The big packaging show signaled a continued interest in sustainability as exhibitors emphasized packaging based on renewable materials and recycled content. Down gauging and lightweighting also are popular strategies. But robots and more ergonomically correct machine designs figured prominently.

Pack Expo International 2010 proved that sustainability reigns supreme for packaging. More than 40,000 brand owners and packaging and processing professionals gathered in Chicago Oct. 31-Nov. 3 to visit some 1,835 exhibiting companies. Total attendance, according to the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute, exceeded 64,000.

New materials shown were developed from renewable sources, including biaxially oriented polylactic acid (PLA) films, down gauged and lightweighted sheet and other plastics, biodegradable materials and bioresins such as cellulose acetate and poly hydroxy alkanoate. There was a barrage of substrates incorporating various percentages of recycled content and new recycling methods and sustainable practices were implemented. And the Reusable Packaging Association (RPA) introduced its Reusable Packaging Pavilion and also hosted a group of educational sessions and workshops. Co-located with the show were three workshops dedicated to sustainability in manufacturing: the Manufacturing Excellence Conference, Nov. 1-2, sponsored by PMMI and the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA).

Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and robotic equipment also took center stage. They are replacing traditional mechanical bakery and snack handling machinery. A PLC simplifies operation and maintenance by managing motion, machine, workcells and safety, with fewer spare parts needed. Case packers, pick-and-place systems and palletizers now feature robots.

“Pack Expo International 2010 was definitely a success,” says Charles Yuska, president and CEO of PMMI. “Traffic was consistently strong, and the exhibitors I spoke with were very pleased with the quality of leads they received. I think it’s also significant that exhibitors were queued up to reserve booth space for Pack Expo Las Vegas 2011 [Sept. 26-28]. It demonstrates the value exhibitors were receiving from this year’s event, and what they know to expect from Pack Expo Las Vegas 2011.”