In Vogue: Digital Transformation and Resource-Conserving Future Technologies

Fakuma 2020 with Focus on Growing Interconnectivity

The Fakuma international trade fair for plastics processing, which for years now has been an industry and technology barometer, is verifying – in time-lapse mode – how quickly in particular this economic sector is evolving. The technical event with an emphasis on injection moulding continuously presents new solutions offered by manufacturers, distributors and system integrators in response to current and future challenges. Based on the great success of the event held in 2018 (for the first time ever, 1933 exhibitors from 40 countries gathered on Lake Constance), trade fair promoters P.E. Schall GmbH & Co. KG are already planning for increased internationalism on all available floor space in 2020. “For years now, we’ve been occupying all available floor space at the modern Friedrichshafen Exhibition Centre amounting to 85,000 square metres,” explains Bettina Schall, managing director of the event promoters.

 

“Persistently Great Demand” for Injection Moulding Machines

For the eighth year in a row, manufacturers of plastics processing machines are experiencing unbroken further growth. This impressively underscores the industry sector’s technological expertise. The injection moulders unexcitedly reported on a certain amount of stabilisation with regard to order receipts at their business press conferences. But in light of longer lead-times due to bottlenecks for purchased parts, lack of personnel and insufficient production capacity, the current market slowdown is not at all inopportune for many companies. Within this context, Dr. Christoph Steger, CSO of the Engel Group in Schwertberg, Austria, and member of the Fakuma exhibitor advisory committee, spoke of a certain lateral motion which is taking place at a thus far unparalleled level. Accordingly, the somewhat cooled-down demand didn’t spoil the good mood of any of the participating companies during the course of Fakuma 2018. The plastics industry is still on course for success and growth.

 

Fakuma: the Most Important Trade Fair for Practitioners

Roughly 47,650 expert visitors travelled to Lake Constance from 126 countries in 2018. The promoter and the exhibitors were very satisfied with the quality of the expert visitors. Numerous exhibitors praised Fakuma as a “genuine working event” for established practitioners that’s consistently aligned to the process sequence in the field of plastics processing. “Nowhere else is it possible to explore conceptions, projects and visions with customers in a more concrete fashion, which is why the industry meet clearly has the status of an order placing trade fair for us as exhibitors,” explained an exhibiting injection moulder in order to put things in a nutshell. Beyond this, digitalisation and interconnectivity, ongoing process integration and system solutions for machines and peripherals necessitate a continuous dialogue between machine manufacturers and plastic processors. As a logical consequence, globalisation, digitalisation and efficient use of resources by means of circular economy were the predominating issues at Fakuma.

 

Advancing Interconnectivity for Plastics Processors

Sensibly combining products and services in the field of production technology with IT in order to conserve resources, become more transparent and flexible, and to work more efficiently, was once the targeted goal of the Industry 4.0 strategy. The fact that manufacturers of plastics processing machines have meanwhile evolved significantly in this respect and now offer comprehensive digitalisation and networking of their machines was consistently apparent at Fakuma. Thanks to intelligent assistance systems and wide-ranging vertical integration – from ERP all the way down to the inner workings of the machine – self-optimising solutions are more than just a vision in the meantime. For certain tasks they’ve already become reality and visitors marvelled at them during Fakuma 2018. And thus networking has arrived for plastics processors as well. “But there’s still a lot of ground to cover until wide-spread networking has been implemented,” says an insider, “and the direction things will actually take with Industry 4.0, IoT and the digital transformation will probably first become apparent at Fakuma 2020.

 

Circular Economy as an Opportunity for the Future

The fact that the currently rather poor image of plastics shared by the general public – which has resulted from the discussion of the contamination of the world’s oceans with plastic waste – is resulting in a sensitisation of the industry sector, is seen by Bettina Schall as an opportunity. Thorsten Ratzmann, CEO at Pöppelmann, expressed it even more bluntly in his statement: “As a material which can be processed in numerous ways, plastic has fallen into disrepute in the meantime and the plastics industry has a serious reputation problem.” For many people – so it would appear at first glance – plastic has a negative connotation and its use must be reduced in the future! This may indeed be an enticing goal, but in reality it contradicts the truth – a fact which was demonstrated at Fakuma 2018. Plastic must and will always be made use of for a more sustainable future. The term circular economy has thus long since established itself in the plastics industry. And the question is no longer “whether or not,” but rather simply “how”. The fact that circular economy has arrived in the field of plastics machinery manufacturing was more apparent than ever on Lake Constance. Higher recycling quotas and improved efficiency for waste management can only be dealt with at the global level by means of an open dialogue. Plastics processors will only use recyclates for the production of plastic products to an ever greater extent if reliable material quality is available in adequate quantities. However, this is only possible if enough recyclable waste plastic is collected.

It was made plainly apparent at Fakuma in Friedrichshafen that this will be the responsibility of the plastics industry itself: “If we ever want to achieve the goal of closed-loop systems, we’ll need to unite the forces of all partners involved in the value creation chain – including the final consumer. We have to work mutually and resolutely on all of the decisive steps within the loop: from manufacturing and the use of the products, right on up to disposal,” explained a recycling expert in Friedrichshafen. This issue will be on the agenda once again at Fakuma in 2020.

The 27th Fakuma will take place in Friedrichshafen from the 13th through the 17th of October, 2020.