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Over 50,000 attendees get a peek at a sci-fi future at Pack Expo International in Chicago

CHICAGO — With over 1.2 million square feet of exhibition space and more than 2,400 exhibitors, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies Pack Expo International 2014 drew record-breaking crowds of more than 50,000 for the Nov. 2-5 exhibition, here.

With next-level technology on ample display, the floor looked as much like the set of a futuristic science fiction movie as a trade show.PE-3Bob Harandi of Nestle/Dreyer’s and Jeff Grossman of International Paper.

Packing, filling, weighing and processing machines buzzed and whirred non-stop around the floor, while life-size servo motor powered robots battled it out in a Plexiglas boxing ring in one booth and attendees took turns behind the wheel of a hyper-realistic F1 racing simulator in another.

“You’ve got to be careful in that simulator,” said Robert Jenkins of Church and Dwight, owners of the Arm & Hammer brand. “If you spin out, you’ve got mud on your windshield and it’s there for the rest of the race.”

Amid the hubbub, attendees jockeyed for space in 143 educational sessions — and vied for prized tickets to a command performance by comedian and former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno at a reception benefiting the K9s for Warriors project and sponsored by International Paper, Bemis, DuPont and ProMach.

PMMI Director of Member Communications Kate Achelpohl noted that the packaging industry grew by 6 percent from 2012 to 2013 and should make a similar leap this year.

“The Pack Expo shows are always tremendous, but the International show is just mind-boggling,” said Don Reggio of Norcross, GA-based RockTenn, which showed off its packaging capabilities and machinery in a booth that dwarfed the company’s display at PMA Fresh Summit just two weeks earlier. “Even better, it’s always a great return on investment.”

The next PMMI show will be the debut of Pack Expo East, scheduled for Feb. 16–18, 2015, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Expo Pack Guadalajara 2015 will be held March 10-12, 2015, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, Expo Pack México 2015 will take place June 16-19 in Mexico City, Mexico, and Pack Expo Las Vegas is set for Sept. 28-20.