When it comes to the largest injection molding machines - those with clamping forces of 1,200 tons or more - the United States market is becoming the Land of the Giants, with some significant new U.S. production: The big German injection press manufacturer Mannesmann Demag Kunststofftecknik wants to use its U.S. subsidiary, Van Dorn Demag Corp. in Strongsville, Ohio, as a base to build very large versions of its Ergotech machines, which are as large as 1,400 tons. Mannesman purchased Van Dorn in 1993.
Kenneth Vaughan, marketing manager at Van Dorn Demag, confirmed the plan in a Nov. 4 telephone interview. He said Van Dorn Demag's Strongsville plant ``is better-suited to make the large machines'' than Mannesmann's plant in Schwaig, Germany.
``That's the plan, assuming that the economics work out and the exchange rates don't change dramatically,'' Vaughan said.
The news originally was disclosed by top officials in Germany.
The Strongsville plant has a 150-ton overhead crane. Right now, he said, Van Dorn Demag is building a 4,400-ton HP press. Mannesmann Demag has built machines that large, but because of its capacity constraints, has been forced to do subassembly in Schwaig, then do final assembly at customer plants.
More details will be released next year.
Japan's Ube Industries Ltd. in July broke the sake cask to dedicate its new assembly plant in Ann Arbor, Mich. Ube is a strong player in big-tonnage presses to automakers, especially Ford Motor Co.
Saturn Corp., a unit of General Motors Corp., has a 7,000-ton Ube press in Spring Hill, Tenn. Although Ube wants to target the new market of midsized machines from Ann Arbor, plans call for the 48,000-square-foot plant to make machines as large as 1,500 tons, according to Toshiaki Kaku, president of Ube Machinery Inc., the firm's U.S. arm.
Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. recently extended its lease to 2003 for space at GE Plastics' Polymer Processing Development Center in Pittsfield, Mass. Husky of Bolton, Ontario, also plans to increase employment in Pittsfield by 20, to 75, and is doubling the size of its engineering office space. Husky has 350-ton cranes there and about 53,000 square feet of production space.
On Sept. 3, Husky announced it will put a major U.S. facility in Milton, Vt. - but President Robert Schad has said there are no immediate plans to move big-machine production out of Pittsfield.
The market for machines of 1,200 tons and larger appears to be healthy, based on interviews with several press makers.
U.S. sales in that category topped the magic number - 100 machines - in 1994 and 1995, according to the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Machinery Division. That is more than twice the number of 1,200-plus machines sold in 1992.
Is that 100-machine pace a permanent mark, or a temporary blip? Officials of several big-press makers think the 100-press mark can be sustained.
``Yes, I think so. I think the market is there,'' said Kurt Fen-ske, vice president of sales and marketing at Engel Machinery Inc. Engel makes big machines, of 500 tons and larger, in York, Pa., and smaller machines in Guelph, Ontario.
Bill Baillie, general manager of large-tonnage machines at Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., said: ``Yes, my feeling is it's going to be a sustainable base and probably growing in the future.''
Automotive customers are pushing much of the growth, as automakers and suppliers pump out plastic bumper components, dashboard substrates and door panels. Fenske said several automakers and first-tier molders have embarked on programs to replace machines.
Other key big-press markets include appliances, outdoor furniture and housewares.
Last year, HPM Corp. of Mount Gilead, Ohio, sold 18 big machines - nine 1,500-ton presses and nine 1,000-tonners - to GE Appliances Park in Louisville, Ky., where they mold tubs and baskets for the GE Profile Maxus washing machines.
Brian Bishop, general manager for injection molding, said HPM is a major player in appliance and automotive molding. Bishop believes the 100-press level could mark a permanent change in the U.S. market.
``There's a lot of new programs that are going on, and there's a lot of older equipment in the industry that people are looking at replacing,'' he said. ``We're looking for continued growth in large-tonnage.''
One trend with big-tonnage machines is to use two platens, instead of the traditional three, to save space and reduce costs. Baillie said Husky's Pittsfield operation will make a two-platen E-line machine.
``We'll start assembly about December of this year. We will have an E-line machine installed at a U.S customer by January.''