Manufacturers of extruders, despite some concern over interest rates, expect 1995 to be a solid year. Interest rate hikes could dampen the construction market-a key extrusion sector.
``My feeling is the second half of '95, we'll start to see the effects of it,'' said Ron Akialis, vice president of extrusion at HPM Corp.
Higher interest rates also can affect machinery financing, but Akialis, like other industry officials interviewed in December, reported continued brisk sales.
``Right now what I'm hearing from our customers is the business is really strong,'' said Hans-Jurgen Matthesius, vice president of the extrusion division of Krauss-Maffei Corp. in Florence, Ky. But he said U.S. monetary policy remains a concern.
``The problem is, what affect will the interest rates have on the construction market? Will there be a shift from new construction toward more remodeling? Or will both markets be affected and, if so, to what volume?'' he said.
Resin pricing and availability appear to be more immediate problems. Matthesius said processors are concerned that resin hikes could price plastics out of some markets. PET is in particularly short supply.
``We have several projects which have come to a halt because, at the last minute, people called up resin suppliers to assure themselves of something to put in the hopper ... and they found there wasn't any, at any price,'' said FrankNissel, president of Welex Inc. of Blue Bell, Pa., which makes sheet extrusion systems.
Several business deals made news in 1994. Davis-Standard continued to grow by buying the Egan Machinery Division of John Brown Inc. and the extruder business of McNeil & NRM Inc.
Merritt Extruder Corp. moved from Wallingford, Conn., to a 45,000-square-foot headquarters plant in Hamden, Conn. Merritt also merged with its sister company, Davis Electric Co., which supplies equipment to the wire and cable industry. The new firm is called Merritt Davis Corp.
In Germany, Krauss-Maffei's parent, Krauss-Maffei AG of Munich, diversified into compounding machinery by purchasing Hermann Berstorff Maschinenbau GmbH of Hannover.
Extrusion, whether single- or twin-screw, covers more than just windows, siding and pipe. Compounding, film and sheet and medical tubing also are important markets.
For Werner & Pfleiderer Corp., twin-screw extruders sold for compounding, one of the fastest-growing areas of the plastics industry, picked up in 1994 after three flat years, according to Asmuth Kans, sales director at the Ramsey, N.Y., company. Kans said compounders were growing during 1991-1993, but that was reflected in higher capacity utilization, not new machines sold.
``In the early 1990s, a lot of capacity was installed for compounding that really then wasn't used. There was overcapacity in compounding installed that had to be worked off,'' he said.
American Leistritz Extruder Corp., which makes twin-screw compounding extruders, sold about 50 machines in North America in 1994, an increase of about 25 percent over 1993, according to Charlie Martin, national sales manager for the Somerville, N.J., company. He said growth will come in niche markets such as color concentrates, medical and hot-melt adhesives.
Terry McNier, product manager for plastics extruders at APV Chemical Machinery Inc. of Saginaw, Mich., said APV's business doubled in 1994. Growth should continue for twin-screw machines in compounding, he said.
``People are alloying more products and the difficulty in doing that brings them from a single screw into the twins.''
Ken Nekola, sales engineer manager for plastic processing machinery at Pomini Inc., said orders for new equipment lag behind pickup in demand for compounded plastic.
``It's generally high-cost machinery that's built on order for a specific customer,'' he said.
The real pickup in sales could come late in 1995, or even 1996, he said. The Italian machinery company, with a U.S. office in Brecksville, Ohio, is beefing up its North American marketing efforts. Under a recently signed agreement, Tenk Machine and Tool Co. in Cleveland will remanufacture Pomini equipment.
NPE '94 gave the industry a boost, several firms said. Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering Co. Inc. sold its booth machine to Plastoza SA, a film extruder and converter in Naucalpan, Mexico. The machine makes blown film from high-molecular-weight high density polyethylene.
Black Clawson Sano Inc., created when Black Clawson Co. bought the Sano Division of Cincinnati Milacron Inc., had just relocated to a plant in Amelia, Ohio, when the June show started. Business is good, said Cary Landegger, president.
``All of the packaging-grade films are growing pretty rapidly. Most of our inquiries are in both the stretch and the shrink-wrap areas,'' he said.
Hot markets for Milacron include sheet and construction products, especially windows, said James Abbiati, vice president of the plastics extrusion systems business.
Exports should hold up well in 1995, several company officials said. Akialis of HPM said China and Israel are strong. McNier said APV is an active exporter.
``For us, China's been exceptionally good, and in Russia we've had some good projects,'' he said.
Nissel at Welex said: ``Europe has awakened, finally, so my outlook is very positive.''