Suppliers of U.S.-made injection molding machines recorded their fourth straight year of growth in 1995, with the rate of shipment growth slowing to a modest 4.3 percent, according to the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. Shipments had enjoyed double-digit growth from 1992 through 1994, peaking at a 25.4 percent increase in 1994.
That pace has ended as most industry officials now predict another year of modest growth in 1996.
Meanwhile, SPI said that in 1995, U.S.-made injection presses beat out imported machines by 2,875 to 2,566. The previous year, U.S.-made presses edged out foreign-made presses by about 150 units, but the gap has widened because imports suffered a slight decline in 1995.
SPI's Machinery Division released the year-end statistics last week.
SPI said single-screw extruders grew by 12.4 percent. Blow molding machines declined - by 5.4 percent as measured by orders and 15.5 percent by shipments. Auxiliary equipment increased 4.1 percent.
This is the second year that SPI's Machinery Division has generated its own import statistics on injection presses. In both years, SPI used numbers provided by 15 companies importing machines from Europe, Asia and Canada. SPI breaks down injection press numbers in categories according to clamping force.
Shipments of imported ma-chines ended the year at 2,566,
down 1.8 percent from 2,613 machines in 1994. Imports showed declines or flatness in the smaller machines, the categories of 0-99 tons, 100-199 tons, 200-299 tons and 300-399 tons. They were strongest in larger clamping force sizes, especially the biggest machines of 1,200 tons and greater, where imports sold 23 units in 1995, up eight units, or 53.3 percent from the year before.
Shipments of U.S.-made injection machines hit 2,875 in 1995, up 4.3 percent from the 1994 figure of 2,757. In terms of units sold, U.S.-made injection mach-ines led imported machines in all clamping sizes except the smallest of 0-99 tons.
U.S.-made machines generally pull away from exports as one goes higher on the clamping-force scale, according to SPI. For example, U.S. machines topped the 100 mark, reaching 107 units, in the 1,200-ton-and-up category. That is nearly five times the number of imports, and was a 10.3 percent gain from the 97 machines shipped in 1994.
Looking at all the categories, U.S. machines experienced strongest year-to-year growth in the 200-299 range, increasing by 15.3 percent.
Other strong clamping force sizes include 500-599 tons and 750-1,199 tons (both at 9.7 percent growth) and 300-399 tons (up 9 percent).
SPI only tallies injection presses used to process thermoplastics. Numbers for U.S.-made presses, reported by nine companies, cover both domestic shipments and exports. SPI import numbers do not show the country of origin. Also for imports, three major firms continue to decline to provide numbers to the trade association: Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd., Japan Steel Works Co. Ltd. and Netstal-Maschinen AG.
In other types of plastics machinery:
Single-screw extruders made in the United States had a strong year, increasing 12.4 percent from 1,174 in 1994. It was the third straight year shipments have increased. Strongest growth, measured by percentage gain, was for extruders with diameters larger than 51/2 inches.
New orders for blow molding machines in 1995 declined 5.4 percent from 295 units in 1994. Shipments fell 15.5 percent from 297 in 1994.