Record-setting conference and exhibition participation bodes well for the energy curable industry.
With the use of UV and EB curing for consumer products on the rise, there had been hope that e|5: UV & EB Technology Expo and Conference 2004, sponsored by RadTech, the association for UV and EB technology, would approach previous levels. Still, in recent years, there has been a noticeable decline in attendance at trade shows, so there was some concern going into the show.
Judging by the initial numbers, that concern was unfounded, as e|5 enjoyed success, both in terms of the technical presentations and registrants examining the offerings on the show floor.
According to official numbers released by RadTech after the expo, there were approximately 2,600 attendees, nearly matching previous records.
With 138 exhibitors and more than 150 presentations, RadTech officials said the e|5 expo in Charlotte also set new records for conference and exhibition participation.
A Market Rebound?
According to attendees, this year’s expo had a similar feeling to RadTech’s show in 2000 in Baltimore. And that seems to bode well for the industry. Radiation-curing, like most manufacturing sectors, has been affected by a slow economy, and companies involved in UV and EB are hoping for a return to growth levels closer to those in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“There were a lot of walk-ups, especially from local companies for the user sessions,” said Gary Cohen, executive director of RadTech. “Everybody has been really positive.”
Paul Elias, Sartomer’s business director, said the show exceeded expectations. He also applauded the association’s efforts. “RadTech has done an excellent job promoting the conference, making a strong effort to attract new end users and promoting the use of the technology. There are people and companies who haven’t been here before,” he said.
RadTech’s “TechCells” were particularly popular, with attendees checking out everything from UV coatings on new cars to packaging. The TechCells were special areas on the expo floor where attendees could see real-life examples of UV and EB technologies and talk to industry experts.
According to Chris Bradford, marketing manager, water-based coatings worldwide for Elementis Specialties, those coming to the TechCells were interested in seeing “what is being done today and are asking where we see the technologies heading tomorrow.”
On the show floor itself, exhibitors felt that attendance was up dramatically from previous programs.
“We have had better than expected attendance considering how other trade shows are suffering,” said Ed Maguire, vice president and general manager for Energy Sciences. “We’ve brought in more people than two years ago, which is an exception to what is happening at other shows. The content of this show is much better and we’re now reaching management attendees.”
Another good sign at the show was attendance by potential end users.
“We’ve had a lot of our customers visit our booth,” said Mike McGovern, Sun Chemical’s director of sales and marketing for energy curable products.
The technical portion of e|5 was also extremely successful, with attendance figures exceeding expectations.
“I felt it was the best UV/EB University we have ever held,” said Mike Idacavage, vice president, R&D for Surface Specialties UCB, who taught at the “Polymer Chemistry for the UV/EB Professional” short course.
“Aside from the strong attendance we had, our attendees asked very sophisticated and challenging questions showing that they were well prepared and are looking for specific information on how to use UV and EB technologies,” Mr. Idacavage said.
The ink industry was well represented during these sessions, with industry leaders including David Biro of Sun Chemical, Don Duncan of Wikoff Color, Glenn Webster of Sun Chemical, Paul Gupta of Flint Ink, Thomas Mawby of Flint Ink, Peter Amerine of Sericol, Rick Larson of Aellora Digital, Grant Schouldice of SunJet, Alan Hudd of Xennia and Paul Edwards of Jetrion providing informative presentations.
Perhaps of most interest to ink manufacturers was the Graphic Arts User Focus Session, which featured leaders from key end-users such as P&G, Microsoft, Alcan Packaging, Masterfoods USA, Bacardi Bottling and The Scotts Company discussing their use of energy curable inks and coatings.
“For those who are still holding onto the clear round bottle with a square label, they need to wake up and smell the reality,” said Yousef Zataar, vice president, product manufacturing development, North American region for Bacardi Bottling. “That includes the reality of how packages are handled from manufacturing through to the retailer. Demand is getting more complex, and the consumer is very sophisticated. Besides providing differentiation and shelf standout, packaging needs to be able to sustain rough and multiple handling. UV helps our products stand out and also protects the packaging.”
Dennis Ruehl, package development, fabric and home care for Procter & Gamble, discussed a survey conducted in 2002 that showed that the most complaints from consumers of Tide, Cheer and Gain were from those people who were upset about moisture in the detergent creating lumps of detergent.
“The consumer is our boss,” Mr. Ruehl said. “We needed to improve our moisture barriers in our dry laundry detergent cartons.”
That required a new approach in printing.
“We looked at consumer and customer costs, benefits vs. costs capital costs and manufacturing complexity,” Mr. Ruehl said. “Historically, we traditionally addressed our packaging through the application of lacquer to the outside of the carton on a gravure press,” Mr. Ruehl said. “By switching to an EB curing system on gravure, we were able to improve gloss by 60 percent and moisture protection was improved by 50 percent. The results were significant.”
Attendees to the conference sessions were impressed.
“I thought all the presenters were excellent,” said Ken Gardner, scientist, ICI Paints North America. However, he said he wished there was more information on EB applications. “There was a lot on UV but the only drawback is there is not enough information on electron beam.”
The next e|5 expo will be held in 2006 in Chicago. For more info: RadTech International North America, the Association for UV & EB Technology, 6935 Wisconsin Ave., Ste, 207, Chevy Chase, MD 20815; (240) 497-1243; fax: (240) 209-2337; or on the web site: www.radtech.org.
David Savastano, Christine Canning Esposito and Kerry Pianoforte