K 2019: Guidance and perspectives in turbulent times

K 2019 has closed its doors on 23 October after eight exciting days in Düsseldorf, Germany. 3,330 exhibitors (2016: 3,285) from 63 nations proved impressively: plastics continue to be an innovative, indispensable material. But they also underscored the necessity of having operational circular economies along the complete material chain and to this end already presented numerous concrete solutions.

“K 2019 came at precisely the right point in time. Its enormous importance for the sector is underpinned by its high acceptance levels all over the world. There is no other place the industry is represented so internationally and completely as here in Düsseldorf every three years,” said Werner M. Dornscheidt, President and CEO of Messe Düsseldorf, and explained: “Especially in turbulent times platforms such as K are indispensable. It provides guidance and perspectives, is an economic driver, shows forward-looking trends and concrete approaches.”

Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Chairman of the exhibitor advisory board at K 2019, was delighted with the results of K 2019. He said: “The plastics and rubber industry succeeded in proving once again that plastics are not only very valuable materials with outstanding properties but also that this industry assumes responsibility along the entire value chain. The buzzwords at K 2019 “Reflect. Re-Think. Think Laterally. Think Afresh.” were mirrored 1:1 by exhibitors’ stands. Never before has the industry addressed an issue so unanimously and worked on solutions so consistently as is the case now in the fields of environmental compatibility, saving resources and avoiding waste. There is a spirit of new departures prevailing in the industry and current dynamics are overwhelming.”

The 224,116 visitors (2016: 230,000) from 168 countries took great interest especially in recycling systems, sustainable raw materials and resource-saving processes. Furthermore, K 2019 was characterised by a high propensity to invest as before. The intention among the international trade audience to get perfectly geared up for the future with the latest technologies was clearly perceivable, said Messe Düsseldorf, the organiser of the global trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. The nations especially well represented on the part of visitors after Germany were Italy, the Netherlands, India, Turkey and China, followed by the USA. Furthermore, a marked increase in the number of trade visitors from the Russian Federation, Japan and Brazil could be registered. Experts from Asia accounted for the biggest group of foreign visitors: 40,000 experts came from South, East and Central Asia. India was represented with the highest number of visitors, while visitor attendance from China and Japan was up again considerably. Almost 20,000 visitors came from North and South America, which corresponds to a 7 % increase. Compared to 2016, there was an especially marked increase in the number of guests from Brazil.

For visitors within their companies there are currently four targets in focus: product range expansion, increased efficiency, circular economy, i.e. the sustainability of their products and the sustainability of their production. To the tune of 60 % of visitors rated the current economic climate as “very good” and “good”, nearly as many expect the situation to be similar over the next two months. Machinery and equipment manufacturing, the biggest segment at K 2019 with 1,975 exhibitors, was also centre stage in terms of visitor interest, with two-thirds of all people surveyed mentioning this area first. 52 % said they were primarily interested in raw materials and auxiliaries, whereas for 28 % of visitors semi-finished products and technical plastics and rubber parts were the major reason for coming.

Flexible materials – rubbers and thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) – also proved a fixture at K again. Although the elastomer segment has traditionally been smaller than the plastics range at K, there was a high number of exhibitors presenting elastomer-specific products and converting processes – be it raw materials, additives or compounds, special machines and equipment for reclamation and converting. The main rubber hot spot at K was once again the Rubber Street, a joint pavilion in hall 6. This dedicated area to the world of rubber and elastomers has been held since 1983 in order to increase the visibility of the rubber industry and to highlight its innovative performance. Rubber Street 2019 was initiated by synthetic rubber producer Arlanxeo in collaboration with Messe Düsseldorf, the German Rubber Manufacturers Association (wdk) and Dr. Gupta Verlags GmbH. As in previous years, the Rubber Street was again the home of both traditional rubber companies and compounders of thermoplastic elastomers.

Opening of Rubber Street at K 2019 (f.l.t.r.): Boris Engelhardt (Secretary General, wdk), Indira Gupta (Managing Director, Dr. Gupta Verlags GmbH), Stefan Rittmann (Managing Director, Arlanxeo Deutschland GmbH) (Source: Dr. Gupta Verlag)

Exhibitor testimonials for K 2019

“Arlanxeo was highly satisfied overall with both the visitor and customer response at K 2019. The focal theme of Arlanxeo’s trade fair appearance were products and developments for the mobility of the future with a focus on new rubber solutions for tyres, energy storage as well as a wide variety of other automotive applications. These themes meet with definite interest since such trends as electrification or autonomous driving will change transport fundamentally in the next decade and we are called upon to jointly come up with answers for more sustainable, comfortable and safe mobility in the future,” said Stefan Rittmann, Executive Vice President Strategy & Business Development as well as Managing Director of Arlanxeo Deutschland GmbH.

“To us K in Düsseldorf is one of the world’s most important trade fairs for all things plastics. Under the heading ‘Quality Works – Energizing the Future’ we have presented high-quality solutions for the plastics and rubber industry at our very busy trade fair stand. On approximately 700 m2 the themes New Mobility, Urbanisation and Digitalisation were centre stage here. K makes an important contribution to the dialogue with our customers and interested visitors. Not only our exhibits but also our expert lectures at the stand were very popular and in high demand. Here AI (Artificial Intelligence) was of particular interest for shortening developing times. Our verdict: K 2019 has proved a resounding success for Lanxess once again,” said Udo Erbstößer, Project Manager for K 2019 at Lanxess.

“K 2019 has set an exclamation mark: the sector is in motion! The leading global trade fair with its highly international visitor profile again provided BASF with a perfect platform. From automotive through packaging to consumer goods – we registered a broad interest across all application industries. Proving particular attractions for visitors and experts alike were our cooperation projects with customers such as our concept motorhome VisionVenture, and digitalisation and sustainability projects such as ChemCycling,” said Dr. Guiscard Glück, Vice President Product Development & Creation Center, BASF Performance Materials.

“K always occupies a special place in our strategic exhibition considerations: our long preparatory work has really produced outstanding results. And the mood was clearly better than could have been expected given the economic climate. On some days we were almost overrun. The combination of digitalisation themes with the arburgXworld and the sustainability efforts we are undertaking with our arburgGREENworld works ever so well,” said Dr. Christoph Schumacher, Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications, Arburg.

“This year’s K has fulfilled all of our expectations. We are very happy with the quality of conversations we had. On top of that, we sensed a marked demand in Europe, Asia and the USA for the themes we cover and the products we offer including recycling, Industry 4.0 and, of course, our new and further developments in twin-screw extruders, dosing systems and bulk materials handling. These developments all contribute to boosting the efficiency of our customers’ manufacturing processes,” said Bettina König, Director Global Marketing Communications, Coperion.

“We are extremely satisfied with K 2019. We have met a great number of existing and potential new partners – and this from all over the world and the most varied application areas such as automotive or additive manufacturing. Our innovations such as the latest generation of polyamide elastomers PEBA and the conductive and low extractable fuel lines aroused great interest. There was also a substantially stronger interest taken in our bio-based Vestamid Terra than three years ago. We have been able to launch concrete projects for various markets,” said Dr. Ralf Duessel, Senior Vice President & General Manager High Performance Polymers, Evonik.

“The K experienced a great crowd of visitors, which was not a matter of course this year. Our expectations were exceeded, although it can be seen that the proportion of visitors from the automotive industry is lower than three years ago. It is certainly too early to draw a conclusion before evaluating the visit reports. What we can certainly say, however, is that interest in innovative processing technologies that lead to greater efficiency, productivity and sustainability remains high. The focus continues to be on digitisation. It is an important trailblazer for the recycling industry, as K 2019 made clear,” said Dr. Stefan Engleder, CEO, Engel Group.


K 2022 will take place from 19 – 26 October 2022 in Düsseldorf, Germany.