Hoping to tap what it sees as a potential market in China for wood and natural-fiber plastic composites, extruder maker Milacron Inc. plans to set up a small research lab and pilot production site in Shanghai.
The company plans to have one of its extruders set up for customer research in space it is leasing in a Conair Group Inc. factory in Shanghai within the next three months, said Dave Bertke, vice president and general manager for extrusion systems at Milacron. He spoke in an interview at Chinaplas trade show in Guangzhou.
Batavia, Ohio-based Milacron also used the show to unveil a system to make a complete turnkey system of fiber-plastic extrusion in China, which it called plug and play. The company sees more interest in off-the-shelf systems because natural-fiber composites are a newer market in the country, he said.
``We'll do this for everyone but we believe there's more of a need for this here, where customers are not as familiar with fiber composites,'' Bertke said.
``There is much interest,'' he said. ``Ninety percent of the people coming into the booth last year and this year are interested in composites.''
The company is using equipment from Conair and other supplies to complete the plug-and-play system.
It would have opened its research lab next month, but it sold the extruder it was going to use from the show floor at Chinaplas to a company that saw it on the evening before the show officially opened, he said. It will now have to ship another extruder from the United States.
The Chinese market is more interested in using rice, corn or bamboo as the filler, rather than wood used most often in North America, he said.
The Beijing 2008 Olympics are very interested in using wood or fiber mixed with plastic as a way to try to make the Games more environmentally friendly, which is generating interest, said Werner Liu, Milacron's Shanghai-based general sales manager for extrusion systems in China.
But Liu said the industry has not seen a significant increase in Olympic-related orders, because fiber-plastic composites are more expensive. Liu said event organizers estimate there's potential for as much as 176 million pounds of material for fiber-plastic decking, benches and other items to be used, but he estimates actual demand is likely to be around 17.6 million pounds.
China produces about 110,230 million pounds of fiber-plastic composites a year, from about 150 companies, Liu said.