SAO JOSE DOS CAMPOS, BRAZIL - Strong exports and a booming Brazilian automotive market are driving at least one U.S. automaker to expand its captive plastics molding operations in Brazil. And some of the Brazilian-made components even will find their way to the United States. General Motors do Brasil Ltda. expects to take delivery by early June of a $3 million turnkey injection molding unit from Canada's Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. at GM's SÃo Jose dos Campos plant, about 60 miles north of SÃo Paulo.
The 1,800-ton Husky Tandem press carries a price tag of close to $2 million, according to Eugenio de Jesus Cesare, manager of the plastics injection molding plant at the sprawling complex, which employs 10,000. GM Brasil is spending roughly another $1 million on Husky robots and various other auxiliary equipment, he said in a May 17 interview at the plant.
The new press, to be installed adjacent to another 1,800-tonHusky Tandem that has been running for one year, primarily will be used to mold bumpers for the hot-selling Chevrolet Corsa car, Cesare said. Every 93-95 seconds, the Tandem machine pumps out two Corsa bumpers made from a compound of polypropylene and ethylene propylene diene monomer rubber; on these cars, the front bumperweighs about 7 pounds and the back 51/2 pounds.
The same GM plant took delivery about six months ago of a 1,100-ton Demag injection press, which gave the facility 18 injection molding machines with clamping forces of 300-1,800 tons. All the other presses are older Demag machines.
The 7-year-old molding plant is running hard and lean. It employs 120, operating three shifts around the clock, six days a week, said Alexandre Regis Finzeti, a manufacturing engineer in the injection plastics division. The plastics plant is getting crowded, he said, and is poised for further expansion. He said plant management expects to receive corporate approval to expand the building and buy six more injection presses with clamping forces of 1,800-2,500 tons. He did not say which make of machine GM would buy, but implied they would be imported from North America, Japan orEurope.
Separately, the SÃo Jose dos Campos plant is gearing up for massive production of bumpers and front fascia for the S-10 light
truck GM launched in April. GM Brasil will export those products to Shreveport, La., for assembly.
The molding facility already processes more than 8.7 million pounds of 35 different types of resin a year, about 70 percent of which is PP or PP/EPDM blends, Cesare said. The plant receives all its technology and most of its largest molds from the GM Brasil headquarters complex in SÃo Caetano, near SÃo Paulo.
Cesare said his plant runs 120 molds, but he laments the lack of suitable regional suppliers.
``There is an opportunity for mold makers who can handle large molds,'' he said.
Only a handful of custom molders in all of Brazil operate very large injection presses.
``It may be difficult to find molders with these capabilities,'' Cesare said. ``We would like them close to our plant.''
The plastics division at SÃo Jose dos Campos is hardly the only part of the complex in the fast-forward growth mode. GM Brasil announced May 16 it is investing $56 million in new metal-stamping presses at the site to boost Corsa production.