by Dianna Brodine, managing editor, Plastics Business

Once every three years, the plastics industry gathers to attend the largest plastics tradeshow in the Americas. Scheduled for May 17 through 21, the 2021 edition was on track to bring more than 2,100 exhibitors to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, with equipment, machinery, consumables, processes and support technology convened within more than one million square feet of exhibit space.

The pandemic has forced the event to change shape – to what extent is yet unknown – but opportunities exist within the combined virtual and in-person event being developed by The Plastics Industry Association, producers of NPE.

Plastics verticals on display

Event organizers say every sector of the global plastics industry and its vertical markets will be represented at NPE. From automotive/transportation, consumer products and bottling/containers to medtech and packaging, the Orange County Convention Center will provide opportunities for those looking to diversify their supply chain, explore new market opportunities or compare potential capital expenditure options.

The event halls will feature 13 technology zones, including sectors that focus on innovation and offerings in the following areas:

  • 3D/4D printing
  • Bottling
  • Contract manufacturing
  • Decorating and secondary processes
  • Flexible packaging
  • Inspection and measurement
  • Medtech
  • Moldmaking
  • Polymers and additives
  • Product design and engineering services,
  • Recycling and sustainability
  • Rigid packaging
  • Robotics and automation

These technology zones have the advantage of bringing together those working within specific spaces, simplifying access for event attendees and providing opportunities for collaboration.

“NPE2021 is the premier event for all sectors of the plastic industry to network, exchange ideas and see the latest innovations molding the future of plastics,” said President and CEO of PLASTICS, Tony Radoszewski, CAE, in a recent press release. “Attendees will be able to learn about emerging plastics trends; purchase the latest machinery, materials and equipment that are revolutionizing manufacturing; and connect with industry leaders.”

In addition to the tradeshow floor exhibits, NPE offers education programs, with sessions featuring topics ranging from sustainability and recycling to additive manufacturing.

COVID-19 precautions on tap

Whether a COVID-19 vaccine is readily available or not, health and safety precautions while at the Orange County Convention Center will be a key consideration for attendees and exhibitors alike.

First, given the inability of some to travel to Orlando in May, event organizers will offer NPE2021 as a hybrid event. A digital component will provide access to the technology and education, although details have yet to be released.

The priority, according to show organizers, is the in-person event. Recent communication posted to the NPE2021 website explained, “The health and welfare of all NPE participants is, of course, our top priority. We have been closely monitoring the situation, including all guidance from governmental health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as information from the State of Florida and the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), and will take into consideration all current health guidelines necessary to create a safe and healthy environment for our show.”

Whether this includes face masks, pared-down exhibitor booths or other as-yet-unnamed precautions likely will depend on the United States’ ability to bring the spread of coronavirus under control prior to the May event. As of press time, the event still is six months in the future, and hope exists that the event can proceed as planned.

“Given the challenges of the past six months, it is vitally important for the plastics community to come together and support each other with a positive outlook to the future,” said Radoszewski.

Learn more about NPE2021 or register to attend: www.npe.org