Topic of the Month October 2016

Welcome to K 2016 – and go!

Day 8 at K 2016

Let's talk about the end and the beginning ...

230,000 investment-oriented visitors from all over the worldmake for excellent mood at K 2016
Exhibitors report concluding numerous deals. Noticeably more guests from overseas – with particularly high numbers from Asia. 

The international plastics and rubber industry presents itself in top shape. It benefits from a globally growing end-user market with high quality demands and stands for impressive innovative power across the entire value chain. The extraordinarily good economic state of this sector and the positive outlook for the future characterised the world’s biggest trade fair for the industry and made for an excellent mood amongst the 3,285 exhibitors of K 2016 in Düsseldorf. Companies reported a host of new leads, many of which already led to closed deals over the eight days of the trade fair. Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Chairman of the K 2016 Advisory Board, put it in a nutshell: "I have never seen such a vast number of decisive customers willing to buy at a trade fair before! The number and magnitude of deals, some of which were concluded here spontaneously, as well as the many concrete enquiries about new projects by far exceed our expectations! It was clear from day one that customers wanted to not only find out about new technologies but also purchase them. There is strong investment in all our customer industries and in all regions of the world."

This assessment held true for all ranges on offer at the trade fair. Exhibitors unanimously confirmed that trade visitors were extremely serious about their business negotiations and showed a pronounced willingness to invest. Furthermore, they emphasised the again higher percentage of international visitors and their very high degree of professional expertise as well as the fact that a disproportionately high number of top managers and company owners had come to Düsseldorf.

230,000 trade visitors from over 160 countries were welcomed to the exhibition halls over the eight days of K 2016. Delighting at the results Werner Matthias Dornscheidt, President & CEO of Messe Düsseldorf, says: "Just the sheer number of experts visiting K 2016 impressively confirm the appeal and importance of the trade fair – since this number is once again clearly higher than at the previous event in 2013. However, what is more important: the breakdown of trade visitors was of an exceedingly high standard. We can register a constantly good level of demand from Germany and a disproportionately high level of interest from abroad, especially from overseas. It is known the world over that K in Düsseldorf is THE innovation platform for the entire sector. A visit here is simply indispensable for everyone wanting to stay ahead of the competition."
The previous event in 2013 was attended by 218,000 visitors and 3,220 exhibitors.

The results from the visitor survey underpin the exhibitors’ view that the proportion of international guests has risen once again: some 70% came from abroad. More than 40% of all foreign visitors hailed from overseas – even from as far-away places as Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Oman, Madagascar, Mauritius, Surinam and Togo they travelled to the Rhine. As expected, the experts from Asia accounted for the largest group among foreign guests, which grew yet again: nearly 30,000 experts came from South, East and Central Asia. Guests from India again constituted the biggest group here but the number of visitors from China, South Korea and Iran also rose significantly.

Almost on a par remained the proportion of visitors from the USA and Canada with some 6% of all foreign visitors. Regarding guests from the neighbouring European countries Italy dominated with over 10,000 visitors followed by the Netherlands (some 9,500), France (some 6,700), Belgium (some 6,300), Spain and Poland (some 5,000 each). There was perceptibly stronger interest taken by Turkey, Hungary and Greece.
Across all country borders the percentage of executives among trade visitors is extraordinarily high. Some two thirds are top managers or are in middle management. Almost 60% have the final word on, or are decisively involved in, their companies’ investment decisions. K plays an outstanding role in deciding which investment will be made: almost half the visitors stated that they waited for the trade fair before realising any purchasing projects.

Exhibitors in all exhibition segments had prepared for K 2016 for months in order to face international competition with convincing innovations. And they met with enormous approval: trade visitors were thrilled with the wealth of new technical developments presented to them by raw materials producers, machine manufacturers and producers of semi-finished and technical parts. Over 70% of visitors confirmed having received information on news and trends. By their own accounts, numerous visitors wish to immediately convert these new insights in investment: 60% of industry decision-makers said they had visited the trade fair with concrete intentions to buy while 58% had already found new suppliers. With these new purchases visitors first and foremost pursued three objectives for their enterprises: expand their product portfolio, extend production capacity and increase efficiency. The results of the visitor survey also confirm the positive business situation in the downstream sectors of the plastics and rubber industries: 60% of the visitors polled rate the current situation as "very good" and "good" while the same percentage even expect the situation to improve over the next twelve months.

Energy, material and resource efficiency were the dominating themes at K 2016. Also meeting with avid interest were new materials, innovative recycling concepts, new application areas for organic plastics and additive manufacturing. Smart, quick and flexible lines and services were in high demand among customers; Industry 4.0 dominated not only lectures and discussions but was also demonstrated hands-on at many stands. Commenting on this Ulrich Reifenhäuser said: "The possibilities the Internet of Things brings stimulates strong, serious interest – especially among younger, IT-savvy customers from throughout the world. Industry 4.0 is a theme of the future that will keep us busy for years to come." Machine and plant manufacturing, which occupies the biggest exhibition area at K 2016 with over 1,900 exhibitors, was also the centre of attraction for visitors; a good two thirds of all experts polled ranked this segment first. 46% said they were predominantly interested in raw and auxiliary materials, while for 25% semi-finished products and technical parts made of plastic and rubber were the main reason for coming (multiple choice possible). Albeit the smaller sector of the two, the rubber industry made a highly visible appearance at K 2016 and underscored its importance in the areas of mobility, leisure, household and energy.

Visitors came from all important user industries – from the construction sector and automotive to packaging and electrical as well as medical device technology not forgetting agriculture. They all again gave top scores to the ranges on display in the 19 exhibition halls: 97% ensured that they had reached their goals 100% while 96% said they were impressed with the line-up at K 2016.

Also going down well with the experts from throughout the world was the line-up of accompanying events at K 2016, especially the Special Show "Plastics shape the future" and the Science Campus. The Special Show, a central forum for swapping information, thoughts and opinions in Hall 6, complemented the exhibits at K for the ninth time now. This year saw individual themed days illustrate the impact plastics have on shaping modern living environments. The agenda featured both expert discussions and entertaining presentations and sports activities as well as exciting experiments. At the Science Campus exhibitors and visitors to K 2016 obtained a focused overview of scientific activities and results in the plastics and rubber sectors and were given the opportunity to make contact with numerous universities, institutes and sponsoring organisations.

The next K in Düsseldorf will take place from 16 to 23 October 2019.

Plastics Manufacturers' Positive Verdict

Plastics manufacturers are very content with the results of K 2016. The trade fair took off to a strong start with the producers’ stands very well attended even on the first day of the trade fair and on Thursday. Friday also saw pleasantly high attendance and after the traditionally somewhat quieter weekend the second week of K continued with many high-quality conversations on Monday. Nearly all exhibitors agreed they saw throngs of visitors at their stands already briefly after the trade fair had opened and that most of them came very well prepared. They also agreed on the high level of expertise and decision-making powers while English was the dominating language spoken at many stands. “A successful K with many interesting conversations with national and international customers and business associates lies behind us,” explained Dr. Josef Ertl, Chairman of PlasticsEurope Deutschland and went on to say: “We have seen a very innovative and forward-looking K, which continues to be the ideal platform for presenting new technologies, workflows and materials from our industry – and is therefore a must-go event for plastics manufacturers.” The topics producing the most intense discussion at producers’ stands were lightweight construction, innovation, competitiveness and Industry 4.0, Smart Factory as well as additive manufacturing. Resource efficiency with plastics and environmental friendliness were also among the issues frequently addressed.

Also very well attended was the Special Show, a project initiated by the German plastics industry under the auspices of PlasticsEurope Deutschland e.V. and Messe Düsseldorf. This presentation already accompanied the ranges exhibited at K for the 9th time now. Under the heading “Plastics shape the future” functionality, aesthetics and the sustainability of plastics were centre stage here; the innovative stand design reflected the theme and aroused visitors’ curiosity. Experts from science, industry and political spheres provided information on these themes, and discussed economic, social and ecological challenges and approaches over seven theme days – thereby addressing the sector’s core issues and tomorrow’s themes. Films and slide shows pictured the challenges as well as the responses the plastics industry has already developed for them or is currently working on.

Another highlight of the Special Show were the robotics teams of the CJD college in Königswinter, that gave proof of their skills and that of their robots in the disciplines “Rescue” and “Soccer”. The youngest “exhibitors” at the K trade fair carried visitors away with their enthusiasm, all the more as the issue of young talents and education is also gaining more and more ground among plastics manufacturers. Accordingly, a Youth Day was again organised that attracted plenty of attention and gave young multipliers the unique opportunity to meet decision-makers from the industry. The venture of offering specifically theme days for the first time paid off for the Special Show: And valuable aspects such as marine litter were not spared either. At the same time, the Special Show organisers set accents with such topics as resource efficiency - in particular, with a lecture by Prof. Dr. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker - and other exciting plastics subjects such as lightweight construction, new materials, Plastics Industry 4.0 and designing with plastics.

For further information on the Special Show go to www.plasticsshapethefuture.com 

Day 7 at K 2016

K 2016 – not just the exhibits are there to be enjoyed ...

People come from all over the world: from Europe, Africa and overseas, the Middle and Far East. They have different religious and cultural backgrounds, speak different languages and have different ways of life. But all of them have the same destination: the most important international event in the plastics and rubber industry – K 2016.

At home around the world

It may well be the case that the world is divided: into east and west, into north and south, into languages and religions, into different political and social systems. K 2016 bridges all differences, establishing connections and creating community through a shared interest in the most innovative materials, their production and processing. From 19. to 26. October 2016, the world is at home in Düsseldorf, at K 2016 – the most important trade fair in the world for plastics and rubber.

At home in Düsseldorf

The focus at K 2016 is on experiencing things for yourself – and that applies to the food programme too: “Indian, Asian or Bavarian; freshly barbecued, vegetarian, kosher or halal: we provide a wide range of restaurants with different cuisines for K 2016 visitors throughout the exhibition site – our aim is to have something for everyone, no matter what their taste is”, says Jürgen Maier, Director of Stockheim Restaurationsbetriebe, Messe Düsseldorf’s longstanding corporate partner.

And that’s exactly the way it should be: wherever you are on the exhibition site, both inside the halls and outdoors, you will find plenty of different places to get snacks or full meals. The times you eat with customers and colleagues are at the same time a good opportunity to share thoughts and ideas as well as to see everything that is going on at the trade fair from a completely different perspective for a while. Breaks are essential! If it is possible to enjoy food of whatever kind one wants as well – then so much the better. Have a good meal!

Day 6 at K 2016

Experts who are still at school need your assistance

Never let it be said again that young people nowadays are good for nothing. Nonsense! Anyone who makes generalisations like this is in danger of losing the most talented of teenagers.

Strictly speaking, it is exactly the other way round. In schools everywhere, pupils are keen to be allowed to experience more, to learn more, to do more than the curriculum specifies.

It is difficult to estimate the extent to which schools today satisfy the requirements of pupils who are inquisitive and eager to learn. The members of the robotics study group at the CJD School in Königswinter are at any rate lucky: Dr Winfried Schmitz, their strong-willed teacher whose doctorate is in nuclear physics, fuels the interest of the boys and girls he teaches in natural sciences – and they are fascinated. They are demonstrating this convincingly at the special show “Plastics shape the future” organised by PlasticsEurope in Hall 6/Stand C40.

This is where the technical enthusiasts are presenting their hobby: robotics.

The members of the robotics study group at the CJD School stand out from the crowd – partly because of their tremendous interest in the subject but also because of the many successes they have achieved at the national and international levels. Their greatest successes include:

  • 2005 German champion “Dance”
  • 2006 World champion “Rescue”
  • 2007 Runner-up in the European championship (First Lego League)
  • 2008 World champion in the new soccer league (RoboCup Junior)
  • 2009 World champion “Soccer” (RoboCup Junior)
  • 2014 Bronze in the world championships “Rescue”, German champion “Rescue”, runner-up “Soccer” (RoboCup Junior)
  • 2015 German champion “Soccer”, runner-up “Rescue” (RoboCup Junior)
  • 2016 runner-up in the European championship “Rescue” in two age groups, German champion “Soccer” (RoboCup Junior)

Pretty impressive, isn’t it!

That’s the way it is: when you are really into something, it shows.

However: there are limits to how far enthusiasm can take you – and these limits are frequently physical, i.e. material. The robotics study group receives assistance in various forms – from PlasticsEurope, for example. The central association of the German plastics-processing industry has realised: a group of young people who are interested in technology is developing here and it is important to challenge and encourage them, so that they are in a position to increase their know-how and apply it for the good of humankind – even if that sounds a little dramatic.

Back now to the limits and how to eliminate them, coupled with a request:

THE ROBOTICS STUDY GROUP AT THE CJD SCHOOL NEEDS YOUR HELP

It is not money that is involved here but technological know-how. What is needed is high-tech material for optimisation of robot chassis and gripper arms (with a vacuum system) – ideally material that is carbon-based. (Dimensions of the robots: 22 cm x 22 cm x 22 cm)

The aim of the pupils at the school who are in the robotics study group is to develop and build robots that remain stable even when they run into something and to establish contact with companies, in order to initiate an exchange of ideas between the school and its pupils and industry.

Dr Winfried Schmitz: “Up to now, robotics at schools has consisted of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. We would like to extend this interdisciplinary approach to include material sciences. The transfer of know-how from industry to the school would be extremely helpful here.”

This is something that the plastics and rubber industry can be only too keen to promote. So: don’t hesitate – get going. Contact at K 2016 = PlasticsEurope (Hall 6 / Stand C40). E-mail to Dr Winfried Schmitz, wschmitz@cjd-koenigswinter.net CJD Christophorus School Königswinter

Day 5 at K 2016

Let’s talk about people. Particularly about those who work behind the scenes at K 2016 to make sure that the world’s biggest trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry really does turn out to be what everyone involved – exhibitors, industry representatives, visitors and, last but not least, Messe Düsseldorf, the organisers themselves – hopes to experience: a mega-highlight that remains a positive memory to one and all long after it is over and creates high expectations for K 2019. After all: when one K ends, the next one begins!

Suppose you want to celebrate something with your friends and acquaintances. The motto is: everyone is invited! Although you know from experience roughly how many guests you can expect to come, you don’t know the exact number until afterwards. You want the event to be a satisfying experience for your friends: special attractions, cuisine that has something to offer everyone, no matter what their taste, good entertainment. You want everyone to enjoy the time immensely. Right from the start, i.e. including their journey. In some cases, a trained project manager is in fact needed in order to make the necessary preparations.

Imagine now that you are expecting more than 200,000 guests from all over the world, spread over eight days, and that your attractions are industrial production plants weighing thousands of tonnes which are as big as houses in some cases, cover an area of about 180,000 square metres and are in full operation. Although you have enough space available, alterations and modifications still need to be made here and there, so that everything fits in and can work properly. As long as he is there, every visitor is supposed to have the chance to enjoy an incredible experience: every individual should ideally have the opportunity to take a look at all the attractions and find the refreshments he wants and needs- without having to wait in line too long. It goes without saying that the same applies to travel to and from the event.

To some extent, this scenario outlines the situation that the K team at Messe Düsseldorf has to face every three years, whenever plans are being made for the most important trade fair in the plastics and rubber industry.

The K team at Messe Düsseldorf does, it is true, consist of experienced experts, who are accustomed to organising high-tech trade fairs with tremendous success. Even so, professionals like those at Messe Düsseldorf cannot predict the future either. They do, however, know that you always have to reckon with just about anything – particularly anything unpredictable. As genuine professionals do.

We would like to hear what some of them have to say here; they stand for the hundreds of people who pull the strings behind the scenes at K.

“Strings” is a word that can almost be taken literally, says Peter Segna, technical officer at Messe Düsseldorf, “if you bear in mind the fact that 4,000 electrical connections and kilometres of power cables as well as 1,500 water supply connections are laid for the exhibitors at K alone.”

Peter Segna and his team, which consists of numerous technicians, craftsmen and hall managers, are one of the keys to the success of K. One of their assignments is to help the exhibitors to make sure that their stand at the trade fair is erected on time and as required and that all the installation work needed is completed on schedule. Peter Segna and his team fulfil pretty much every request, as long as it is allowed and technically feasible: “We even tear down hall walls, so that machines and equipment can be set up appropriately”, says Peter Segna. And if a contractor who is supposed to build the stand for an exhibitor throws in the towel, he and his staff are willing to investigate the matter and to take over if at all possible, so that the stand is completed with the help of all the people available.

Werner Arnold can call on them too. The experienced logistics expert is the member of the K team at Messe Düsseldorf who makes sure that everything keeps moving. With a team of full-time and freelance staff – the latter called on when trade fairs are taking place – Werner Arnold keeps traffic in and around the exhibition site moving. The busy period starts two to three weeks before K 2016 begins. Werner Arnold explains: “Up to 1,000 lorries – everything from 7.5 to 40 tonne vehicles as well as even bigger ones – arrive at the exhibition site every day to deliver material for the trade fair stands and the exhibits, which weigh tonnes”. There would be absolute chaos on the exhibition site without an ingenious traffic management concept, compliance with which is, suitably enough, monitored strictly.

Tact is also essential when the many thousands of people who come to the exhibition site not only during the erection and removal phase but also during K 2016 itself have to be guided and controlled. Imagine if the visitors, who generally come to the trade fair in two surges, were guided onto the exhibition site via a single entrance one day, the logistics expert points out. “That would be a complete disaster”, says Werner Arnold. Visitor flows can, however, be controlled and guided smoothly both on the exhibition site and outside it, if this is done systematically and skilfully. 

Werner Arnold holds talks with the public transport authorities and taxi companies long in advance of a trade fair like K 2016, discussing such issues with them as the number of visitors, busy arrival and departure times, congestion at the entrances etc. “We liaise on how to transport people into the city, to the hotels, to the station and to the airport most effectively”, says Werner Arnold, and adds: very successfully up to now. The logistics specialist does, however, commiserate with those who arrive and/or depart by car during the rush hour in the morning and evening and often end up spending a long time in traffic jams: “It is an unfortunate fact that we from Messe Düsseldorf are not in a position to alter the approach roads, so we recommend that everyone makes use of the public transport system – it is possible to reach the exhibition site directly by rail.” 

A navigation system is not therefore needed to find one’s way to Messe Düsseldorf. The site, which is about 450,000 square metres in size, can be negotiated without technical equipment of any kind. On arrival, the 19 halls and whatever a visitor specifically wants to see are easy to reach quickly and simply. Numerous info desks and help points are available throughout the exhibition site to provide information and guidance in German and English. “Our staff at the information desks speak many different languages”, says Nora Wernick from the Messe Düsseldorf visitor and entrance management: “No visitor to the trade fair will leave without being understood.” 

Nora Wernick and her team are not in action during the days of the trade fair alone, keeping a careful eye on the Messe Düsseldorf information network. She co-ordinates everything: in an information emergency, Nora Wernick takes the necessary steps by radio and telephone. She is responsible for making sure that everything goes smoothly, from online ticket reservation to over-the-counter ticket purchase and bug-free data flow. She and her team are the first to find out how many guests really visited K 2016 and to confirm how successful K 2016 has been in figures.

Day 4 at K 2016

Let's talk about future ...

Plastics make carriers!

The plastics and rubber industry is booming – fuelled not least by the trend to lightweight construction in the automotive and aerospace industries, the demand for highperformance functional polymers for the most diverse application areas, and the increasing substitution of classic materials like metals, wood and glass with plastics. Polymer materials are quite simply unrivalled when it comes to innovative power. But although the material might be the central focus of this development, the successes are made by the people who know how to get the best out of plastics and rubber.

A multitude of applications: Unlike other materials, plastics can be composed and tailored individually for the intended application. This is the reason why polymer materials are in such widespread use – for packaging food, sealing motors and engines, storing blood for transfusion, and producing ultrathin photovoltaic elements. No two applications are alike, and each one demands a special kind of know-how in handling the respective polymer. With a material this versatile, it is no wonder how broadly diversified a field the plastics and rubber industry works in. The development and production of polymers as well as their downstream processing, manufacturing and recovery all require a huge range of different skills and competences: lab technicians, industrial mechanics, mechatronics technicians, plastics technicians, engineers, machine designers, plant electronics specialists, materials experts, chemists, IT and software specialists, product designers, researchers, developers, equipment designers, and many more.

Discovering the possibilities: At K 2016 some 3,200 exhibitors from all over the world will be presenting their product and service portfolios. They will also be giving insights into what kinds of careers are possible. In collaboration with Messe Düsseldorf, the industry – which offers scope for a vast variety of interests and abilities – has launched an educational initiative (kai*), allowing people to experience plastics live. Have we piqued your interest? K 2016 will spark an enthusiasm for plastics and rubber – one that you may well find contagious!

Theme day on Youth and Education Sunday 23 Oct. from 10:30 am to 3 pm Special show “Plastics shape the future” Hall 6, Stand 6/C40

Day 3 at K 2016

Let’s talk about the future. About how we can preserve our planet and its resources. How we can stop ourselves destroying the whole basis for our existence due to our ignorance and lack of discipline.

Let’s talk about sustainability.

“Sustainability is a principle determining how resources are used, in which the focus is on preservation of the main characteristics and stability of the system in question as well as of its natural ability to regenerate.” (Source: wikipedia)

It is as simple as that! 

“Principle” is a thought-provoking concept here. A principle is defined as a generally valid rule, an established general standard, according to which someone lives.

Is sustainability a principle by which we live? 

Patrick Thomas, President of PlasticsEurope, addressed the issue of sustainability at K 2016 yesterday. He explained his way of looking at things at a press conference. 

The gist of what he said was: if we are interested in sustainability, we need to do one thing without neglecting the other. We need to invest in the training of young people, while setting a good example at the same time – all over the world. 

It is essential to make the concept of sustainability an established principle in everyone’s hearts and minds. The aim is to create awareness and an attitude of looking at everything from the point of view of sustainability as well. 

It is normal to be sustainable, isn’t it? 

Something is normal when we don’t think about it. It simply happens – automatically.

We go to a driving school to learn how to drive a car. And we drive.
We go to school to learn how to read, write and do arithmetic. And we read, write, do arithmetic.
What do we do to understand sustainability and live sustainably? 

It takes time to change! And willingness. And the right context. 

We need to invest in education and training all over the world.
There is one thing we must not do: economise on education and training.

Day 2 at K 2016, 20.10.2016, 11.00

A few figures to start with: it’s only natural – a trade fair in Germany is particularly popular with local companies. This is true of K 2016 too: about one third of the total of 3,285 exhibitors – 1,039, to be exact – are from Germany. This is slightly lower than three years ago (1,059). Italy follows in the international ranking list, sending 423 companies to Düsseldorf this year – which corresponds to growth of 13 exhibitors compared with 2013. China is in third place with 372 companies – 32 exhibitors more than at K 2013. Five other countries are represented by more than 100 companies at K 2016: Taiwan with 127 (131/K 2013), USA with 118 (112), Turkey with 113 (96), France with 112 (121) and India with only 104 companies; there were as many as 145(!) at K 2013.

Argentina, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan and South Africa are represented by just one exhibitor each, whereas Jordan, Lithuania, Oman and South Africa sent no exhibitors to K 2013 – as was the case with Luxembourg (5 exhibitors this time).

Some countries are represented by a significantly large number of exhibitors at K 2016 than at K 2013. Here is a list of the countries with growth rates of more than 100 per cent (shown in brackets). In alphabetic order: Egypt (4 exhibitors at K 2016/2 exhibitors at K 2013), Iran (13/3), Croatia (3/1), Mexico (6/1), Ukraine (2/1), Vietnam (6/2) and Cyprus (3/1). In contrast to K 2013, the following countries do not have any exhibitors at K 2016: Latvia (2 exhibitors at K 2013), Tunisia (1/K 2013) and Belarus (1/K 2013).

And since we are focussing on figures: More than 200,000 trade visitors from well over 100 countries are expected at K 2016. This means that nationals hailing from over half the world’s states will be our guests in Düsseldorf from 19 to 26 October. At the previous event in 2013, 59% of all visitors were of foreign origin. Just under half of them came from overseas – they even travelled all the way to Düsseldorf from such places as Angola, Burkina Faso, the Falkland Islands, Yemen, Malawi, Nepal, New Caledonia, Oman, Peru and Turkmenistan.

Day 2 at K 2016

If there is one idea that runs through all industrial sectors, it has to be that of the smart factory, or digitalised, networked manufacturing. The plastics and rubber industry is no exception here. Industry representatives are putting this topic up among the top priorities on the management agenda and doing everything they can to make it happen. Find out more at K 2016. 

Experience Plastics 4.0: Machines communicating with each other, sharing their weak points and errors, and receiving a solution to the problem from their digital counterpart. Information flowing from one end of the globe to the other without anyone noticing, far less having to hit a return key to trigger the process. Complex production workflows and ordering processes running like magic – without any human intervention.

Welcome to the future! Welcome to the here and now! What might sound incredible is actually already being implemented in places today. All under the theme of Industry 4.0 or Plastics Industry 4.0. The German Engineering Federation (VDMA), a partner of Messe Düsseldorf, has made it is business to inform visitors to K 2016 on all aspects of this 4th industrial revolution and the consequences it will have for the industry. The VDMA TV Pavilion FG 16.1, situated in the openair space opposite Hall 16 of the Messe Düsseldorf exhibition centre, will be the venue for daily talks and discussions with international experts from business, academia and trade associations, covering all the hot topics of digitalisation: What potential does the Internet of Things offer the plastics and rubber industry? What opportunities, benefits and risks does it harbour? 

Have your say: Experience teaches us not to cling to things simply because they are tried and tested, but also not to adopt new things before taking a critical look at them. A fear of change or unwelcome surprises is often due to insufficient information. But everyone can find out more about the future and actively help to shape it. K offers plenty of opportunity to do so.

Day 1 at K 2016

The sky over Düsseldorf is cloudy. There are isolated rain showers. The trees that line the roads have lost their leaves, so that there is an autumnal feel to everything. The temperature outside is exactly 11°C. By contrast with this, the heat is on in the halls on the Messe Düsseldorf exhibition site. The numerous car parks are packed with cars; anyone who wants or needs to drive to K 2016 for a visit has to walk quite a long way to get there from his car.

The robot teams from the CJD School in Königswinter are supported by PlasticsEurope, among others. Pupils from the school produce customised components for their machines using a sponsored 3D printer. Photo: Guido Deußing

It seems that plenty of people have done this. Large numbers of visitors are crowding the halls; there is no congestion in the aisles between the stands, however. It is possible simply to rush through. There is no reason to do so, on the other hand, because there is a great deal to see and discover. We would like to draw attention to all the attractions here, but we have agreed to keep things brief, so we are restricting ourselves to just a few interesting features.

Like here on the PlasticsEurope stand (Hall 6, Stand C40). While the focus on the stage of the huge white stand is on “Plastics industry 4.0” and a discussion is being held on the practical and sensible application of digital technology in future, pupils from the CJD School in Königswinter are making their presentation off to the side.

What these kids have in common? All of them are interested in electrical engineering and robots. They are in fact so interested that they at some time or either – with the help of an expert (a teacher who is enthusiastic about technology or a father who studied electrical engineering) or Internet searches - started to build easily handled robots that are capable of playing football autonomously or of detecting balls within a specific area and moving them to the side. (Similar but very much larger and more technically advanced robots are used for such purposes as to locate and rescue people buried in catastrophes.) The robot experts from the CJD School can talk about their hobby in a confident and accomplished manner – like the experts they really are. Most of them already know what area they want to work in later on: you guessed it – something to do with automation engineering!

By the way: Plastics make careers.

The plastics and rubber industry is booming – fuelled not least by the trend to lightweight construction in the automotive and aerospace industries, the demand for highperformance functional polymers for the most diverse application areas, and the increasing substitution of classic materials like metals, wood and glass with plastics. Polymer materials are quite simply unrivalled when it comes to innovative power. But although the material might be the central focus of this development, the successes are made by the people who know how to get the best out of plastics and rubber.

A multitude of applications: Unlike other materials, plastics can be composed and tailored individually for the intended application. This is the reason why polymer materials are in such widespread use – for packaging food, sealing motors and engines, storing blood for transfusion, and producing ultrathin photovoltaic elements. No two applications are alike, and each one demands a special kind of know-how in handling the respective polymer. With a material this versatile, it is no wonder how broadly diversified a field the plastics and rubber industry works in. The development and production of polymers as well as their downstream processing, manufacturing and recovery all require a huge range of different skills and competences: lab technicians, industrial mechanics, mechatronics technicians, plastics technicians, engineers, machine designers, plant electronics specialists, materials experts, chemists, IT and software specialists, product designers, researchers, developers, equipment designers, and many more.

Discovering the possibilities: At K 2016 some 3,200 exhibitors from all over the world will be presenting their product and service portfolios. They will also be giving insights into what kinds of careers are possible. In collaboration with Messe Düsseldorf, the industry – which offers scope for a vast variety of interests and abilities – has launched an educational initiative (kai*), allowing people to experience plastics live. Have we piqued your interest? K 2016 will spark an enthusiasm for plastics and rubber – one that you may well find contagious!

Theme day on Youth and Education Sunday 23 Oct. from 10:30 am to 3 pm Special show “Plastics shape the future” Hall 6, Stand 6/C40

Day 1 at K 2016

Let’s talk about industry 4.0. Let’s talk about plastics industry 4.0. Because this is what the special show “Plastics shape the future” (Hall 6/Stand 6/C 40) that PlasticsEurope has organised is all about today. VDI (Materials Engineering) is partnering the special show on this occasion. The special show stand was opened just a few minutes ago. Introductory talks about “Digital transformation – the process chain going through digital change” and “The significance of industry 4.0 in plastics processing” are following between 11.30 and 13.00.

After this (13.00 - 14.00), the robot teams from the CJD School in Königswinter will be demonstrating exactly what “R2D2” and “C3PO” have to offer where rescue operations and football are concerned.

This will be followed between 14.00 and 15.30 by brief presentations about industry 4.0, energy efficiency and sustainability and “Additive manufacturing for the individualisation of series production”.

From 15.30 to 16.00, Dr Gerhard Heywang is presenting interesting and entertaining experiments with plastics.

Between 16.00 and 17.00, members of the K 2016 Scientific Council are discussing opportunities and benefits of plastics 4.0. After this, “Robots in action” are rounding off the end of the first day of the trade fair at the K 2016 special show “Plastics shape the future”.

Tomorrow, Thursday, 20.10.2016, the special show is highlighting the issue of “New materials”. Professor André Bardow from RWTH Aachen will be starting things off at 10.30 with his talk “On materials and sustainability”. Members of the K 2016 Scientific Council will then be discussing this issue between 11.00 and 12.00. The stand will be taken over afterwards by the robots and schoolchildren as well as Dr Gerhard Heywang with his plastics-based experiments.

The programme for the special show “Plastics shape the future” can be accessed and downloaded here: Plastics Shape the Future website.

Special show of K 2016: Plastics shape the future

Day 1 of K 2016 – 19. October 2016, 9 am

K 2016 is starting! About 3,300 companies from 61 different countries are presenting the latest technical and raw material solutions for the plastics and rubber industry on 175,000 square metres of stand space in 19 exhibition halls at Messe Düsseldorf from today onwards. Most of the exhibitors at K this year come from Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey, the Netherlands, France and the USA, while companies from Asia (particularly China, Taiwan, India, Japan and South Korea) account for a large proportion of the exhibitors too. It is the biggest event in the industry – Messe Düsseldorf is expecting more than 200,000 visitors.

High expectations, fascinating programme

The people responsible for and exhibiting at K 2016 are optimistic about the days ahead. Werner Matthias Dornscheidt, the Managing Director of Messe Düsseldorf, considers that K 2016 has tremendous potential not only for the plastics- and rubber-processing companies from all over the world, “but also for designers, developers and manufacturing experts from numerous user industries”. Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Director of Reifenhäuser GmbH & Co. KG and Chairman of the K Exhibitors’ Advisory Council, is convinced that the industry will setting innovative trends again this year: “The spotlight is on energy, resource and material efficiency, new materials, lightweight structures and – probably the most fascinating issue – industry 4.0”. Visitors to K 2016 are likely “to experience highly interesting offerings on the exhibition stands as well as stimulating lectures and discussions.”

Enormous importance of polymer materials

There is no doubt about the fact that there is plenty to report about plastics and rubber. Polymer materials play a much too important a role in our lives, after all. Although isolated efforts are regularly made to ban polymers from our day-to-day lives – the truth of the matter is: polymers have driven technological progress more than practically any other material in many individual areas, where environmentally sensitive mobility, household and medical hygiene, energy conservation, safety, innovative electronics and energy generation are concerned, to mention just a few. And the significant thing is: polymers continue to have unparalleled and unlimited innovation potential. 

This is exactly what fuels the industry and the companies that give K 2016 the profile of one of the world’s leading high-tech trade fairs – right from the start. A closer look reveals that the K success story reflects the development of the industry and the companies which represent it, something that is in turn closely associated with the steadily increasing use of polymer materials.

A tradition of pioneering achievements

During the period between 1950 and 2015, the use of plastics and rubber increased by an average of 8.5 per cent per year; Ulrich Reifenhäuser points out that the figure today is about four to five per cent per year. The secret to this success lies in the material itself.

Polymers can be “composed” and designed for their subsequent application more effectively than practically any other type of material. Thanks to their research into polymer chemistry, such well-known scientists as Hermann Staudinger and others have laid the foundations on which an industry has developed that produces pioneering innovations year in, year out – as is clear to see at K 2016.

The plastics and rubber industry supplies unique solutions that make vehicles weigh less and increase fuel economy, that package food perfectly hygienically and extend shelf life, that improve treatment options and the probability of healing in the medical sector, that save energy and that transport drinking and waste water contamination- and loss-free, even over long distances. The sports community and leisure industry enjoy benefits from the use of polymers as well.

There is a downside to everything

The consequences of the widespread, large-scale use of a material are not exclusively positive. As know-how about the material and the substances it contains has increased, so our understanding has also grown about the impact and effects that polymers can have if they enter the environment in an uncontrolled fashion. We at k-online have already reported about this here at regular intervals. The plastics and rubber industry does not turn a blind eye to this; on the contrary, it contributes actively to the provision of information about the consequences and to promotion of the sustainable use of polymer materials. It is a challenge that everyone involved – manufacturers and beneficiaries – has to tackle. This explains why such issues as ocean pollution by marine litter are included on the agenda at K 2016 too. We at k-online are also keeping an eye on these issues and will be continuing to report about them for you here.

Stay on the ball and return to this site regularly.