The importance of plastics was on full display in Orlando this week. More than 65,000 people were expected to attend this year’s NPE, which included 1.1. million square feet of show floor. Despite being such a massive event, the show floor seemed perpetually busy.

From medical to automotive, all aspects of plastics manufacturing were on display. Trending topics included lightweighting, including the metals to plastics conversion for parts; the use of 3D printing for production rather than just prototyping—one large display read: Stop prototyping. Start producing—as well as more sustainable plastics. According to some companies, the consumer perception of plastics was one area of concern. (One executive told me his brother-in-law had forwarded him a video about the negative effects of plastic as the show was going on.) New formulations with better recyclability are being offered, just as new additive manufacturing processes continue to allow for more design freedom.

Companies also addressed the increasing interest in health and wellness, along with the aging in place trend, which will affect the home health care market.

In addition, collaborative robots made an appearance at the show. Though only a small percentage of the robotics market, they are growing quickly. One exhibitor compared the collaborative robot today to the growth in the robot industry overall in the 1970s.

NPE is produced by the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS). The show returns to Orlando in 2021, and also in 2024 and 2027. The next one will be held May 17 – 21, 2021.