Mold-Masters Ltd. is satisfying its global cravings by opening some of the first hot-runner manufacturing facilities in Singapore and Brazil. The company, based in Georgetown, Ontario, plans to start production in Singapore by August and in Campinas, Brazil, by December, said Mold-Masters President Jonathan Fischer.
Both countries have become hotbeds for mold and injection molding production, Fischer said. Shipping hot runners from North America or Europe — or even from Kawasaki, Japan, where Mold-Masters has a longstanding plant — could not meet those aggressive market demands.
That's especially true in Asia, where mold makers are asked to shorten lead times to six to eight weeks, Fischer said.
"Asia will accommodate the greatest growth potential [of any region] in the next decade," said Fischer in a May 12 telephone interview. "It is a difficult market to capture without going into the market and effectively working there. They have different traditions and business practices."
Few suppliers have set up full-scale hot-runner plants in those countries, Fischer said.
But other hot-runner competitors are latching onto those regions. Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. of Bolton, Ontario, opened a 6,500-square-foot technical center in Singapore in May to serve both molding and hot-runner customers.
And Gammaflux LP, a hot-runner temperature control provider based in Sterling, Va., is launching a technical support and sales center in Ube, Japan.
Gammaflux would like to spread its product to China and Singapore, said Dave List, the company's director of Asia Pacific sales. A new standardized product, the GLC 2K controller, contains features that can be used throughout Asia and other parts of the globe, List says. Operators of the controller do not have to know English, he said.
"Before this, our product line didn't lend itself to that part of the world," List said. "But we committed ourselves to being in Asia full time, and we needed something for our Asian customers."
Mold-Masters could be the first hot-runner firm to open an Asian manufacturing site outside of Japan, Fischer said. The new facility, employing 15-25 people in its first operating year, will make hot-runner manifolds, hot halves and other components. It also will feature component assembly and testing, engineering and software analysis.
Mold-Masters is investing $5 million in capital equipment for the plant, occupying 20,000-square-feet of a technology center in Singapore. It plans to expand that by the end of its fourth year, Fischer said. Another $3 million will be invested and as many as 70 people employed by that time, he said.
"The acceptance of hot runners is growing so rapidly in this region that we can't limit our capacity," Fischer said. "We want to ensure the availability of modern technology and innovations."
Husky, a fierce competitor, is taking a different approach. The company, which builds hot-runner systems at plants in Vermont and Luxembourg, has sales agents spread throughout Asia, said spokesman Richard Carter.
Husky's new Singapore center will assist customers with hot-runner concept design, mold design, mold-flow analysis and applications engineering, Carter said.
Husky also has 15 technical centers in South America and four in Asia.
Meanwhile, Mold-Masters is setting up manufacturing stakes in South America to provide local service, Fischer said. It is investing $2.5 million in a plant of about 20,000 square feet, he said.
The company is finishing the purchase of an existing firm in Campinas and will occupy its plant, Fischer said. The agreement is expected to be completed in June, he said.
The Brazil market is flush with numerous technical centers but has few hot-runner production sites, Fischer said.
"Sales and service centers, in reality, haven't improved [mold] lead times and the quality of repair status to a customer," Fischer said. "Major repairs still have to be shipped back to North America."
The firm plans to change that, providing mold repairs and a hot-runner parts-making operation.
Mold-Masters initially will employ 25-30 in Brazil, Fischer said.
It also has invested in North American expansion. The company opened a 63,000-square-foot technical center in Georgetown last month and plans to move into a new automotive technical center near Detroit at the end of May.
Mold-Masters employs more than 900 worldwide. It has other manufacturing facilities in Canada, the United States, Japan and Germany.