If the K 2010 show was any indication, we’re about to turn the page on the global economic malaise that has plagued plastics manufacturing since the summer of 2008.

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If the K 2010 show was any indication, we’re about to turn the page on the global economic malaise that has plagued plastics manufacturing since the summer of 2008.

The numbers reported by show organizer Messe Düsseldorf were solid, if not record breaking. More than 220,000 attendees walked the halls between Oct. 27 and Nov. 3. That number was down 9% from 2007 show—when the economic climate was far more positive—but up 10% over what the organizers were projecting. Some 60% of this show’s attendees came from outside Germany. Unsurprisingly, the biggest growth in visitors was from Asia—some 30,000 attendees, about a third of them from India.

Exhibitors whose primary focus is Europe reported that business was by and large back the levels of 2007-2008, in some cases better. “It is evident that an investment backlog formed during the global economic and financial crisis (beginning in 2008),” said Ulrich Reifenhauser, managing director of Reifenhauser and Chairman of the Executive Council for K 2010. “Now demand is rising on a global scale and we are experiencing overwhelming customer interest in our [markets].”

Some 6800 visitors came from North America to see the show. That’s about the same number as last time, which I view as a positive sign, given the pain that North American plastics processors have endured over the past two years.

Among most exhibitors, the mood was all but euphoric. Throughout the eight-day exhibit, the show floors were abuzz with activity, machinery of all types was purring (and selling), and exhibitors and attendees alike were happy to be there. We heard how unusual it is that Europe is leading the U.S. out of a recession. My colleague Matt Naitove sensed pride from German exhibitors on how their fabled “locomotive” is pulling Europe out of the economic dumps.

Exhibitors focused on selling into North America were a tad less enthusiastic after the show, but optimistic nevertheless. We ran into a handful of North American processors who came to the show to buy, or to look for something very specific with clear-cut intentions to buy. Several deals were sealed at the show by Americans.

In our next issue we’ll delve more deeply into the specifics of the show, reporting on new technology developments in all types of machinery and materials. Concerning what’s in store for the U.S. market, we will also have a story detailing the results of our most recent capital-spending (or buying plans) study. We’ve done this study for years, and at the risk of stealing some thunder from our January report, let me just say that the results are encouraging.

It was good to see North Americans at the show, and it’s even better to learn about their investment plans for the year ahead. Like I’ve said repeatedly, it will be technology that will pull North American plastics processing out of the doldrums. Going to K is a good start. Pulling the trigger on some long-overdue investments in capital equipment is the next logical step. By and large, this has been a better year than last, but that’s not really saying a heck of a lot. Next year will tell a clearer story about what the future of our business will bring.