More evidence has emerged that the U.S. plastics machinery market has stabilized in 2002, with the key injection press segment moving up during each of the first three quarters, according to a report from the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
Despite the upward movement, the statistics suggest that for the full year, injection molding machine volume probably will end up about the same as 2001 - around 3,500 machines.
``Looking at the first three quarters of this year, it gives us good hope that we have bottomed out. The units are rising,'' said Lori Anderson, SPI senior director of economic and international affairs.
At the same time, SPI is reporting a significant decline in the third quarter in the average per-unit selling price for injection presses and blow molding machines. The reason is the size of the machines being sold, Anderson said.
``It appears that the volume of smaller machines went up in comparison to the volume of larger machines [for the quarter], and that could absolutely explain the difference in the dollar value,'' she said.
For the year, injection machinery executives say large machines are faring well because of strong demand in automotive.
The third-quarter report paints a fairly upbeat picture for most types of equipment, especially when measured against the year-earlier period. Unit shipments of extruders and auxiliary equipment did decline when measured sequentially, from the 2002 second to third quarter, but not by very much - and extruders and auxiliaries show quarterly growth on a year-ago basis.
SPI said third-quarter shipments of plastics machinery - which includes injection presses, blow molding machines and auxiliary equipment - totaled $257.6 million. That's down 7.8 percent from the second-quarter total of $279.6 million, but except for that second period, the third quarter is stronger than any quarter in the past year.
Washington-based SPI released the U.S. third-quarter statistics Nov. 20. Here are some details:
Third-quarter shipments of injection molding machines totaled 967 machines, up 13.4 percent from 853 in the second quarter. In the first quarter, 771 machines were delivered.
Measured on a year-ago basis, injection presses jumped 38.5 percent compared with the third quarter of 2001.
The average selling price of a press fell to the lowest level in the past four quarters: $175,000.
SPI's Committee on Equipment Statistics this year adjusted its blow molding machine report, so year-over-year comparisons are not accurate. But one word sums up 2002: flat. SPI said 22 blow molding machines were shipped in the third quarter, the same number as the second quarter, and just three more than the first quarter.
The average selling price of a blow molding machine was $671,000. That's 30 percent less than the second-quarter average of $960,000. The pricing information includes everything except injection blow molding and injection stretch machines, and two-stage PET machines.
Extruder shipments have declined for three straight quarters. But third-quarter shipments of 209 units were well above the 163 units shipped in the third quarter of 2001. Measured against the second quarter (215 units), the third-quarter shipments declined by 2.8 percent.
Auxiliary equipment shipments were $73.8 million, down 2.7 percent from the second quarter. But otherwise, the third quarter is the strongest of the year.
Mixed signals came from screws and barrels. Barrels have increased for three straight quarters, hitting 1,934 units in the third quarter. Screws for single-screw machines continued their up-and-down performance, falling to 1,622 from 1,838 in the second quarter.