(Nov. 6) CHICAGO — More than 40,000 people from all around the world turned out to help put the international in this year’s Pack Expo International at McCormick Place in Chicago on Nov. 3-7.

Visitors came from as far away as Great Britain, Japan and France to learn about the latest in packaging technology.

Exhibitors pushing everything from case erectors to labeling machines chatted up the versatility and diverse uses of their products.

Automation was another key at the show, as robotic machinery on display did everything from sort products to deal blackjack.

Keeping an eye on packing lines was just as important, with several companies offering automated monitoring systems using a combination of computers and cameras to make sure that packing lines run smoothly.

Of the more than 1,600 exhibitors at the show, 204 were first-time exhibitors. Martin Pare, marketing director for Sanilogik Technologies, a Montreal-based software company, said he made more than 20 new contacts in one day of the show alone.

Todd Earl, vice president of business development and public relations for Tri-State Advertising Co. Inc., Warsaw, Ind., said he was impressed by this year’s show.

“I’ve been to a lot of trade shows in recent years,” he said. “This is incredible.”

Computer technology was another major theme at this year’s show, with companies offering everything from software to manage sanitation programs to computer-operated coding systems.

Even the Packaging Machinery Manufacturer’s Institute got into the act, unveiling its Packsafe risk assessment software for packaging machinery. The Windows-based software tool helps companies identify and remove potential hazards when designing packaging machinery.

What’s more, the show’s Web site, Packexpo.com, made several new updates in time for this year’s show including an improved search engine using licensed Google technology and information request functions.

Education was another important facet of the show, with more than 50 speakers taking part in the breakout sessions of the Conference at Pack Expo.

Each day began with an “Eye Opener,” a series of speakers who addressed such topics as global coding standards, the global packaging market, and mass merchandisers and club stores.

Other sessions took place concurrently with the Expo and centered on a variety of topics including consumer goods packaging, industry consolidation, packing line efficiency, and packaging in a post Sept. 11 world.