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AI interview with Petra Cullman, Project Director of the K 2010

The K 2010, the 18th International Trade Fair for Plastics and Rubber will be held from the 27th of October to the 3rd of November 2010 at Düsseldorf, Germany. Over 3,000 exhibitors are expected to participate from across the globe at this year’s event, which is held once every three years. This year, a special presentation titled ‘Visions in Polymers’ will be the highlight which will showcase the latest developments and innovations in the industry. The special presentation is being organised by the German plastics industry spearheaded by the PlasticsEurope Deutschland e.V. association and Messe Düsseldorf which is organizing the K 2010.

The ‘Visions in Polymer’ presentation will tackle questions such as ‘what will our everyday life look like in 20 years’ time? What contribution can plastics make to solving important problems? Which potential applications that still appear visionary today will already have been introduced in two decades?’ The presentation will feature future-oriented aspects to complement exhibitors’ offerings at K 2010.

According to Werner M. Dornscheidt, President and CEO, Messe Düsseldorf, the international plastics and rubber industries are confident that an economic revival is on the cards. Plastic processors have reported increased business as have machine manufacturers and raw materials producers. “Many businesses have been stepping up their innovation efforts, reviewing long-established practices, and expanding their technology base in order to emerge from this difficult situation even better equipped than before to compete on the global markets. And above all, to meet their customers’ needs more precisely and to generate new potentials. Innovations shape the future of plastics technology. “Nowhere will this be so much in evidence this year as at the K Düsseldorf, which will bring together plastics and rubber experts from all over the world from 27 October to 3 November. The industry is looking forward to its flagship trade fair with great anticipation – already today K 2010 exhibitors are working hard to prepare for this event, because every company naturally wants to stand out with its innovations,” said Dornscheidt in a press release in January this year. 

At the K 2010 show products and technologies from the following categories will be displayed – raw materials and auxiliaries, semi-finished products, technical parts and reinforced plastics, and finally, machinery and equipment for the plastics and rubber industry. The previous edition of the K show, held in 2007, attracted over 242,000 visitors, and 3,130 participants. According to the organizers, numerous multi-million dollar deals were inked at the K 2007. Nearly 57 per cent of the trade visitors were from across the globe. Messe Düsseldorf is hoping to replicate the success of the previous K show this year.

“No other trade fair in the industry compares with K 2010 for the panorama it will provide on offerings from all over the globe. The extensive palette on display is once again assured by exhibitors’ international reach. Companies from every continent have signed up to showcase their innovations in the following categories. Once again, suppliers from Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and the USA as well as Asian manufacturers from China, Taiwan and India will be out in force. Among them will be not only the global market leaders but also a wealth of exciting newcomers,” says Messe Düsseldorf.

Automotive Industries spoke to Petra Cullman, Project Director of the K 2010.

AI: What’s new for the automotive industry at the K 2010?
Petra Cullmann: For all sectors of industry, the message is clear: In the long term, productivity and competitiveness can only be increased if they are based on innovations. Exhibitors at K 2010 will again be presenting an impressive selection of new developments – new and improved products which signify maximum benefit for users in their daily business. It’s all about performance enhancements in machinery, improvements in product quality, materials with enhanced performance, new process combinations and new approaches to substituting traditional materials. For the automotive industry, the focus will especially be on plastics for lightweight structures, incl. foams, on functionalized plastics components and surfaces, on fibre composites and their processing and on hybrids. Not to forget about the innovative rubber materials that will be presented at K 2010.

AI: How have plastic products and parts for the automotive industry grown over the past few years? What do you attribute this growth to? 

Cullmann: 1970 was the quota of plastics materials in a car at about 5 percent, today the percentage is at 15 and more. And the experts forecast unanimously that the proportion will further grow. The opportunities for implementing polymer applications and substitutions are far from exhausted. A major goal over the coming years will be to make a substantial dent in fuel consumption and emissions. Austrian scientists have investigated to what extent the increased use of plastic products can contribute to this goal by cutting down the weight of a car. It was discovered that around 88 percent of the total energy associated with a car over its entire life cycle is used to create motion. In contrast, the production of a car and the manufacture of the materials required employ only about six percent respectively. Which makes it apparent that plastics can play an important role by reducing its weight and thereby slashing petrol intake and CO2 emissions during the dominant phase in a vehicle’s life cycle – its use. The substitution of 100 kilograms of plastics for distinctly weightier materials results in a marked saving in fuel of 0.3 to 0.5 litres per 100 kilometres.

AI: Why should global automakers and Tier I and II component supply chain manufacturers visit K 2010? 

Cullmann: K has become the key information platform for developers, designers and production experts from numerous branches of industry. Exhibitors in turn have geared themselves up for this clientele: Almost half of all companies taking part in K are targeting their offerings directly at industrial users of semi-finished products and technical parts made from plastic and rubber. First among them is the auto industry! The experts from the automotive industries will definitely benefit from new ideas and improvements, as mentioned above. 

A new feature introduced for K 2010, the Innovation Compass, will provide orientation among the wealth of new products and developments. This tool offers a search matrix for innovations, allowing every visitor to precisely plan his visit to the fair according to the products that will be of most interest to him. The Innovation Compass will be available online about four to six weeks prior to K 2010.

AI: How has the plastics industry fared over the past couple of years during the recession? What role has the auto sector played in the plastics industry during this time? 

Cullmann: The plastics industry has been experiencing very tough times over the past months. And the auto sector has played, of course, a major role: Since this industry was hit badly by the global financial and economic crisis, the suppliers of plastics products and components suffered as well. 8 percent of the complete plastics consumption in Europe is used in the automotive industry.

AI: What are some of the new technologies K 2010 will be showcasing? 

Cullmann: K 2010 will again focus on plastics trends which are impacting all industries. Although specific details are not yet published at the present time, a number of important trends can be named, e.g. 

• Continued expansion of the properties of polymers and rubber materials, e.g. for the use “under the bonnet”, in environments where they are exposed to air, motor oil and high temperatures. 

• Simplification of processing techniques and improved adaptation to the different applications. 

• Integrated manufacturing processes and optimization of subprocesses.

AI: Tell us about the symbiotic relationship between the plastics and rubber industry and the automotive sector. 

Cullmann: As mentioned above, one of the key challenges of the automotive industry is to build ever lighter and energy-efficient cars – to save fuel and ease the burden of emissions on the atmosphere. It makes sense that to achieve this goal through the use of appropriate materials, more plastics and rubber need to go into the automotive mix. How this can be done, today and tomorrow, will be presented at K 2010 in Düsseldorf.

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