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Focus on Industry 4.0, automation and composite materials

Focus on Industry 4.0, automation and composite materials


 From 24 to 28 October 2017, Makuhari Messe in Chiba hosted IPF Japan 2017, International Plastic Fair. Held every 3 years, it was the 9th issue of the event organized by the International Plastic Fair Association. In 2017 it gathered 778 companies and attracted more than 40.000 visitors.

We discussed the challenges of plastics industry and the goals pursued by the fair with Mr.  Minoru Shibata, the Secretary General of the International Plastic Fair Association.


Minoru Shibata

Mr.  Minoru Shibata, the Secretary General of the International Plastic Fair Association

In 2017 IPF reached its ninth edition. How has the event progressed since 1994?

As usual, we occupy the same venue, Makuhari Messe. And traditionally most exhibitors are from Japan. But the difference lies in the nationality of foreign participants.

Previously many oversea exhibitors come from Europe: Italy, Germany, Austria. Nowadays less European companies arrive to showcase here. Some of them have come to exhibit through their Japanese agents.

At the same time there are more companies from China, Korea and Taiwan. Especially Taiwanese are active in the Japanese market. Besides, we witness more oversea visitors for the recent years.


Has the Japanese plastics industry sector changed through all these years? And what are the big challenges that the polymer industry has to deal with at the moment?

Japan is a small country, but the home market is big. It is hard for European companies to enter the local market, because Japanese prefer to buy domestic products. That is why some Japanese companies still feel comfortable staying here and not going out to the international market. But the competition grows stronger worldwide. While assessing the market and evaluating the machine range, large-scale manufacturers may buy equipment outside Japan if they want a cheaper machine or a special one. It is an international competition. That is true not just for plastics industry. One might call it a global effect. That is why many Japanese companies have to start sales outside Japan. So one might name the localization of Japanese manufacture and the international competition among the major challenges for the Japanese plastics industry.


From 24 to 28 October 2017, Makuhari Messe in Chiba hosted IPF, International Plastic Fair

Which are the most prospective markets now?

One of the most perspective sectors for Japanese makers is definitely automobile. Some car producers announced that they are going to decrease production of gasoline vehicles in favor of electric cars. The electric vehicle has to be lighter. Naturally, it is a big chance for polymer industry. We consider it as the most promising market for plastics.
At IPF 2014 everybody was talking about composites. But the market was not yet growing then. Nowadays the price for carbon fiber is still high and composite materials are mostly used in very expensive cars. Use of composites in ordinary vehicles is very few. Still the experts forecast the market will be growing soon.

Can you give us a review of the main focus for IPF 2017?

The first major topic is Industry 4.0. The most of the concept has already existed before. But some manufacturers did not treat it seriously. Now we see it can change the world of plastics processing.

The second focus is automation and robotics. Young people do not want to work at the factory any more. If the companies cannot hire people they start thinking about automation and robotics, even in China. Besides, automation simplifies complex technological processes.

And the third topic is composite materials, of course.

What do you expect from IPF 2017?

The only thing the organizer would wish is the exhibitors having good business here. Some might say Japanese machines are expensive. We cannot compete with Chinese manufacturers in terms of price. But some companies still need Japanese machines to make specific products. I would like more people buying high-tech equipment even if it is more expensive.

What are your plans for the next IPF?

As for future, it is not only about inviting more exhibitors. What we do now is attracting more visitors, good buyers from overseas who need high-tech machines from Japan.


Next IPF Japan 2020 will be held in October 6 - 10, 2020, at Makuhari Messe. Space reservation will start from November 01, 2019.

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