The Fakuma trade show has always occupied a prominent place in the calendar of the plastics processing industry. This year, the fair in Friedrichshafen is spearheading the return of the plastics industry in Europe to large-scale, in-person events.
Last year’s cancellation left exhibitors scrambling to find new ways to fill up the gap left by the absence of what is considered, after K, the most important technical event for industrial plastics processing. New, successful online initiatives mushroomed in the months that followed, many of which are here to stay. Here at Fakuma, however, the exhibitors are unanimous about one thing at least: ‘it’s good to be back’.
We spoke with Dr. Christoph Steger, plastics machinery manufacturer CSO at Engel Austria, about his expectations for this year’s Fakuma show.
Q: This year’s Fakuma is going ahead as an in-person event. How have your customers responded – are you expecting a normal level of attendance or have you noticed any hesitation about attending?
We are very much looking forward to sharing ideas with our customers and partners in person after a prolonged interruption for trade shows. Our customers feel the same way. They are eager to experience innovative exhibits live. At the same time, we know that travelling still is only possible to a limited extent for many. That's why we expect visitor numbers to be lower than in previous years.
Q:This is not your first live event this year – for example, you participated in Chinaplast earlier this year. So, how was that?
Chinaplas usually has a lot of international visitors. Due to China’s stringent quarantine rules, the international audience was almost completely non-existent this year. Of course, this was expected, so we tailored our trade fair appearance to the local processors. However, the atmosphere at Chinaplas was very good. Together with the USA, China was one of the first countries where the economic engine was the first to start up again and demand from the automotive industry also picked up. This was clearly noticeable at the fair.
Q: Why is it important for you to attend Fakuma this year?
Platforms for personal exchange are and will remain very important for us. Even though, during the pandemic, we saw that digital formats work extremely well and offer advantages in certain areas. Our goal is to combine the best of both worlds. In the future, there will be more and more hybrid events.
Q: How do the preparations for a major trade show like this one in times of Coronavirus differ from previous years? For example, is the stand be staffed with the same number of people? Is it as big as it always was?
Preparations are much more time-consuming, primarily since hygiene requirements depend on political decisions and can change quickly. Of course, everyone's health and safety are top priorities at all times. That is why we are traveling with a comparatively small team this year and will have more space in the stand overall. Our stand will be larger than in previous years.
Q: Are you making any kind of virtual attendance possible for visitors who are hesitant to attend in person?
Our market access has become more digital. With our virtual trade fair Engel live e xperience in October last year and the live e-symposium 2021 in June this year, we were able to reach our customers regardless of travel restrictions, distances, and time zones. The presentations from both events are still available on the platform. There is also a machine showroom that can be found in the Virtual World on the Engel global website. Here, two exhibits from our Fakuma presentation can be viewed: The production of pipette tips on an all-electric e-mac injection moulding machine and the production of the smallest components for ophthalmology with the new LSR micro injection unit. We have established the live e xperience as a permanent sales tool, not as a replacement but as a supplement to in-person events.
Q: What are you looking forward to most at Fakuma? And what do you expect from the show?
As mentioned at the beginning, the personal exchange is what I look forward to the most. Even if the effects of the pandemic still prevent some from travelling, we expect important interaction at Fakuma 2021. It is taking place at the right time. The markets are recovering faster than expected. Demand is high, because the plastics industry is tackling the challenges of digitalization, climate change and the transformation of the automotive industry with a great deal of dynamism. Fakuma offers the technological answers for these topics.
Q: Digitalization and the circular economy are important themes at this year’s show. What do you think is the role of digitalization in the circular economy?
We are convinced that sustainability can only work with digitalization. Digitalization helps to utilize the full potential of the injection moulding machine, which is the key to reducing the CO2 footprint. For example, with the help of Engel sim link, which connects simulation with real production, the course can be preset in component design for resource-saving production and subsequent recycling. Intelligent assistance systems, on the other hand, such as iQ weight control not only reduce energy consumption but also make it possible to use recycled material where previously there was no alternative to virgin material.