The Sounds of PACK-EXPO—Today and Tomorrow?

Eric Lanke NFPA CEO

by Eric Lanke

Like almost any trade show, this past November’s PACK-EXPO show in Chicago was full of many interesting sights and sounds. Unfortunately, as I walked the show floor, I heard the distinctive whirr of servo motors far more than the hiss of pneumatic actuation. When I looked more closely, I saw many packaging machines using both technologies—pneumatics primarily for gripping, vacuum suction, and other functions that demand strength in a small package, and electric actuation for pick & place and other functions that need quick and precise motion. I thought that was a shame, because I know there are technologies on the market today that make pneumatics just as quick and precise as electric actuation.

Then I saw a series of exhibits—something called “Centers for Trends and Technology”—where a variety of emerging technologies were on display. Automation, data management, food processing; a variety of technology zones were given a special focus, showing PACK-EXPO exhibitors and attendees what’s coming on the horizon in all these key areas. And I thought: Why not fluid power?

Why not, indeed?

We’re going to be launching just such an exhibit at the new PACK-EXPO East trade show, February 16-18, 2015, in Philadelphia. We’re calling it “The Future of Pneumatics,” and our exhibit partners are Vanderbilt University and the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. I’ve written before about some of the great things going on for pneumatics at Vanderbilt, and they’ll be bringing some of those ideas to the show. Among other things, we’ll have a live demo of their pneumatic exhaust gas recovery system, something that saves and reuses exhausted air with a unique low-cost elastomeric accumulator. The recycled air can be reused in the same cylinder or any nearby cylinder, and has been shown to reduce air consumption by up to 25%.

There will be a lot more in booth 858. If you’re attending or exhibiting at PACK-EXPO East, come see us. Or even better, tell your customers to come see us. Our goal is to open people’s eyes with regard to the future of pneumatics. It’s a great opportunity to make good on NFPA’s goal of promoting fluid power technology and helping our customers understand its unique strengths and to use it for maximum benefit.

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