The International Powder & Bulk Solids Conference & Exhibition, also known as The Powder Show, was held April 25-27 in Rosemont, Illinois. More than 3,000 attendees and more than 350 exhibitors participated in the event, with many exhibitors commenting that traffic on the show floor seemed to be approaching that of the most recent pre-COVID Powder Show in 2018.
“I was pleased to see that many exhibitors brought large equipment to the show,” said Tim Bell, independent consultant and former senior engineering fellow at DuPont. “Being able to see the equipment in person is a major reason to attend shows like this.”
With ongoing labor shortages in manufacturing, process automation was on the minds of many attendees. “We were proud to showcase safety and automation features that the industry is seeking,” said Sergio Carrillo, director of sales and marketing for Material Transfer. “From my conversations, companies are ready to take action on automation in all areas of their manufacturing process to provide a safer, cleaner and more efficient workplace.”
Lithium-ion battery production was another popular topic among attendees. “Prior to the show, I predicted greater interest in the market segments of batteries, 3D printing, and hemp processing,” Bell said. “I'm not sure about the last two categories, but there certainly were a lot of battery people there!”
Colin Barbeau, bulk materials handling specialist at Hatch, agreed, noting that “the lithium market is certainly booming.”
The show’s education conference included more than 50 sessions on topics ranging from the basics of dust collection and material flow to augmented reality and intelligent magnets.
According to Bell, who presented four conference sessions, “We made an effort to expand the conference program offerings this year to cover a broader field in a more integrated way. I was pleased with the turnout at some first-of-the-kind sessions, and the conference in general was well attended.”
The conference featured two keynote panel discussions that were also well attended. Tuesday’s keynote, “Effective Specification of a Bulk Handling System,” included the perspectives of equipment suppliers, engineering firms, consultants and process owners. Panelists emphasized the importance of understanding your material’s characteristics and finding a balance between over- and under-specifying a project.
Wednesday’s keynote, “What Women in Processing Want You to Know,” featured a panel of female engineers and executives discussing the challenges faced by women in processing and sharing insights into how women can succeed in such a male-dominated field. Several panelists described incidents where male clients or vendors had been reluctant to accept information they were providing until the panelists had enlisted male colleagues to present that same information.
Panelist Casey Bickhardt, CEO of Gemco, said that gender stereotypes can bias the authority people attribute to women in certain positions but emphasized that perseverance and a willingness to learn are essential to success. "Sometimes we have roadblocks, but we must know that there is always a solution," she said.
Regarding work/life balance, Bickhardt said, "I am always focused on the result, and I prioritize by asking one question: What is the most important thing right now? For example, it could be taking my kids to a baseball game. In three hours, that can change, and it could be talking with a client.”
After several years of cancellations and disappointments, it was good to see The Powder Show re-establish itself for one week in April as the most important thing in bulk solids handling.