The Japanese suppliers that have been dominating China's all-electric press market are facing more aggressive competition from around the globe, especially Asia.
China's largest domestic injection machinery maker Ningbo Haitian Group Co. Ltd. certainly wants its share in the all-electric market.
The Ningbo-based company is expanding its current offering of all-electric presses, commercialized in 2006, to 50 to 400 metric tons by year's end. Haitian claims it soon will become the only non-Japanese Asian producer of all-electric machines in large quantities, defined by Executive Vice President Helmar Franz as more than 500 units a year.
Haitian has sold a total of 200 all-electric machines to date.
Less than a handful of other mainland-based companies, including Haitai Machinery Group Co. Ltd. of Ningbo, Ningbo Surely Meh Co. Ltd. of Ningbo and Donghua Machinery Ltd. of Dongguan, also have introduced all-electric presses. But the machines mostly are still being tested by customers.
Some major Taiwanese press makers formed an alliance last April with a research budget of US$7.5 million to develop Taiwan's own all-electric press technology. However, with key parts imported from Japan, Taiwanese firms started making all-electric machines at the beginning of this century. As licensing the Japanese technique is expensive, some Taiwanese manufacturers could not turn a profit and stopped production.
But that's not the case for Victor Taichung Machinery Works Co. Ltd. The US$242 million company based in Taichung, Taiwan, started selling all-electric presses in 2000 to processors in Taiwan, mainland China, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and South America. Its current portfolio consists of five models with clamping forces ranging from 50-200 metric tons. But the company will raise the maximum tonnage to 300 metric tons in the second half of 2007, according to Lin Ruiyang, deputy manager of sales and service.
``We sell 200 to 300 all-electric presses a year,'' Lin said during an interview at Chinaplas, held May 21-24 in Guangzhou. He said Victor Taichung is the only Taiwanese producer of all-electric presses in large quantities.
Victor Taichung uses servomotors imported from Japan, but the company said it has rich experience with digital-control and mechanical drive technique from making high-precision computer numerically controlled machining centers.
Lin said about 20 percent of sales come from all-electric presses with a steady annual growth rate around 10 percent.
``The Chinese plastic manufacturers want to make better products,'' he said, noting 60 percent of customers choose all-electric machines for higher precision.
Seoul, South Korea, machinery giant the Injection Molding Machine division of LS Cable Ltd. also is touting its all-electric machines. Regional manager Jong-Hun Lee said sales hadn't been great since the market debut in 2002.
This year, LS revised its pricing strategy to 10-20 percent lower than Japanese all-electric presses. ``We hope to grab some market share by this price adjustment,'' he said. The goal is to sell 500 units globally this year.
Lee said the Chinese market accounts for 20 percent of the company's $150 million global sales.
What these Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean firms are targeting is the 90 percent market share held by the Japanese suppliers, who are not seeing growth in all-electric machines in China.
Toshiba Machine Hong Kong Ltd., the only Japanese company to make all-electric presses in China, said sales were flat in 2006.
Toshiba makes 40- to 350-metric-ton all-electric presses at its Shanghai facility, which after last year's expansion, now has the capacity to make 120 units per month. The Shanghai factory, with land set aside for further expansion, now makes fewer than 90 units a month.
``The actual production is about 1,000 units a year,'' sales associate Tony To Ming Kin said. More than 90 percent is sold in the mainland and the rest is exported to Hong Kong, South Korea and Southeast Asia.
Leveraging its price advantage against other Japanese suppliers, Toshiba sells its made-in-Shanghai all-electric presses at a similar price to made-in-Japan hydraulic presses.
``With the same tonnage, made-in-Japan all-electric presses are 30 percent more expensive than made-in-Japan hydraulic machines,'' To said.
In Japan, Toshiba makes all-electric presses in sizes ranging from 20-850 metric tons.
Sumitomo also reported the all-electric market has been flat. ``Our sales grew a total of 20 percent from 2003 to 2006,'' said Tu Chun-te, manager at SHI Plastics Machinery Ltd, based in Hong Kong.
Sumitomo is the largest Japanese all-electric press supplier in China, followed by Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd and Fanuc Ltd.
Tu said Sumitomo presses use servomotors made by Fanuc and Mitsubishi.
He also said European presses are 50 percent more expensive than Japanese machines and the Chinese market may not yet be ready for that.
Andreas Nydegger, general manager of Netstal China Ltd., said Netstal has sold all-electric presses for the optical industry in China but none for packaging.
``Our machines are not at the same level as Japanese presses,'' he said, suggesting the Netstal machines are a higher quality, at a higher price. ``Our hydraulic is more precise than their all-electric.''
At the Chinaplas show, Munich, Germany-based Krauss-Maffei Kunststofftechnik GmbH displayed a KM 160/380 EX model from its all-electric machine range, along with extrusion machine made at its 2-year-old joint-venture factory in Jiaxing. Josef Martl, managing director and chief executive officer, said the company supplies the high-end markets in China, including packaging, auto, electronics and medical.
``China needs more sophisticated equipment,'' he said. But he revealed no information about whether the company plans to make injection machines in China.
Industry insiders also said at Chinaplas that Toyo Machinery & Metal Co. Ltd. of Akashi, Japan, plans to start making all-electric presses in Changzhou, China. But Toyo refused to comment.