NPE 2009 in Chicago next month will be like previous triennial shows—but it will be different, too.

NPE 2009 in Chicago next month will be like previous triennial shows—but it will be different, too. The mood this time around may be somewhat subdued. A handful of prominent machinery names will be absent this time, and there will be even fewer major material suppliers than ever before (only one in commodity resins, for example).

While the average booth size may be smaller than last time, there may actually be more exhibitors than ever. There will be 18 multi-exhibitor national pavilions, up from 14 at NPE 2006. Several firms that said they were pulling out of the show are back in. And one major resin supplier, SABIC Innovative Plastics, has returned to the show after the absence of its predecessor, GE Plastics, three years ago. There are also newcomers to NPE in materials, such as Evonik Degussa.

Some people expect attendance to be a little lower, but that may be mitigated by the co-location, for the first time ever, of the big SPE ANTEC conference and six other concurrent shows and conferences, including Moldmaking Expo and Time Compression Expo (both sponsored by our sister publications) and the first International Plastics Design Competition.

Most important, this show will not be light on technical innovations for processors. The balance may have shifted somewhat from major machinery to auxiliaries, tooling, and components (you will notice, for example, the almost total absence of blown film towers), but there are still plenty of exciting enhancements and even some industry firsts on display. See our machinery preview.

There’s plenty going on in materials, too, where the recession does not seem to have slowed the introduction of new products. Look for news especially in two of the most active areas of development—biopolymers (six exhibitors) and TPEs (eight exhibitors).

If you’re undecided about going to the show, perhaps you’re wondering whether you should even be looking at new equipment in this economy. Then you should know that approximately half of your peers and competitors have purchased primary and/or auxiliary equipment this year or are planning to do so. That’s one of the conclusions of a survey of nearly 500 domestic processors that we conducted in cooperation with consulting firm Townsend Solutions of Houston. You can see the results on our website (www.ptonline.com/articles/investment-survey.html). The survey also suggests a reason to be talking to material suppliers at the show: Almost 40% of respondents said one step they are taking to lower operating costs is to seek out alternative materials and vendors. Speaking of materials, come by our booth at the show (South Hall, S-50048) for a demo of our Plaspec Global online material selection datacenter. Sign up for a free trial.