From wonder to world market – the success story of K in Düsseldorf
"Plastics are substitute materials that have no intrinsic value and are used in areas where traditional materials can be omitted." This image of plastics typifies the widely held view of broad sections of the population at the beginning of the 1950s.
The German plastics industry was deep in post-war reconstruction, and the age of mass plastics production had only just dawned. "Image building" in the positive sense was the goal to which the young industry and its various branches had committed themselves. In 1952, companies and associations, together with the then Nordwestdeutsche Ausstellungsgesellschaft – NOWEA, today's Messe Düsseldorf GmbH, therefore decided to initiate an event that would demonstrate the potential and versatility of polymer materials.
K Düsseldorf was born – and can now look back on 60 years of success.
With the irresistible rise of plastics and their conquest of virtually all spheres of modern life and innovative technologies, K has also evolved from the "Wonder of Plastics" (the title of K '52) into the No. 1 in its sector and into the international marketplace for plastics and rubber.
At its premiere in 1952, the event attracted 270 exhibiting companies, all of them from Germany's fledgling Federal Republic. They occupied about 14,000 square metres of net exhibition space, and 165,000 visitors marvelled even in those days at the products from industry's chemical labs and at the varied and practical examples of their applications.
From 1952 to 1959, K Düsseldorf was purely a showcase for German industry. Any interested visitor, layperson or expert, had the opportunity to gain his or her own impression of the diversity and innovative potential of polymer materials. The main attraction for the public arriving in throngs was the colourful consumer goods of the plastics processing industry.
The main focus of interest was on things that made everyday life brighter and easier. Today, we can only smile at the advertising of this era that targeted the "modern housewife" and introduced her to such novelties of the post-war period as "washable sponge bags" and sheer nylon stockings.
The more specialised the plastics industry became – it was not only the standard polymers, but also high-tech plastics for special applications in electronics, medicine, automotive engineering and aerospace that attracted attention – the more the "viewing public" at K Düsseldorf declined. A radical step was taken in 1963, when K became exclusively a trade fair with an international outlook for experts from the plastics and rubber industry and the user markets.