Volume 36, Issue 11, November 2001

Paradise Lost

Despite the Intriguing Venue and World-Class Show, Few North Americans Took Part in Vitrum ’01
by Ellen Giard                                                                  GIMAV


Vitrum is often regarded as having the latest and greatest products and equipment on display, and those attending this year’s show, which took place October 3-6 in Milan, Italy, weren’t shorted there. It was the exhibitors, you might say, that were somewhat shorted. According to statistics, attendance at this year’s event was down compared to 1999’s final count of 16,702—the first time in the show’s 12-year run attendance has been less than that of two years prior. Many attribute the tragedy of September 11 as the reason for the drop in attendance (see October 2001 USGlass page 62 for related story.) According to statistics, only 69 U.S. attendees made it to Vitrum, and only 16 U.S. exhibitors, compared to 19 in 1999. “We think the lower statistics in 2001 are connected to the tragedy of September 11 and will not negatively effect Vitrum 2003,” said Renata Gaffo, director of GIMAV—the Italian Association of Glass Processing Machinery and Accessories Suppliers—the sponsor of Vitrum. “We expect, and really hope, that in two years time the situation will change and Vitrum attendees will grow.”

Bob Long of Salem Distributing in Winston Salem, N.C., agreed that the biggest lapse in this year’s attendance was on the North American end, with visitors from Asia seeming somewhat low as well. European attendance seemed normal though, he said. “Buyers seemed to be more focused, coming with specific purposes in mind,” said Long. “In previous years [it seemed] people used Vitrum as a semi-vacation … coming just to see what’s new.”

Exhibitors Only 16 U.S. exhibitors took part in Vitrum 2001.

For Marcel Bally of Hauppage, N.Y.’s Bystronic, Vitrum 2001 was his first time attending the Italian event. “It was considerably smaller than Dusseldorf’s glasstec™, and somewhat larger than the typical American show,” said Bally. “There was slightly more interesting [equipment and machinery than in American shows], but significantly less than glasstec.”

Like Long, Bally said the lack of American exhibitors was evident. “We took customers and potential customers, and aside from those [who went with us] I didn’t see many Americans.” According to Bally, though, just because the numbers seemed low, it didn’t make for a bad event. “I thought it was organized very well and their [registration procedures] were dynamite. They could teach us all a lesson on how to register.” All you had to do, he added, was show a business card and you were given your passes. “There were no lengthy forms to fill out.” 

Michael Spellman, president of Chelsea, Mass-based IGE Solutions and a veteran of the show, also found Vitrum to be a success. “This Vitrum was the tenth one I have personally attended,” said Spellman. “The Italians dominate the glass fabrication field and this is their opportunity to really show off.” Spellman also agreed that the biggest disappointment about Vitrum was the small number of North American attendees. “This is a shame because it is, without a doubt, the best show for exhibiting new and innovative equipment in the world,” he said. “We were, however, very surprised at the quality of visitors to our booths.”

Glass Wholesalers of Houston was one U.S. company that did attend the bi-annual event. “I had never been to Vitrum before, but from talking to people, the show’s traffic was light,” said Bob Lawrence, president of Glass Wholesalers. “I went because I heard there was more glass to see there than [at glasstec]. I didn’t find that to be true. There was more Italian glass, but not much innovation.

Room to Grow
Despite the decrease in attendees at this year’s event, Vitrum did grow in other ways. For starters, the show’s 421 exhibitors this year topped 1999’s 385, and the number of exhibitors from countries other than Italy rose from 23 to 25. 

Vitrum also occupied a greater amount of space this year—more than 5,000 meters at 27,219 square meters. Adding to the increase in space, the show encompassed a fourth hall as well.

Show and Tell
Exhibitors who traveled to Milan brought their best and newest wares for display and sale. Long said his company did sell a few machines and also picked up a few new lines to represent. “Vitrum is a very complete show; there’s something for everyone,” he said. “It always has the latest thing going and is very well staged.” 

So what really brings visitors to Vitrum? Aside from an excuse to spend a few days in Italy, show organizers said the biggest draw in 2001 was the event’s high level of technological exhibitions. Many at the show were also searching for equipment to make jobs easier, such as machines that provide a high level of automation and CNC equipment. 

Long said one of the companies he was most impressed with was the Italian RCN Engineering, which makes automatic electric ovens. “These ovens are capable of producing glass sinks without using molds, and include a generous surround of flat glass,” said Long. “There were many examples of these beautiful wash basins produced by RCN’s patented process and interest was very high among manufacturers looking for new ways to extend their lines of products.” 

On Display
Among the 421 exhibiting companies, a great deal of new equipment and machinery was available. One company unveiling its latest was Finland-based Tamglass, which demonstrated its ProConvection™ furnace. According to the company, the furnace provides 40 percent more capacity and an outstanding reliability for tempering all glass types. 

“The Tamglass booth received hundreds of visitors, most of which were serious buyers,” said Mika Nevalainen, vice president corporate communications of Kyro Technologies, Tamglass’ parent company. “Tamglass was signing new machine orders worth $10 million EURO during the exhibition.”

Likewise, Spellman said the booths of manufacturers IGE represents were very well received. Among others, Forvet exhibited its new CHIARA edge processor. According to Spellman, the machine will edge all four sides of the glass simultaneously. 

Bystronic/Lenhardt also took a number of machines to Vitrum, and, according to the company, made a number of new business contacts and customers. One piece of equipment it displayed was its Lamicut, used for cutting laminated glass and float glass with automatic edge deletion. 

The company also used Vitrum as an opportunity to launch its TPS line, an insulating glass (IG) production line. With this machine, the company says users can manufacture shaped units, free shapes and more in a continuous and order specific production process. Likewise, the sequence of the processing steps within the line is controlled automatically by production data, which is entered by the TPS line’s defined interface. The company says users of the TPS line are not limited to certain software, rather the TPS interface converts the production data for the operation of the line.

Bovone Elettromeccanica showcased its Transloader, which is designed to automatically take a lite of glass from one beveler or edger and transfer it to a similar machine. The company says this machine can eliminate the need for an operator on each shift. 
Vitrum 2003 is scheduled to take place June 25-28, 2003, in the same Portello area of Fiera Milano (the fairgrounds). 


Ellen Giard is the managing editor of USGlass magazine.


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