In contrast to the self-sufficiency and saturation of injection and extrusion machines, blow molding machinery is the hot market in China right now.
Imports, measured by unit, soared 143 percent last year, according to the China Plastics Processing Industry Association. The Beijing-based trade group also said imports of injection presses shrunk 3.4 percent and extrusion machines by 24.6 percent during the same period.
Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH, which has been making extrusion blow molding machines in China since 1994, confirmed the rosy prospect of the market.
``Our sales growth was above 20 percent [in 2006], and it's going to be even higher this year,'' said Jason Liu, sales supervisor with Shunde Kautex Plastics Technology Co. Ltd. Foshan-based Shunde Kautex makes machines for plastic bottles from 5 millieters, or roughly 0.2 ounces, to 13 gallons for both the consumer and chemical markets.
Liu said the consumer market is the firm's fastest-growing end market. About 80 percent of the plastic bottles Procter & Gamble Co. uses in China are made with Kautex machines, he said.
The company added three computer numerically controlled machining centers earlier this year and also plans to increase the head count, currently at more than 100, by 20 percent this year.
Chinese machinery makers are expanding in response to the heated market.
Zhangjiagang Tongda Machinery Co. Ltd. just started production at its 377,000-square-foot new campus in May.
``Our existing [161,000-square-foot] facility is not adequate. We've been short on supply even at full capacity for over a year. Orders just flood in,'' Vice President Gui Jinyu said in an interview at Chinaplas, held May 21-24 in Guangzhou.
Tongda made and sold 450 extrusion blow molding machines last year and exported 35 percent of those. With the second factory, Tongda will have capacity for 1,000-1,500 units by June 2008.
The 15-year-old company makes 23 series and 118 models of machines for making containers from 0.3 ounces to 260 gallons (1,000 liters), and up to six layers. ``Only two or three other Chinese companies can make large machines for 1,000-liter products,'' Liu said.
Tongda reported sales of 150 million yuan in 2006 (US$19.7 million), up 30 percent from a year ago.
Gui said exports also grow quickly.
``China exports machines to places like Southeast Asia and South America, but still needs to import more advanced machines, for instance, high-speed machines.''
Kautex's Liu made a similar comment: ``Our China machines can only make two-dimensional intake manifolds. If a customer wants to make three-dimensional ones, they'll buy our German machines.''
The breakdown of Kautex's China sales has been split evenly between China's domestic market and exports, but this year exports will take the majority share, Liu said.
Data from CPPIA shows China's exports of blow molding machines rose 36 percent by units and 44 percent by sales value in 2006.
Injection blow molding machine maker Jomar Corp., based in Pleasantville, N.J., also reported healthy sales growth in China. David Yang, sales manager of Jomar's China operations, said his firm's Chinese counterparts grow very fast. But, he said, because they target the lower end of the market, they're not in direct competition with his company.