Bernardi said that the woes of some automotive molders mean lots of work is shifting around, which leads to machinery purchases.
Harry Wowchuck, HPM's vice president and general manager of injection molding, agreed that automotive molding is moving to new players.
``And you find out that the old machines just aren't doing it, so companies are looking at new machines,'' he said.
Mount Gilead, Ohio-based HPM, a division of Taylor Industrial Services LLC, jumped into the global game in March when it bought Sandretto Industrie SpA of Turin, Italy.
Several machinery officials agreed with Wood, the economist, that higher resin prices push molders to look at new technology.
Rich Sieradzki, vice president of North American sales and service for Bolton, Ontario-based Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., said, ``It tends to be a good environment for Husky because the converters are trying to use technology to take advantage of every edge in this rising-cost situation.''
Sieradzki, who is based in Husky's technical center in Novi, Mich., said capacity utilization ``is coming back after a four- or five-year slump.''
The mix seems to be shifting towards large-tonnage presses, he said, as medium-tonnage stayed the same and small-tonnage declined.
Husky this year sold a 3,500-ton press - with a revolving mold adapted from its Index PET preform machines - to Lear Corp. for molding two-component automotive instrument panels.
Rick Shaffer, president and general manager of Netstal Machinery Inc. in Devens, Mass., said his company actually has benefited from higher resin prices.
``We can actually get the walls thinner than anybody else. [Higher resin cost] really helps our position as it makes the features and benefits of the Netstal that much more attractive to the industry.''
Shaffer is not as bullish on the market for presses to mold CDs and DVDs. The world market for optical discs is half the size it used to be, he said.
``And I would say North America is down by even more than that,'' he added.
Henry Chiang, assistant manager of Meiki America Corp., agreed. ``It's frankly been pretty slow,'' Chiang said, citing ``shifts in production to overseas markets, increased competition and the wait-and-see [attitude] on the upcoming standards with HD-DVD and Blu-ray.''
Meiki America is based in Elk Grove Village, Ill.
Small-tonnage press maker Boy Machines Inc. of Exton, Pa., has ``continued to increase our market share and we're doing particularly well in the vertical-machine market,'' said President Robert Koch. The company has tied in automation, using articulating robots on its presses.
Koch thinks the U.S. market will settle in at around 4,000 presses a year.
Friedrich Kanz, president of Arburg Inc. in Newington, Conn., pegs the market at around 3,500 machines. ``I do not expect a dramatic change in 2006. But there will be certainly a change in who gets more or less market share,'' he said at Fakuma.
Kanz said some captive and proprietary molders postponed orders because of spiking resin costs. He said he thinks high resin costs could affect sales next year, too.
``Everybody is saying the oil prices are getting relaxed again and the situation [will go] away, but we will see,'' Kanz said.
Kanz said he thinks all-electrics will remain at around 40 percent of the U.S. market. ``Our customers are buying our machines basically in all arenas - automotive, of course medical and packaging,'' he said. ``So it is not one specific industry that goes electric.''
All-electrics generate 50 percent of business at Toyo, according to Ronald Zara, national accounts manager at Maruka USA Inc. in Rockaway, N.J. U.S. molders no longer are afraid of the technology, he said.
``We see this trend growing,'' Zara said. ``They have more reliability and they have better production, less scrap and more consistency.''
Overall, Toyo sales jumped 23 percent in units and 38 percent in dollar volume this year over 2004, Zara said.
All-electric presses account for about 95 percent of North American business for Sumitomo Plastics Machinery America LLC, said Jerry Boggs, executive vice president. Sales for Norcross, Ga.-based Sumitomo are ``substantially ahead of last year,'' he said.
Boggs said he has not heard anything specific about costly resin delaying new molding press orders.
``But we do seem to be back in a mode of projects being delayed and moved out in time. I think it's because our customers are waiting on their customers'' to give the go-ahead, he said.
Here are comments from other injection press suppliers:
* After a choppy 2004, this year has been ``much more steady,'' said Bob Columbus, head of marketing at JSW Plastics Machinery Inc. of Elk Grove Village, Ill. ``The year ended up with definitely a positive growth for us. And it hasn't really been specific to one market or another. We are looking to have growth in the medical market, and we're getting involved in the closure market now.''
* At Haitian Machinery Co. Ltd., ``We're doing better than last year,'' said Kingsley Qi Qin, president of the North American division, based in Mississauga, Ontario. ``The perception is much better than last year. The customer is very positive.'' The Chinese press maker sold machines to some large automotive molders, Qin said, but he declined to identify them.
* Fortune International Inc. did ``fairly well`` in 2005 for a simple reason - Fortune added more sales staff to cover the entire United States, according to Dan Preston, national sales manager for the company in Somerset, N.J. Volatile oil prices make it hard to predict 2006, he said.
* Wheeling, Ill.-based Kawaguchi Inc. is living off of service and parts for the estimated 1,200 injection presses it has sold to U.S. customers starting in 1967, said Patrick Miura, vice president and general manager. ``I wish I could sell more machines, but the reality is our customers want to buy used machines,'' he said.
* ``We've increasingly become an application-driven industry,'' said Russ LaBelle, president of Wilmington Machinery Inc. of Wilmington, N.C., which makes injection presses and industrial blow molding machines, specializing in structural foam, multimaterial and gas-assisted molding. But major new applications are needed, he said, adding: ``Business for the type of injection product that we build has been soft this year.''
Plastics News staff reporter Angie DeRosa contributed to this story.