MEXICO CITY - More than half the 4.41 billion pounds per year of the installed capacity of Mexico's 800 plastics extruders currently is not in use, according to a Mexico City consulting firm. While extrusion consumes the greatest amount of plastics - 40 percent - used in Mexico, only 1.7 billion pounds of total capacity is in use, said Rafael Blanco, president of Instituto Mexicano del Pl stico Industrial S.C.
In a wide-ranging presentation on the state of extrusion and the Mexican plastics industry in general, Blanco pointed out that national demand remains strong for products including laminates, pressure- and high-temperature-resistant pipe, monofilament, coextruded film, composite materials and special profiles for the automotive and construction sectors.
Blanco addressed representatives of 110 Mexican extruders and other processor companies at a two-day Plastics Extrusion Congress, held Nov. 28-29 by IMPI in Mexico City.
Blanco said that the 800 Mexican processors have a total of 5,000 extrusion machines supplied mainly by Italian, U.S., German, Asian or Mexican producers.
Firms extruding film and pipe currently face problems due to their low level of technology and use of equipment that is at least 10 years out of date, Blanco said. In contrast, there are other firms now using modern, high-technology machinery, mainly for laminates, coextrusion and profiles.
In a separate presentation on laminate extrusion, IMPI operations director Monica Conde revealed that Mexico's total national laminate consumption in 1994 stood at 321.8 million pounds per year. Production reached 309.3 million pounds, of which 256.4 million pounds was extruded.
Laminate capacity has grown an average of 5 percent annually during the past three years, mainly due to expansion of firms making disposable products and PVC laminates. But imports have grown about 20 percent a year during the same period.
Conde concluded that, despite tough competition, Mexico offers profitable opportunities for more producers of PP, foam PVC, ABS and PET laminates to fill market demand. She recommended that would-be laminate producers should not buy second-hand machinery, which will be limited in output and quality in view of the rapid advance in technology.
Although small processors have suffered since the peso devaluation and implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Blanco said Mexican product quality, design and competitiveness have improved.
The devaluation has stemmed the flow of imports and allowed well-prepared and better-equipped Mexican processors to take advantage of domestic market opportunities.
He predicted that Mexican processors with enlightened management will seek alliances with Mexican and U.S. or Canadian firms to modernize equipment and integrate marketing in the Americas, especially taking advantage of big opportunities in South America.
The event, the first of its kind, according to IMPI, also featured technical presentations on extruding applications and new machinery developments. Reactions of participants to the congress were positive.
``It was much better than I expected,'' said Puebla film extruder and bag converter Miguel Angel Herrero of Excel Nobleza SA de CV.
Another attendee and exhibitor, Jim Fitzgerald, international sales manager of U.S. laboratory equipment supplier Tinius Olsen Testing Machine Co. of Willow Grove, Pa., said the event was the best his company has attended in Mexico in years.
IMPI is planning a similar event early next year on blow molding.