Review of FAKUMA 2023: Innovations for a sustainable plastics industry

FAKUMA, the leading international trade fair for plastics processing, took place in Friedrichshafen from 17 through 21 October. The trade fair, which was held this year under the motto “Digital Meets Circular Economy”, offered an exciting insight into the transformation taking place in the plastics industry and focused entirely on the topics of sustainability, digitalisation and the circular economy with plastics. Every step in the value added chain is currently actively adapting to the challenges of the future. In Friedrichshafen, it became very clear how the principles can be successfully put into practice, scaled up and automated to maintain the performance of plastics while improving the impact on the environment.

Digital Meets Circular Economy: The technological change

Examples and case studies: Ingemar Bühler, the CEO of Plastics Europe Germany, sums up the importance of the motto “Digital Meets Circular Economy”. For plastics manufacturers, the developments mean three crucial things:

  1. Conception of plastics suitable for material cycles: Digitalisation and the use of AI in the research and development of plastics manufacturers play a key role in making plastics more efficient and at the same time more recyclable. The goal is to think through the structure and the entire life cycle of a plastic in such a way that all steps, from production and processing to the recovery of raw materials, are adapted for recycling.
  2. Circular Product Design: Through much closer collaboration with designers and manufacturers of consumer products, as well as the use of digitalisation and artificial intelligence, it is already much more feasible today to develop new models that design products to be circular from the ground up. This marks a paradigm shift in the industry, in which targeted material use, material and product design, but also the envisaged paths of use and business models, as well as the logistics and disassembly of products are mapped out from the very beginning.
  3. Efficient recycling and raw material recovery: Plastic waste must be organised, collected and sorted more effectively at the end of the use phase. Thanks to material and product passports, as well as sensor technology, it can be precisely documented and tracked which materials are contained in a product and how they can be recycled. This contributes to significantly better recycling, more effective environmental protection and reduced dependence on fossil raw materials.
Plastics Europe Ingemar Buehler. "AI and digitalisation are already making a significant contribution to making the entire cycle process more efficient, designing better products, and reducing material use and waste.


Exhibitors and visitors appreciate FAKUMA’s strong practical orientation

Nico Kühls, managing director of technotrans, a long-standing exhibitor at FAKUMA, emphasised the practical relevance of the trade fair: “The trade fair always convinces us because it has a very strong practical orientation. We’re on hand here with a great many devices, so that our customers can really touch the devices and see the application live. That’s one reason why we’re at FAKUMA.” Ben Schäfer from Deifel Buntfarbenfabrik adds: “FAKUMA offers us a super platform for networking with our customers, making new contacts and expanding our network.”

Important progress in all sections of the value added chain

It became very clear at this year’s FAKUMA that the right steps in the direction of a circular economy are being taken very dynamically, and that all sections of the value added chain are being adapted simultaneously. The manufacturers of plastics used hundreds of product examples to demonstrate that very high-performance engineering plastics can already be produced today, even with a high level of recyclate use and with alternative carbon sources. The applications for these range from sports and entertainment products to the automotive and construction sectors to medical technology. Among the leading machine manufacturers, electrification but also process and control digitalisation play a major role, through which, for example, injection moulding machines learn algorithmically and perform calibrations automatically. The degree of automation enables significantly better control, much lower errors and thus saves time and material during processing.

Thorsten Kuehmann: Fakuma is a ray of hope for plastics machinery manufacturing in a challenging time. Important impulses emanate from here.

Outlook into the future

We can look forward to seeing how the industry will continue to develop in the coming years. The emphasis on sustainability and the circular economy, the use of digitalisation and AI, as well as the importance of personal exchange make FAKUMA a cornerstone of the plastics industry which will become even more important in the years to come. Christoph Schumacher, division manager for global marketing at machine manufacturer Arburg, sums up the trade fair’s relevance for many manufacturers: “For us, FAKUMA is the most important trade fair event in Europe this year”.


Header image: FAKUMA press photo



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