By: Steve Toloken
October 18, 2013
Hoping to succeed where other Taiwanese competitors have stumbled, injection press maker Chuan Lih Fa Machinery Works Co. Ltd. (Hall 12/A-52/46) is bringing its first all-electric press to K 2013.
CLF, based in Tainan, Taiwan, has some experience in the market: it built about 200 electrics under contract to Japan's Meiki Co. Ltd., before Japan Steel Works Ltd. took control of Meiki in 2010 and CLF's partnership ended.
Company officials hope they can build on that and launch their own-branded model, overcoming some of the cost challenges that have stymied previous Taiwanese efforts to enter the high-end electric market.
Since the Meiki relationship ended, CLF has been working on its own designs, and started selling them last year.
At the K Fair, CLF is exhibiting its 230 AE model, an all-electric with 230 tons of clamping force and an attached robot, using a four-cavity stack mold to make food containers, said Jackie C.C. Lin, vice general manager. The containers manufactured at K will not have an in-mold labeling system but one can be included, CLF said.
In an early August interview at the firm's Tainan headquarters, Lin said the machine has a 5.7-second cycle time, but engineers were working to get it under 5 seconds. It has an injection speed of 400 millimeters per second.
CLF sees a significant market opportunity, potentially selling 100 machines in 2014, up from 40 since launching the all-electric business last year. But the company must overcome some of the advantages that larger, better-placed competitors in Japan have, Lin said.
"I think in the future among the small machines, all-electric machines will increase very fast," Lin said. "Now the problem is the price."
Commercializing all-electrics has been challenging for Taiwanese companies, who have strong positions in midrange markets worldwide and have been trying to expand into more higher-tech segments of the market.
CLF competitor Fu Chun Shin Machinery Manufacture Co. Ltd., for example, launched an all-electric in 2008 but it never took off in the market and the company stopped manufacturing it, although FCS, Taiwan's largest injection molding machine maker, says it plans to introduce another all-electric model in 2015.
A big problem for Taiwanese firms is that some of the key technology for all-electrics, including the servomotors, are expensive, and the smaller press makers from Taiwan can't buy the motors in bulk and secure discounts like larger Japanese competitors, Lin said.
"It's a very tough period," trying to launch all-electrics, Lin said, but CLF believes it has some advantages, including its experience manufacturing for Meiki and its decision to use German servomotors and components.
But using the German components makes it harder for CLF to take a lower-cost position in the market, he said.
"Our major competitor now is Toshiba," Lin said. "In the market, our selling price may be a little more expensive than Toshiba but we use the system from Siemens, servo motors, drivers and control systems all together, so our performance is better and faster."
The company's electrics come in 120, 180, 230, 285, 350, and 450 tons.
The new all-electrics are being made in their own dedicated workshop in Tainan, where CLF has three factories making molding machines, Lin said.
Globally, the firm does about $60 million in sales, making about 400 injection presses in Taiwan and 200 a year at a factory in Zhongshan, Guangdong Province.
He said the China market has been difficult, as the firm sees customers moving their business to other countries because of China's rising labor costs.
"I think our customers are moving their factories to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, even moving back to Taiwan," Lin said.