[This blog is adapted from a report written by C. Carlin for Plastics Engineering]
The 9th International Plastic Fair Japan (IPF) took place in Tokyo from October 24-28, 2017. Event organizers reported almost 800 exhibitors and 43,000 attendees, an increase of 2% from the previous event in 2014. In this sense, the plastics industry in Japan is aligned with other regions of the world in terms of growth. The IPF is very much a regional show, however, with 90% of exhibitors and attendees from Japan. Three major themes emerged from the event: internet of things (IoT), automation and robotics, and the advancement of composite materials to challenge aluminum, with a particular emphasis on automobile manufacturing.
Visitors examine the full suite of HYTAC products at IPF 2017 in Tokyo
Though IPF is not the primary show for plastic packaging in Japan (that would be Tokyo Pack, coming in October 2018), trends in consumer packaging were reflected in some of the technology at the show. IML parts are very visible at convenience stores and supermarkets along with thermoformed containers that have been decorated via offset printing methods. Only Illig (Heilbronn, Germany) displayed a thermoforming machine at IPF while the local market leader, Japan-based Asano Labs, stated that their order backlog precluded them from bringing a machine to the event.
CMT Materials partners with Seiko Sangyo and IMT in Japan. Since Seiko Sangyo is also the commercial agent for Illig, we were able to display HYTAC B1X plug materials in a 3-up cavity APET tool on Illig's RV74 automatic vacuum forming machine. The system was equipped with a downstacker and offload conveyor for ease of packing parts.
HYTAC-B1X plug assists mounted in 3-up cavity tool on Illig RV74
Thermoformed parts tend to be heavier in Japan than in other regions of the world due to a perceived link between the weight of the part and its inherent quality. Downgauging, therefore, is not a major driver in the thermoforming sector. In one unique cultural twist, convenience stored sell pre-packaged ice in sealed thermoformed containers that are then used for iced coffee. From a logistics perspective, this is less than optimal since parts must be stacked full instead of nested empty during (refrigerated) shipping.
Image of packaged items at a convenience store in Japan
We are grateful to our partners who made IPF a successful show. We look forward to our next visit to Japan to develop new projects in this unique and dynamic market.