October 26, 2021 

2021 Pack Expo Las Vegas Recap

The 2021 Pack Expo Las Vegas was hosted September 27-29. Image courtesy of Pack Expo.

The attendance of the 2021 Pack Expo Las Vegas was 30% lower than that of 2019 (20,000 attendees in 2021 versus 31,000 attendees in 2019). By the afternoon of the second day, the North Hall attendance had dropped significantly; by the end of the third day, the majority of attendees had left.

Approximately 90% of all coding and marking exhibitors were set up in Central Hall or North Hall. For those who were unable to attend, the host of Pack Expo, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI), was able to broadcast the show remotely. PMMI owns editorial brands such as Packaging World, ProFood World, and Automation World. Each of these publications strives to be thought leaders on its respective topics.

Below, we describe some of the most popular topics and trends that were presented at the show and discuss the future of trade shows like the Pack Expo Las Vegas.

Trends and Innovations from the 2021 Pack Expo Las Vegas

PMMI’s stage innovation schedule revolved around the topic of “Industry 4.0,” which is a term mentioned by the company as far back as 2017. PMMI has continued to focus its thought leadership on topics that lend to the Industry 4.0 concept. 

To present on the Pack Expo Las Vegas innovation stage, a company must first submit an essay, and if chosen, must pay a $4,000 advertising fee for the presented topic. Two major coding and marking brands, Domino Printing Sciences and Markem-Imaje, presented, both in an attempt to position themselves as thought leaders in what could be categorized as brand protection. Domino’s presentation was entitled “Combat Counterfeits with Amazon and Domino,” while Markem-Imaje’s presentation was labeled “Optimize Packaging Operations, Ensure Compliance, and Protect Your Brand.”

A few themes were common and recurring throughout, including Industry 4.0 and brand protection. Below we list three other up-and-coming trends to watch as the industry continues to grow and expand. 

Automation Through Integration

If companies refuse to innovate to include Industry 4.0 integrations, they will be left behind in the market, as it is a disruptive trend that has become a necessity in order to compete. Industry 4.0 is no longer an unknown market concept.

Some of the key Industry 4.0 ideas include network inputs/outputs, vision systems, and user-friendly software. Many coding and marking companies are also standardizing features in equipment that only used to be offered for additional costs.

Network inputs/outputs is a catchphrase used to describe how a system can integrate with upstream and downstream systems and easily interact with any network, manufacturing control system, or enterprise resource planning system while working with common industry standards. More systems are using higher core processors to operate, allowing for more processing power.

A noteworthy concept that seems to be gaining traction is vision systems. Domino demonstrated its R-Series vision system, which verifies if a code or barcode is machine-readable by checking the presence, position, and character count. Hitachi Industrial Equipment Systems launched a vision system built for the pure functionality of verifying codes for industrial printers such as CIJ Vision. The sensors found in these systems are becoming more commonly used in coding and marking systems. Key suppliers include Cognex, Keyence, Sick Sensors, and Tri-Tronics.

Domino printing systems that are compatible with the R-Series.

A few thermal inkjet systems, such as the Sojet V1H, are now coming standard with features that were at one time upgrades or additional cost accessories, such as fiber optic sensors and database scanning/built-in scanners for changing out messages.

On the other hand, Linx has been on a journey to create user-friendly software. Most companies use the term to describe their touchscreen interfaces, but Linx continuously makes improvements to its user interface that answers common operator frustrations, including true icon-based controls for product selection.

Some other notable equipment to hit the market are the self-cleaning printheads found in Hitachi’s UX2 continuous inkjet printer as well as the fifth generation release of the Keyence MK-G1000, which is a military standard-compliant, drop-resistant, one-touch nozzle replacement.

Automation Through Software

There is a new competitive landscape that revolves around software solutions and not the actual equipment. One of these concepts involves product identification and integrity. For example, as mentioned above, Linx has made improvements to its user interface by incorporating true icon-based menus for easier product selection. 

Coding and marking brands have numerous sales channels, including end-user manufacturers, regional distributors, and other packaging equipment manufacturers. Some of the larger brands have been able to keep their market share through OEM printer integrators, which are companies that add in already-installed printers as a bonus when they sell a piece of their equipment. This creates free advertising and another sales channel.

Some of the largest coding and marking brands were on display at various booths around the show, including the following:

  1. Videojet printers were on display in more than 51 booths. 
  2. Markem-Imaje printers were on display in more than 39 booths.
  3. Domino printers were on display in 27 booths.
  4. Weber Marking Systems and Label Aire printers were on display in 10 booths.
  5. Hitachi, Bell-Mark, ID Technology, and Inkjet, Inc. technologies were on display at fewer than 10 booths.

Late-Stage Customization

Increasingly, more solutions are becoming available for printing color inline labels, caps, and boxes, which were previously pre-printed instead of printed on the packaging line. Examples include: 

  • Full-color printing: GSI offers full-color printing on corrugated boxes.  
  • Custom size boxes: Packsize and Kraft Machines are creating solutions for companies that serve many different industries, including furniture, doors, windows, art framing, and printing. The systems are priced at more than $175,000—over time, as the costs decrease, they will start to become more popular in fulfillment centers. 
  • Printing logos on caps: The ability to print on caps inline rather than having to pre-print them allows manufacturers to perform changeovers in less time, which further increases equipment utilization.
  • Conversion process elimination: With Atlantic Zeiser's digital press, a box can now be printed directly inline instead of having to be pre-printed with ingredients or marketing messages, which allows manufacturers to perform changeovers in less time and increases the equipment's uptime. The system’s use of UV technology can mimic the embossed glossy finish that is prevalent in these industries.

Important Press Releases

The following press releases were released in September of 2021, just in time for the 2021 Pack Expo Las Vegas:

  1. IIMAK merges with Armour. 
  2. Leibinger purchases SIS Ink.
  3. Domino launches the R-Series vision system.

The Future of Trade Shows in the Coding and Marking Industry

What is the future of trade shows such as Pack Expo Las Vegas and the exhibiting companies that coordinate them? There is no indication that trade shows will disappear anytime soon. In 2019, the trade show industry garnered $15 billion in attendance. In 2021, attendance was slowed due to COVID-19, but with so much money behind this industry, there has been resistance to shifting to remote exhibiting. 

Attendees and their respective companies would be more inclined for the shows to move to a more digital presence, as they can get a feel for new trends, insights, and see new equipment without having to leave the office and spend budgetary dollars attending shows. If attendance continues to decline in the future, exhibitors will have less of an incentive to exhibit if finding prospective leads is the number one objective of each company. 

However, trade shows have the power to connect industry professionals. Many people develop relationships, meet key professionals in person, distribute business cards to find their next consulting or career opportunity, or scout out their competitors and what they are exhibiting. It will be interesting to see how these trade shows perform in the years ahead, especially post-pandemic.

Want to know more about upcoming trade shows like the 2021 Pack Expo Las Vegas? Stay connected with C&M Digest by subscribing to our newsletter. With information on hardware, formulas, and other important marking topics, our newsletter will keep you updated on the latest industry developments. To get in touch with us about possible collaborations or ideas for coverage, contact us today.

C&M Digest Team

The C&M Digest Team is composed of experts from across the coding and marking world. Comprised of ink developers, hardware veterans, and engineers, our News Team delivers informed coverage that is always free from brand bias.

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