War, terrorism, and a sluggish global economy aren’t enough to keep NPE 2003 from being a fascinating show.

War, terrorism, and a sluggish global economy aren’t enough to keep NPE 2003 from being a fascinating show. It will be just as big as last time—something over 1800 exhibitors by my count. But there are some noticeable differences in what will be displayed.

For one thing, the exodus of major resin suppliers has continued to the point where there are just four producers of major volume thermoplastics at the show. While NPE ’91 had around 26 big-name resin companies, they dwindled to about 22 at NPE 2000 and barely 16 this year. On the other hand, there are more overseas producers showing their wares, and the number of compounders has grown slightly since the last show.

Materials suppliers in North America have been disenchanted with trade shows for years. The sour economy tipped the balance for some of them this time. One argued that it came down to a choice between bringing out several important new products this year or going to the show.

Economic pressure is also affecting machinery exhibits. Milacron, which normally fields one of the biggest collections of heavy metal at the show, is apparently leaving it all at home—all except for a few machines that will be running in other people’s booths. Milacron aims to compensate with electronic displays of information and giving visitors the opportunity to pow-wow with an elite contingent of technical experts.

But if some domestic suppliers have dialed back on the show, overseas vendors have not. The global nature of the displays is more apparent than ever. Hundreds of machinery and tooling vendors from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Korea, India, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and even Turkey and Norway will introduce themselves to the U.S. market at NPE.