Resounding growth and success

The Plastindia 2009 Review

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Plastindia has gone from strength to strength and firmly established itself indisputably as the world’s second largest trade show on plastics
Over the years, Plastindia has gone from strength to strength and firmly established itself indisputably as the world’s second largest trade show on plastics, second only to the K series of triennial events organised at Dusseldorf in Germany.  Plastics are today the most widely used raw materials in the world and Packaging is their largest and most important application segment accounting for 34% of total plastics usage. They pervade practically every aspect of our everyday lives. In India, packaging applications account for just over 60% of all polymer consumption.
The show figures are in and this year’s edition has notched up substantially higher numbers than the last one held in 2006. The highlights for the 2009 event are given below. (The figures in brackets are the corresponding numbers for the event held in 2006.)

– Total number of exhibitors = 1517 (1288); Overseas exhibitors = 475 (326); 18 Halls + 16 Hangars, Covering area = 77,604 sq. m. (65,541 sq. m.); No. of business visitors = >130,000 (80,000); Participating countries = 35 (30); 20 country pavilions; 4 theme pavilions; and Business generated = over INR 10 billion (INR 1,000 crores) or US$ 200 million.

I spoke to Arvind Mehta, President of Plastindia Foundation and he was very happy with the show, as were all the other members of the Managing Committee that I met. According to him, “We had a wonderful show. We had 1517 exhibitors and could have had more but for lack of availability of space. We achieved record numbers in all categories and both exhibitors and visitors were very satisfied with the event. It has certainly been the most successful show held anywhere in the world in the last 8 months or so.”

The show was broadly structured on the basis of major exhibitor groups as follows:

– Raw materials, polymers and resins, intermediates, blends and alloys, composites; specialty chemicals, masterbatches, additives, colourants, fillers and reinforcements

– Plastics processing machinery; ancillary equipment, instrumentation; finished products; moulds and dies; post processing equipment for printing, plating, lamination, surface enhancement and decoration of plastics; quality control and testing equipment; recycling; plasticulture; R & D, education and training institutes; trade promotion bodies and professional associations; and technical publishers, standards etc.

Concurrently with the exhibition, Plastindia also organised a 2-day international Conference featuring specialist speakers from leading international organisations as well as Indian industry. Other concurrent events included an India – China Plastics Summit, an India – US Summit organized jointly with the Society of Plastics Industry Inc. (SPI), an Asian Plastics Recycling and Waste Management Conference and distribution of the Plasticon Awards for accomplishments and excellence in the Indian plastics industry in 23 categories like creative packaging, contribution to agriculture, recycling technology, conservation of energy, material and ecology, infrastructure, innovative products, best research, innovative plastics processing machinery etc.

The show was inaugurated by the President of India Smt. Pratibha Patil who heartily supported the growth of the plastics industry and pointed out that plastics waste, if managed well, is wealth. She called for a combined effort from the industry, government and the civic society to act responsibly and manage the issues related to plastics better. She further observed that growth in the plastics sector will be spurred by rapid urbanisation, growth in the retail business and expansion of infrastructure resulting in polymer consumption going up to 11 million tonnes over the next few years from the present level of 5.8 million tonnes.

Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister for Chemicals, Fertilisers & Steel, also spoke on the occasion and said that, “The Indian plastic industry has come of age and has contributed significantly to the economic development of India through employment generation, infrastructure development, innovation etc.”
The show was really massive and almost everyone who is anyone in the global plastics business was there participating in either their individual capacities or through their local agents or representatives.

There was a lot of running equipment on display. What was particularly impressive was the number of new Indian manufacturers who were showing plastics processing and conversion equipment (notably blown film lines, slitter/rewinders, bag making machines, rotogravure and flexographic presses, pad printing machines, blow-moulding and injection-moulding machines, thermoformers and on-line inspection systems) which demonstrated that the Indian plastics machinery sector has come on in a big way. A lot of the equipment on display was sold during the show itself.

The particularly impressive printing equipment on display were those of a fully loaded SOLOMARK 4000 8-colour rotogravure press from Pelican, a variety of presses and laminators from Polygraph and Kinnari’s range of pad printing machines. Quality high-output multilayer coextrusion blown film lines were on display from Rajoo Engineers, Kolsite-Gloucester and Windsor Machines. There was also a large and impressive display of a whole range of bag-making and pouch-making machines from Mamata Machinery.

Some significant new collaborations of interest to the packaging industry were announced, the most impressive of which were Lohia Starlinger’s tie-up with Techne, Gloucester Engineering’s tie-up with Kolsite, Rajoo Engineers’ tie-ups with Commodore Inc. and Techno Coating S.r.l.  and the launch of Magplastic Asia’s new range of blow-moulding machines from their Pune factory. (We are carrying detailed stories on Lohia Starlinger-Techne, Gloucester Engineering-Kolsite and Rajoo Engineers later on in this section.)

The show was well organised and, in terms of size, lived up to it’s billing as the world’s second largest show on plastics. My only grouse, if it could be called one, was that the hall-wise segmentation of the categories did not work well as overseas exhibitors had all been grouped together in specific halls and, in the limited time available, one could well have missed out on some exhibits from new participants.

Plastindia 2009 Conference – a review
The Plastindia 2009 international Conference was held in New Delhi on the 6 and 7 February 2009. The first day was designated Business Day and was devoted to presentations focussing on business issues related to the plastics and petrochemicals industries. The second day was designated Technology Day and featured papers relating to the latest technology developments and applications of plastics.

The Packaging industry is the biggest end-user of plastics and consumes about 34% of the global synthetic polymer output. There was, therefore, considerable focus on packaging technologies and applications in the Conference.

Delivering the keynote address, guest of honour, Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Director and Chief Executive of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), laid out the global and Indian economic scenario and projections for the next few years. Although the developed world is faced with a recession that is expected to last through 2009, countries like India and China will still see growth albeit at levels lower than those in the last few years. Plastics consumption in this region will grow unlike the trends in the developed economies.

Business day
The first business session was about the global industry scenario. The presenters John Verity of Exxon-Mobil Chemicals, Andrew Borruso of Access Intelligence International and Howard Rappaport of Chemical Market Associates all painted a bleak demand outlook for 2009 in the developed economies with the credit crunch making it important to tighten belts and to see the problems through. This is the time for consolidation and review of inefficient and high-cost facilities and technology development focussed on improving margins and providing sustainable development.

This was followed by a session on Indian industry. P. K. Johri of ONGC laid out the global and Indian energy scenario and pointed out that although crude oil availability will diminish compared to the demand growth, the silver lining is that the world is not running out of gas. India provides an attractive destination for investments in petrochemicals but the focus will have to be on integration across the entire value chain and maximising revenue by creating value from the molecule. Rajeev Mathur of GAIL presented a snapshot of the Indian polymer industry and said that by 2010, India would become the world’s third largest polymer consumer after the USA and China. India, which now produces about 2 million tonnes per year each of PE and PP, is expected to add annual capacity of 2.36 million tonnes of PE and 2.75 million tonnes of PP by 2012-13. Other presentations were made by N. Ravivenkatesh of Purvin & Getz on the petrochem feedstock market and Russel Tew of Borouge on their plans for Borstar PP technology.

The third session focussed on the trade and regulatory environment where Sharad Bhansali of SLG Law Offices talked about issues impacting the polymer industry and Reynold D’Souza of Sakata India talked about the implications of the EU REACH legislation on polymers.

Technology day
Technology Day started off with a very interesting session on emerging technologies in materials. Dirk Michiels of Exxon-Mobil Chemicals talked about their facilities and approach to technology and applications development and highlights of their recently introduced Enable metallocene PE resins that provide a unique balance of processability and outstanding mechanical properties which make for substantial downgauging, toughness and better optical properties for films in special applications like collation shrink packaging.

Dr. Ann Schoeb-Wolters of Univation Technologies, a JV between Dow Chemicals and ExxonMobil Chemicals and the world leader in gas-phase polyethylene technology, made a presentation on metallocene PE resins, which would increase their share of the world LLDPE film market (7.2% in 2000, 13.6% in 2007 and 18.9% in 2017) to 5.6 million tonnes because of their superior processability and performance properties like molecular weight distribution, comonomer distribution, strength and toughness, hot tack and heatsealability and clarity as compared to standard Ziegler-Natta resins. She also talked about the development of their latest generation UNIPOL EZP (for easy processability) and VPR (for versatile performance) resins and what properties they could deliver.

Felip Vidiella of Dow Europe then talked about differentiated packaging solutions using advanced resin technologies. He talked about the packaging market in Europe and identified modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), labels & shrink and stand-up pouches as the fastest growing packaging technologies. He gave several examples of interesting new innovations like herb and spice packaging, new laminate and coex structures, lightweighting by foaming the middle layer of a coextrusion using a patented technology, a pouch for sauces to replace glass jars and squeezable plastic bottles, films with improved toughness and clarity, retort pouches, deep frozen vegetables, meat packaging and packaging of ozonated water.

The next session on specialty additives for polymers featured one presentation relevant for packaging by N. S. Ayare of Fine Organics on slip additives for PP caps and closures.

Technical Session 3 started with a presentation by Enrico Gribaudo of Husky on injection stretch blow moulded PET containers for beverage packaging and new developments in lightweighting, multilayer bottles and high barrier bottles. He also announced a proposed Husky Technical Centre in Chennai by 2010 that would undertake technical development and refurbishing of PET moulding machines in the first phase and build new moulding machines in the second phase. Mark Jones of Gloucester Engineering then made a presentation on cast film lines and the economics of producing films for stretch wrapping.

The concluding session was devoted to plastics for automotive applications.

The conference was well organised and well attended. What was heartening was the almost unanimous opinion that India was emerging as a potential powerhouse in polymer consumption as well as plastics production and processing.

The conference also featured an interesting concurrent poster exhibition by academic institutes, research laboratories and industrial laboratories on unique work in polymer materials with potential for applications development.

Rajoo Engineers at Plastindia 2009
One of the star exhibits at Plastindia 2009 was the Rajoo Engineers stand. Not only did they win an Outstanding Booth Award, they also had some impressive machinery on display, all of which was sold during the show itself. Their 750 sq. m. stall in Hall 4 had an impressive 52 meter frontage.

The prize exhibit was a towering 15 meter tall MULTIFOIL fully loaded three-layer coextruded blown film line that was running continuously and turning out an average of 453 kilograms an hour of 40 micron lamination grade polyethylene film in 1,400 mm width. (The line is rated at 500 kilograms an hour while running a maximum lay-flat width of 1,500 mm.) The rolls had beautiful flush edges, weighed nearly 900 kgs. each and had a thickness variation of 3%. The extrusion set-up consisted of two 70 mm extruders and one 90 mm extruder. The line was equipped with ultrasonic sensor based internal bubble cooling (IBC), multi-component gravimetric conveying with continuous blending and dosing, high output air ring with automatic profile control, a fully automatic surface winder with taper tension control, trim grinders and an integrated supervisory touch screen based control panel. The plant was sold to Venkateshwara Flexopack, a leading manufacturer of flexible packaging based at Hyderabad in South India.

Rajoo have also negotiated the sale of a 5-layer version of the MULTIFOIL line with an extrusion configuration of two 60 mm and three 55 mm extruders and a 400 mm pancake type die turning out 250 kilograms an hour of barrier films in a maximum lay-flat width of 1,500 mm. This will be the first fully automated 5-layer blown film line for barrier films supplied by any Asian manufacturer and will be delivered during the second quarter of this year. This latter line has been sold to Polypet Flexible Packaging, a leading manufacturer of PVC shrink sleeves and multilayer barrier films for lamination and liquid packaging based in Nagpur and Maharashtra in Western India. According to Arun Amidwar, Chairman of this group, “After evaluating many machinery manufacturers in the world from North America, Europe, Taiwan and even from India, we selected Rajoo Engineers to supply the machine to us for this project. We already operate a 3-layer plant from Rajoo and are impressed by their consultative approach and in-depth understanding of our requirements. Rajoo were able to configure the optimum solution for us keeping the Indian environment and economy in mind.”

The second line on display was a LAMINA sheet extrusion plant turning out 250 kgs./hour of a 3-layer recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) sheet in ABA configuration using 100% reground post-consumer PET bottle flakes as input. It was equipped with a crystalliser-cum-dehumidifier, one 90 mm extruder, one 50 mm extruder, melt metering pumps and diverter type continuous screen changers feeding an 800 mm wide flat die and a dual station centre winder. The sheet quality was quite good and the sheet transparency was excellent (the input blend did use an optical brightener in the formulation).

The third line on display was a fully servo controlled DISPOCON thermoformer that complemented the RPET line. It has a forming area of 650 mm x 350 mm, a maximum draw depth of 120 mm and a mechanical speed of 45 cycles/minute. This model offers many advantages over hydraulic models in terms of low wastage, precise sheet indexing and lower compressed air consumption while delivering almost double the output.

The LAMINA RPET sheet extrusion line and 3 DISPOCON thermoformers were sold to Khetan Extrusion Industries (KEI), a leading manufacturer of polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS) containers based at Patna in Eastern India. Arun Rathi, owner of KEI, said, “Due to a long association with Rajoo, we are their natural partners in progress. We have always been the first one to buy new technology from Rajoo in this industry. Rajoo once again successfully demonstrated its technology leadership in developing the first Asian complete RPET sheet line system and we had no hesitation in deciding in their favour.”

During the show, Rajoo also announced the finalisation of two technology partnerships. The first of these is with Commodore Inc. of USA for expanded polystyrene container lines and the other is with Techno Coating S.r.l. of Italy for cast extrusion stretch and polypropylens (PP) sheet lines. Both collaborators were present at the Rajoo stand.