, representing one-fifth of total German exports in this sector. Around 68 % (i.e. over two-thirds) went to countries in the European Union with, conversely, about 58 % of imports valued at EUR 17.0 bn originating directly in the European Union.
A wealth of world premieres is anticipated from the largest K exhibitor group – machinery and system manufacturers. They will be taking up about two-thirds of the entire exhibition area and can be found in Halls 1 to 4 and 9 to 17. Raw and auxiliary material providers will be presenting the latest developments in polymer research – materials which contribute to an economic and ecological balance through enhanced resource efficiency. With the broad variety they offer, manufacturers of semi-finished products, technical components and reinforced plastic products are focusing with even greater intensity on energy-efficient, environmentally friendly products that meet even the most sophisticated requirements. The latter two groups are exhibiting in Halls 5 to 8b.