This year marked the 30th edition of Chinaplas, "Asia's No.1 and the world's No.2" plastics trade show. The event was back in Shanghai this year (it alternates between Guangzhou in southern China and Shanghai) and with 148,000 visitors over the 4-day period, it was definitely a highlight on the industry calendar. According to the show daily, about 150 countries and regions visited the show with the majority (68%) coming from China. The international pavilions were dominated by the Germans who displayed a wide range of machinery, materials and ancillary equipment. Discussions from the event reveal that German thermoforming machinery suppliers are landing large, multiple machine orders in both China and Taiwan. Not to be outdone, the Italians also secured large orders during the show.
In keeping with our global strategy, CMT presented HYTAC materials in the majority of thermoforming-related booths where plug-assisted tools were running. As has been the case for several years now, a growing number of Chinese OEMs are using HYTAC plugs in their machines. Most of the machines at Chinaplas were tilt-mold, cut-in-place systems for the production of cups. Illig, for example, showed a 70k former with HYTAC B1X plugs and an SZA73 stacker. The mold was a 14-cavity tool running 1.7mm (0.066") APET cups at 26cpm. Gabler displayed their M92 former with HYTAC XTL plugs in an 18-cavity configuration running 0.98mm (0.0385") APET cups. Kiefel, meanwhile, ran a 36-up cavity PS lid mold on their KMD78 former and KES 85 punch press. Asano Labs from Japan demonstrated their FLC former and PLS7 trim station. No US OEMs were present, though TSL's subsidiary, Sunwell Global, had an informational booth. Even in other sectors of the event, the US presence was very limited, suggesting American firms are reluctant or unwilling to compete here.
CMT displayed materials, plugs and cutting tools, allowing customers and visitors to truly understand the keys to using plug assists successfully. We met customers from China, Taiwan, SE Asia, India and the Middle East. With HYTAC now present in 50 countries worldwide, CMT is uniquely positioned in the global thermoforming industry. Many people asked questions about matching plug materials with different plastics (the most common question) while others wanted to understand the impact of plug geometry on the final part. The two most popular materials appear to be PP and APET, with some discussion of multi-layer films. Most of our marketing materials are available in Mandarin and with well-trained bi-lingual support staff, customers left the booth more knowledgable than when they arrived.
With packed halls, large international buyer delegations and a wide variety of products on display, Chinaplas is certainly an event where business decisions are made. For thermoforming, we have previously noted that there are two markets: high-end and low-end. The competition in the high-end is increasing as the Chinese-made machines show improvements in quality year over year. But with new tech centers opening in India and China, the European OEMs continue to invest and compete in this massive market. Several large Chinese companies are investing heavily in plastic packaging as concerns about food safety grow. Many of these investments include inline extrusion plants for large-volume thermoforming. In the low-end sector, smaller firms are popping up in all the regions of China, though the toolmaking and machinery sectors seem to be concentrated in the south and east of the country.
So now it's on to K2016, with its 8 days and 18 halls of plastics-fuelled selling, buying, eating, drinking, walking, waiting, more walking... We've already secured our booth space and now the real preparation begins.