Molder Tech-Way begins selling Chinese-made injection presses

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Bill Bregar Robert Jergens, left, and Ken Parker, the president of Tech-Way Industries Inc., have started selling Tech Bole, a line of presses from Ningbo Shaungma.

FRANKLIN, OHIO — Custom injection molder Tech-Way Industries Inc. has started selling Chinese-made injection presses from Ningbo Shuangma Machinery Industry Co. Ltd.

Tech-Way in Franklin, located halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati, has started Tech Bole USA to become the exclusive North American distributor of the presses from China. Robert Jergens, Tech Bole’s sales manager, traveled to the Chinaplas trade show to nail down details with the Ningbo, China-based company.

Tech Bole debuted the Ningbo Shuangma press at Plastec West in Anaheim, Calif., in February. The company retained the show machine, a press with 132-tons of clamping force, for use at Tech-Way. The molder has a second press on the way. Tech-Way President Ken Parker said customers can see the first press, now running specialty bottle cap. Both of the new machines will replace older presses at the Franklin plant.

Tech-Way has a lot of different press brands, including Milacron, Newbury, HPM and Farrel, even a 1978 New Britain. Parker, a veteran molder, bought many of them used, including some on eBay. Company technicians restored them, often adding machine controllers designed by Parker.

That diverse expertise — and experience with difficulty sourcing spare parts — helps make Tech Bole a good partner for the Chinese press maker, Parker said. He said Ningbo Shuangma officials are receptive to his ideas for making the presses user-friendly for U.S. customers.

Parker said the Shuangma presses are “approved by a molder, for use by molders.”

And the Ohio molder can help machinery customers. One potential press buyer, which Parker met at Plastec West, brought a biodegradable material to Tech-Way to see if it could be successfully molded.

“Again, that’s part of the service that we can provide. We’re not just selling molding machines, but we are selling services to these people as well, to help them sell their products if they need that type of help,” he said. “The same type of things happens with these molding machines. I have used so many different brands over the years and collected so many different brands, my place looks like a warehouse of brand names. But that experience also plays in to helping bring a machine into the market. And we get to put our ideas into it, to make it more friendly to the molding community.”

Ningbo Shuangma began building injection presses in 1998, and redesigned the machines about three years ago. Today the company makes presses from 60 to 4,000 metric tons, under the Bole EK series of hybrid machines. (Bole means swift horse.) The presses are hybrids, with both electric and hydraulic functions.

Jergens said at least 500 Ningbo Shuangma are running in Mexico, many of them for Mattel Inc. Only a few are in U.S. factories.

Parker said Tech Bole is “working with people now who are very interested in these machines.”

Tech Bole is a sister company of Tech-Way Industries and machines and spare parts will be housed at the molder’s factory. If the business grows, Parker said they can expand the building or look for more space nearby.

Jergens started as the head of Tech Bole sales in January. He came from Premier Equipment Sales in Indiana, which represents Chinese-built Haitian presses.

Jergens is seeking manufacturers’ representatives and service technicians for the Ningbo Shuangma presses. As of mid-April, Tech Bole had one full-time service person and another one under contract.

Tech Bole can ship small to mid-sized presses quickly.

“Anything 500 ton and under we can have built between four to five weeks, and then ship over here,” Jergens said. Details were still being worked out, but the business is taking shape for the Ohio operation.

“We’ll stock anything 500 ton and under, once we’re up and going. But we’re also doing a stocking plan [in China], a build-to plan to where they can warehouse and keep certain size castings and platens, undrilled, on the shelf for us and then we place the order,” Jergens said. “Then they’ll go ahead and cut the SPI standard bolt holes in it. That’s talking as high as a 1,500-ton press, we could probably get done in 12 to 14 weeks.”

Parker, who is president of both Tech Bole and Tech-Way Industries, likes many features of the machines, especially the central toggle clamp that centers pressure directly in the middle of the mold platen, not outside, the tiebars.

Parker learned about Ningbo Shuangma when he was looking for some replacement machines on the Chinese e-commerce site

“All of a sudden, I was inundated with molding machines. What happened was, the Bole machine sort of leapt out at me, because of the clamp design,” he said. “I have always been a proponent of solid clamp design. I want a clamp that’s going to hold tonnage, without platen deflection.”

Parker liked the old mono-toggle of the Newbury presses for the same reason: “They delivered the force directly behind the mold.”

Other good features of the Ningbo Shuangma machines include wider tie-bar spacing. That, combined with the central toggle, allows a molder to run larger parts on a smaller-tonnage press, Jergens said.

Tech-Way Industries is helping Americanize the Chinese presses. The company provided Shuangma with standard platen designs and bolt holes, and suggested basic features like English, not metric, nozzle threads set up so U.S. customers can easily purchase replacement nozzle tips. And the machines will be brought in with 480 volts, so they will not need a separate transformer and can use off-the-shelf heater bands. The Chinese standard is 380 volts.

Tech Bole executives also are considering offering an optional quick-disconnect ejector plate.

Parker said these are common-sense features.

“I want as little to go wrong with these machines as possible. … If we’re going to sell a molding machine here in the U.S., I want that machine to arrive, to work and I don’t want to have to worry about any warranty work. The guy wants the machine to run. If there’s a minor problem, you don’t want to have to say, jeez, where the hell do you find a heater band for a 380-volt system? That’s not fair to the molder,” he said.

The machines also will meet SPI and ANSI safety standards.

Ningbo Shuangma Machinery is a wholly owned subsidiary of the China Chenglu Group.

Tech Bole also is selling retrofit servo-hydraulic pumps, made by another Chenglu company called Zhejiang Synmot Electrical Technology Co. Ltd. in Ningbo. The manufacturer claims the “smart” hydraulic pumps can cut energy consumption on an injection press by 30 to 70 percent.

Zhejiang Synmot also makes servo motors and drives.

Jergens said each pump gets tested under hydraulic load.

It’s become a mini-trend, North American custom injection molders selling presses from China and Taiwan:

• Hamilton, Ontario-molder Plastics Plus Inc. is selling presses from Guangzhou Borch Machinery Co. Ltd.

• Cincinnati Process Technologies, owned by Recto Molded Products Inc., just down the freeway from Tech-Way, is selling Asian Plastic Machinery Co. Ltd. presses, the export line from Chen Hsong Group. CPT also just added the Borch press line.

Haitian continues to be the biggest Chinese player, by far. A year ago, Absolute Haitian Corp. the Haitian distributor, opened a technical center in Parma, Ohio, near Cleveland.