Third-quarter machinery numbers from the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. paint a picture of how plastics equipment is faring in 2006: flat or slightly down for injection molding presses, blow molders and auxiliaries, buoyed by a healthy increase for extruders.
SPI's Committee on Equipment Statistics released its third-quarter report of U.S. shipments Dec. 5.
Overall, the industry shipped $254 million worth of primary equipment in the third quarter, down 1 percent from the third quarter of 2005. For the year to date, SPI said, shipments of primary machinery totaled $746 million - a decline of 2 percent from the first three quarters of 2005. Those primary machinery statistics do not include auxiliary equipment and screws and barrels.
``Overall, there has not been much change in the 2006 data when compared with last year - it has held steady,'' said Bill Wood, an economist who analyzed the data for the Washington-based SPI. ``But conditions will start to rebound sometime in the first half of 2007, and I am sticking to my forecast of `steady-to-modest rise' for next year.''
Wood runs Mountaintop Economics & Research Inc. in Greenfield, Mass.
Capacity utilization and plastic part production remain strong. But Wood said high energy and resin prices are ``the biggest downside risk'' for his 2007 forecast.
In his report, Wood said high resin prices have ``hindered [processors'] ability to invest in new equipment.'' Also, sharp declines for residential construction and U.S. car production have hurt demand for plastics products, he said.
Here is a look at the machinery sectors tracked by SPI:
Injection molding machines. Shipments totaled 2,630 presses through the first nine months of 2006, a decline of 4 percent from shipments for the same period of 2005. The dollar value of those shipments was $610.9 million, down 3 percent for the year to date against the year-earlier period.
For the third quarter, shipments were 961 units, up 2 percent from the 945 shipments in the third quarter of 2005.
Extruders. Shipments for both single-screw and twin-screw extruders totaled 724 units through the first nine months, an increase of 12 percent from the year-earlier period. In dollar terms, those machines totaled $96.7 million, up 19 percent from the first nine months of 2005.
SPI said that, after a disappointing start to 2006, extruder shipments rebounded in the middle of the year. In the third quarter, 266 extruders were shipped, a 13 percent gain from the 236 units shipped in the third quarter a year ago.
Blow molding machines. Through the first nine months, SPI reports 69 blow molding units were shipped, up by one unit from the same period of 2005. Those machines were worth $38.4 million, down 22 percent from the first nine months of 2005.
However, the third quarter was strong, with 29 units shipped - six units more than the 2005 third period.
Auxiliary equipment. This sector has booked $268.7 million worth of business through the first three quarters of 2006, a slight increase of 1 percent from the first three quarters of 2005.
SPI said that the recent trend of stronger auxiliary sales lost some of its momentum in the third quarter of 2006. Bookings for the quarter totaled $85.6, which is down 7 percent from the year-earlier third quarter and 11 percent below the second quarter of 2006. Despite the slowdown in the second half of 2006, SPI said fundamentals that drive demand for auxiliaries remain favorable. Growth should continue in 2007.
Components. SPI gave only unit numbers for the third quarter, saying that 4,490 screws and barrels for injection and extrusion were shipped for the period. That is a decrease of 8 percent from the second quarter of this year. Of the total, 3,128 units went for injection molding and 1,362 were for extrusion.
After a strong first-half performance, demand for screws and barrels slowed in the third quarter, according to SPI, reflecting lower growth for U.S. manufacturing.
SPI said spending for screws and barrels - considering a leading indicator for primary plastics machinery - should regain its upward momentum in 2007.
Changes in the number of companies reporting the data made it impossible to compare the year-earlier statistics, SPI said.