Examining the Big Themes at NPE2018

Check out the publication that was poly-bagged with this issue to get a big picture view of what’s coming up at the giant show in May. Here’s a preview.

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With this issue of Plastics Technology Magazine, you received a copy of a second publication: the official NPE2018 Show Preview Magazine. In this 36-page magazine, the editors of Plastics Technology and various sister publications under the Gardner Business Media umbrella wrote about key trends, issues, and themes that will be on display May 7-11 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. 

I encourage you to take the time to read this publication for its 35,000-ft view on the trends and drivers that will influence what you’ll be seeing at individual company booths.

Let’s look at a few of these:

Automation: Like most other areas of manufacturing, plastics processors are facing difficulties finding factory workers. But as the lead story by Executive Editor Matt Naitove reveals, advanced robotics have come to the rescue. Robots exhibited at NPE2018 will be faster, smarter, more connected, and, in some cases, more “collaborative.”

Industry 4.0: There are going to be a lot of suppliers talking about Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things, and Smart Factories at NPE2018. Naitove reports in that same p. 1 story that new protocols for machine-to-machine and machine-to-central-computer communications are being developed in Europe. It will be interesting to track how North American processors respond to this trend. It’s one thing for machines to be wired to communicate with each other. It’s another for them to provide so-called “actionable data” that processors can actually use. Which brings us to:

Predictive Maintenance: For all too long, the norm in plastics processing has been to run a machine until, well, it can’t run anymore. It’s a practice called “run to fail,” which many believe has outlived its purpose. As an article written by yours truly on p. 16 of the NPE2018 Show Preview magazine reveals, new technology will be on display that will warn you of machinery component problems—and, more importantly, what to do about them—before they shut down your production lines.

Automotive Lightweighting: On p. 12 of the NPE2018 Show Preview magazine, Gary Vasilash, editor-in-chief of PT’s sister publication Automotive Design & Production, reports on various efforts instituted by Ford to reduce vehicle weight.

Recycling: Plastics Technology Senior Editor Heather Caliendo interviewed Kim Holmes, v.p. of sustainability for the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS). A key takeaway, courtesy of Holmes: “I believe brand owners and others in the industry are realizing that the traditional mechanical recycling model has limitations. In order to meaningfully drive use of recycled content forward, we need new technologies and methods in our toolbox.”

Augmented Reality: As Tony Deligio reports on p. 8 of the NPE2018 Show Preview magazine, this technology combines virtual and physical reality environments to allow, for example, tech service to be performed remotely. In a molding plant, augmented reality would use the camera on smart glasses, a smartphone, or a tablet to scan equipment within its view and add digital markers once the machinery is recognized.

3D Printing: Pete Zelinski is editor-in-chief of Additive Manufacturing magazine, yet another sister publication of PT. In his article on p. 26, he reports on the 10 ways additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is expanding possibilities for production of short-run parts and molds and even production molds.

Editor Pick

Conformal Cooling Technology Maximizes Cooling Efficiency

With so much happening in a busy show year between NPE2018, Amerimold 2018 and IMTS 2018, MoldMaking Technology is revisiting some of the technology that was on display. In case you missed it: DME says that its TruCool Conformal Cooling line provides greater overall cooling coverage with even distribution while maintaining a targeted, consistent temperature and reducing cycle times by as much as 60 percent.