CHICAGO (June 29, 11:50 a.m. EDT) — The high price of copper is encouraging growth in the U.S. market for cross-linked polyethylene pipe, and a Chinese machinery company is hoping to benefit.
Hangzhou Shuanglin Plastic Machinery Co. Ltd. recently delivered the first Chinese-manufactured PEX production line, after joining forces with a research institute in Shanghai.
“Hydronic radiant floor-heating systems are our target market and strength, but the U.S. market is completely new to us,” General Manager Shi Jingdong said at NPE 2006 in Chicago.
In addition to PEX production lines, the Sino-French joint venture makes machinery for fabricating an aluminum-plastic composite pipe.
Shi said overcapacity in that market caused quality issues in the late 1990s and cooled down demand.
“Only a handful of companies still make these pipe production lines. Everyone understands the market lacks in momentum.
“I don't know why aluminum-plastic pipes are not widely used in North America,” Shi added. “That's a pity. But PEX is gaining popularity in the States, just as it is in China.”
U.S. demand for PEX tubing used in radiant floor heating has been growing 15-30 percent each year for the past decade. But copper prices are spurring even faster growth, with PEX use in the U.S. growing 40 percent last year in plumbing applications and 35 percent in floor heating.
Chinese trade media reported in March the only Chinese PEX pipe maker at the time was Foshan Plastics, which imported a production line from Germany. But just in the past few months, Shuanglin has sold two PEX lines to Chinese processors in Guangdong.
The company employs 150 and plans to add manufacturing space.
The firm sold about 200 production lines in 2005, 40 percent of which were exported to East Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.