Statement by Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Chairman of the Exhibitors’ Council K 2013, provided on occasion of the presentation on 10 October, 2013 in Düsseldorf
Plastics and rubber are prime examples of efficiency. Thermal insulation with plastic materials provides perfect protection against heat and cold. Their deployment saves more oil than is required for their production. Using plastics instead of metal makes vehicles and aircraft lighter: lightweight engineering saves fuel and protects resources. Tires made from state-of-the art polymer material minimize both rolling resistance and fuel consumption.
But efficiency plays an important role not only for the deployment of plastics and rubber. Efficiency has become the magic word and is therefore ubiquitous at every stage of the value chain. It is true that efficiency has many aspects that affect not only the use but also the production of plastic and rubber parts.
One of the major challenges faced by the plastics industry is to identify these aspects, explore their potential for efficiency enhancement and tap into it to achieve profitable results. On the one hand, new markets have been opening up, on the other hand, the competitive pressure has significantly increased. Short production and delivery times are pitted against complex products and exacting quality requirements demanded in ever shorter development times. Added to this mix is a dramatic pressure on prices. All these requirements are to be met with sustainable production methods and with as little impact on the environment as possible. Keeping abreast with today’s market means maximizing on efficiency.
Efficient deployment of resources is on the top of the agenda. Considering the current prices for raw materials and energy sources, minimizing on material consumption, energy and manufacturing equipment can save substantial costs. This can only be achieved by material-oriented product engineering, optimized material deployment, virtually waste-free production and last, but not least, strategic recycling.
In the wake of these developments, exhibitors at the K 2013 trade show will present a variety of innovative materials, machinery, technologies and applications that meet precisely the requirements specified above. Over the last months, machinery manufacturers, raw material producers and processors all over the world have been preparing for their flagship trade show. The R&D departments have been working flat out, because they want to be able to impress experts visiting the K 2013 trade show with their latest innovations.
The global plastics and rubber industry
The plastics industry is comprised of plastics producers, processors and machinery manufacturers. With total sales of approximately EUR 88 billion and about 363,000 employees in 3,270 companies, the German plastics and rubber industry is one of the most important segments of the economy. It represents 6% of the domestic industrial production. Added to this, the German rubber industry has about 130 companies, 75,000 employees and total annual sales of EUR 12 billion (2012). In Northrhine-Westphalia alone, the industry has about 1,000 companies and organizations with more than 100,000 employees.
For 2012, the European trade association PlasticsEurope estimates a global plastics production of approximately 288 million tons. This constitutes an increase of about 2.8% compared to the global production figures of the previous year, 2011, which amounted to 280 million tons. About 80% of these are polymer materials, i.e. materials that are processed to create plastic products. The remaining 20% are used for the production of coatings, adhesives, dispersions, varnish or paint.
Between 1950 and 2012, plastics producers upped the global raw material production from 1.5 million tons to about 288 million tons, which translates into an average annual growth rate of about 9% – and there is no end to this positive development in sight. Even the price of oil and economic crises did not curb this long-term development
In the previous year, Germany’s plastics producers recorded an 3.4% drop in the production volume to 19.5 million tons (2011: 20.2 million tons).
For 2013, the German plastics producers anticipate growth rates of about 1.5%.
Global consumption of plastics and regional distribution
According to current estimates by PlasticsEurope Market Research Group (PEMRG) for 2011, the plastics consumption in Europe, which accounts for 21%, is almost on a par with that of NAFTA states with an estimated consumption of 20%. Asia represents an impressive 44% of the global plastics consumption; China alone consumed 23%. Latin America’s share is estimated at 5% for 2011, the CIS countries account for 3%, while the Middle East/Africa hold a share of 7%.
The global plastics consumption is predicted to rise by 4% per year until 2016. According to Plastics Europe’s medium-term market predictions there will be a shift in the markets towards the Asian-Pacific region which is expected to result in substantial annual growth in this region’s gross domestic product. Estimates expect an annual rise of 5.5% for the period between 2011 and 2016, which exceeds the global average by between two and three percentage points. It is highly likely that production capacities will follow the shifting markets.
PlasticsEurope estimates the European consumption of polymer materials in 2011 to reach about 47 million tons, up 1.1% on the previous year. In 2011, the “Big Six” were comprised of polyethylene PE-LD, PE-LLD and PE-HD with 29%, polypropylene (PP) with 19%, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with 11%, polystyrene (PS and PS-E) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) with 6.5% and polyurethane (PU) with 7%. These polymers account for 80% of the overall consumption.
An analysis by PlasticsEurope shows that in 2011, the packaging segment holds the lion’s share of 39.4% of all industries consuming plastics products, followed by the construction industry with 20.5%. The automotive industry consumed 8.3%, while the electronic industry accounted for 5.4%. All remaining segments such as the furniture, medical, household appliances, sports and leisure as well as agricultural segments consumed a total of 26.4%.
Updated figures show that in 2011, Europe had an average recycling quota of 59.6%, up 5.7% on the previous year. A closer look shows that the recycling quota for plastics packaging alone amounted to 67%. The recycling quotas continue to differ from one country to the next. While the nine most successful countries, namely Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Luxemburg recycle more than 90% of their plastic waste, seven other countries only achieve a quota of less than 30% and have some catching up to do.
Biopolymers: Niche materials with enormous potential
Biopolymers play a special role in this market. It is important to distinguish between biologically degradable plastics and polymers based on organic material.
Apart from a negligible substance content, biodegradable plastics are exclusively comprised of biodegradable polymer material and additives. After a substantial fragmentation of macro-molecules, special bacteria and their enzymes convert the plastic material into biomass, CO2 or methane, water and minerals in a traceable process. In Europe, plastics will only receive the predicate “biodegradable” if 90% of the material has decomposed into fragments of less than 2 cm in size within a maximum period of 12 weeks.
Biodegradable plastics are not necessarily made from renewable resources; they can also be made from fossil fuel or natural gas. Bio-based plastics however, are made from natural, organic and renewable material. This does not necessarily mean that these materials are also biodegradable. The attribute “bio-based” only refers to the fact that the carbon atoms of the molecule chains stem from natural, i.e. biological sources. At present, bio-based plastics are made from different carbohydrates such as sugar, starch, proteins, cellulose, lignin, biological fat and oil.
Biopolymers still lead a niche existence in the global polymer market. According to a study conducted by BCC Research, Wellesley, Massachusetts / USA however, the global market for biopolymers will grow by more than 34 % p.a., from 850,000 tons in 2011 to more than 3.7 million tons in 2016. Since 2010 however, the growth rate of biodegradable plastics has been outstripped by that of bio-based plastics.
Biodegradable plastics are predominantly used in areas where their special property is of major benefit, e.g. in agricultural application such as plant pots or mulch film, as the biodegradability obviates the need for collection and removal after use. Instead, the material is decomposed and turned into biomass. In private households, biodegradable refuse sacks have become widely popular, as they can be disposed of together with other biodegradable waste.
Bio-based plastics have also been moving into the consumer electronics and automotive segment. A total of 80% of the interior of the 2011 Toyota hybrid car “Sai”, only available in Japan, for example, are made of renewable materials.
Estimates predict an annual increase in the biopolymer consumption in Europe of almost 32% from almost 307,000 tons in 2011 to more than 1.2 million tons in 2016.
Those with an interest in the potential, future opportunities, new developments and innovative applications of biopolymers will find a wide variety of information options at many exhibition stands at the K 2013 trade show. Also of major interest will be the Bioplastics Breakfasts, short seminars on selected subjects concerning the industry, which will take place from 17 until 19 October, daily from 8 am until 12 am.
German rubber industry with declining sales
In 2012, a total of 26 million tons of rubber was produced and consumed world-wide. The production of natural rubber (NR) totalled 11 million tons whiles the production of synthetic rubber (SR) was recorded as more than 15 million tons.
In Germany, the slump in demand which started in the middle of 2012, left its traces. Compared to 2011, sales dropped from 2.5% to EUR 11.75 billion. This development affected predominantly domestic sales, which declined by 4.7% to EUR 8.22 billion. The European demand for final products assembled with components made by the industry in Germany was virtually nonexistent. Sales to non-European customers, mainly the US and China, rose by 3.1% to EUR 3.53 billion. Producers of technical elastomer products were less affected by the slump than tire producers. The overall production result for 2012 showed a loss of 6% on 2011. Technical elastomer products experienced a 3.7% decline in production, with an output of 800,000 tons. A total of 780,000 tires were produced, down 8.2%.
Despite the business slack at the end of 2012, the industry reported a rise in employment figures. At the end of 2012, the German rubber processing industry employed 74,700 people, up 1.5% on the previous year.
The semi-annual financial statement also reports a negative development of the German rubber industry. Sales in this segment fell by 4.9% compared to 2012. Tire manufacturers were hit particularly hard, especially in the area of domestic sales. Manufacturers of technical elastomer products (TEP) experience a slack in exports. The total production output dropped by 6.2% on the first half of 2012. The development of the industry’s employment figures however, continues to run counter to this result. In the middle of 2013, a total of 74,950 people were working in the industry.
Global production of plastics and rubber machines with new record high
In 2012, the global production of plastics and rubber machines achieved record sales of almost EUR 29 billion.
Last year, the German plastics and rubber machinery manufacturers also experienced an enormous boost and posted a 6% sales increase. Sales in the core machinery segment saw a record high pf EUR 6.5 billion. In the international market, German machinery engineering has retained its leading position. In 2012, German exports of plastics and rubber machines increased by another 2.3% following growth rates of 30.5% and 25.6% respectively in the previous two years. The main markets for these machines China, followed by the US and Russia.
2013 promises to become a successful year, despite the fact that original predictions anticipated a slight decline in sales. During the second quarter, orders for German plastics and rubber machines went up by 14% compared to the first three months. While a 6% overall decline is still predicted for the first half of 2013, the rising number of orders over the last three months leave room for optimism. In the first half of 2013, sales in this segment were on a par with the levels reported for the previous year; in the second quarter they rose by 6%.
During the period from January until May 2013, export figures reached the levels of the previous year. Over the course of the year, the declining figures continuously improved and during the period from March until May, exports rose by 9.7%. This upward trend also applied to exports to Russia and the US, while deliveries to China, India and Turkey underwent a substantial increase.
With a global market share of more than 29%, Chinese machinery manufacturers are leading in the production of plastics machinery, but their production focus is on the domestic market. German manufacturers are number two, followed by Italy, the US and Japan.
The demand for automation and ancillary equipment was on a par with that for processing machinery. Many efficiency improvements are the result of better material management, optimized parts handling, end-to-end process automation, energy optimization of supporting processes and dynamic temperature control.
Plastics processors with optimistic outlook on K 2013
The German plastics processing industry has an optimistic outlook on this year’s trade show, says the industry’s association GKV. While business in the first months of 2013 was rather sluggish, the flagship fair is expected to invigorate the industry. In some segments sales have already been picking up.
Last year showed that the German plastics processors successfully recovered from the sharp decline during the crisis. With a processing volume of 13 million tons and a sales volume of EUR 56.2 billion in 2012 (2011: EUR 55.9 billion) pre-crisis levels were quickly recovered and even exceeded by several percentage points. The number of jobs in this segment rose by another 2.4% to 299,000 employees.
According to the GKV, 2012 showed similar tendencies in all segments of the plastics industry – packaging, construction, consumer goods, technical parts: in late spring, the economic climate cooled down a bit, but over the remaining year, it stabilized at this level. However, profit margins shrunk to precarious levels due to the rising raw material, energy and personnel costs.
Innovative potential far from exhausted
This year’s K trade show will show that the innovative potential of plastics and rubber is far from exhausted. This is a major opportunity for the German industry to maintain its leading role among the international competition. In order to use this opportunity, raw material producers, machine manufacturers and processors must expand their international facilities. This way, they can enhance their presence in international markets. On the other hand, they need reliable conditions at home in Germany to secure technological progress and innovation for the future. This requires political measures that not only provide ample room for positive development, but also ensures active their promotion. Among these promoting measures are educational activities for young skilled professionals. The industry and its associations are already deeply invested in this cause, and the K 2013 trade show is an ideal platform for information on apprenticeships and jobs. There are many events and information points with a focus on education.
There is “kai”, the initiative for apprenticeships and qualification in the plastics industry. Discussions, experimental shows and research information stands provide an insight into the professional range for apprentices, pupils and students. There are daily guided tours, talks and individual consultancy on offer. The complete program is available from the official K 2013 website, www.k-online.de.
Moreover, the German association of young engineers will host an event for pupils called “VDI Schülerforum” on 20 October, where pupils can find out more about different professions in the plastics industry. The program features a stage show and experiments. Information and registration (free of charge) at www.vdi.de/schuelerforum.
On Sunday, 20 October, the special show “Plastics Move the World” will provide a special event for young people featuring information on various plastics-related professions as well as talks on environmental aspects and the industry’s potential for the future.
K 2013: flagship fair of the plastics and rubber industry
The K 2013 is the flagship fair of the plastics and rubber industry. Every three years, the exhibition ground turns into a global market place for all segments of the industry, renowned suppliers demonstrate real innovations. K 2013 will show the following trends and exhibits:
Raw materials and auxiliaries, semi-finished goods, industrial parts and reinforced plastic products
• Ultralight foams with improved heat and noise insulation properties
• Polymer grades with even better heat resistance for electric and light engineering
• Heat conductive plastic compounds for advanced LED and electric engineering applications
• Versatile lightweight fibre-reinforced composite components with thermoplastic or thermoset matrix
• Plastic components for large-scale production with an increasing number of integrated, electric and light engineering properties, e.g. for touch screens
• Polymer grades with higher transparency, better birefringence and better optical properties
• New flame retardant formulations for better fire protection with plastics
• More new standard and engineering plastics based on sustainable raw materials
• High-performance HNBR elastomers for under-the-hood plastics applications with high heat resistance for heavy-duty dynamic operation as well as resistance to oil and other media
• Special rubber formulations with resistance to increasingly aggressive oil additives and alternative fuels such as bio ethanol
• Functional SSBR rubber for fuel-saving tires
• New, biodegradable polymer grades
• Wood-plastic composites (WPC) and other wood alternatives
• Heavy duty structural automotive fibre-reinforced composites for high mechanical loads and absorption of impact forces
Machines, moulds and equipment
• More flexibility, shorter changeover times and shorter downtimes for better line utilization and availability
• Faster machine movements, optimized moulds, more efficient cooling and even better synchronicity with ancillary equipment for shorter cycle times, lower cost per unit and higher output rates
• Concepts and lines for heat recovery from plastics processing machinery and processes
• Concepts for efficient mould temperature control for more economic processes, better product quality and lower energy consumption
• Process-integrated monitoring of product quality, earliest possible in-line reject separation and documentation of process and quality data for end-to-end product traceability
• Increased application and easier retrofitting of energy-efficient electric drives in processing machinery reduce energy consumption and cost
• Combination of special injection moulding techniques such as fluid injection or multi-component, in-mould lamination, in-mould decorating and foam-moulding methods within one cycle for integrating an increasing number of functions in one single part
• Different manufacturing concepts for fibre-reinforced lightweight composite components
• Increasing “electrification” of moulds for injection moulding and compression moulding by means of electric drives for achieving mould functions vs. hydraulic units or force-controlled mechanical systems
At present, not all details have been released, as some exhibitors will only unveil their innovations on the first day of the trade show. But one thing is for sure: the companies of the plastics and rubber industry are perfectly prepared for K 2013.