Citing increased demand for its lineup of all-electric injection molding presses, Niigata Machine Techno Co. Ltd. is building a 90,000-square-foot expansion to connect its factory buildings in Niigata City, Japan.
Before the addition, both buildings total about 500,000 square feet. The expansion should be completed this summer. Niigata is not releasing the amount of its investment.
Right now, the buildings are separate, side by side, with an access road running between them. The addition will join them together into a single building.
The expansion will allow Niigata to add two production lines - one for mid-sized presses with clamping forces between 200 tons and 500 tons, and one for large machines from 720 tons to 1,100 tons.
Niigata needs to expand capacity because of increased sales of its all-electric machines to Asia and the United States, said Peter Gardner, vice president and general manager for Niigata operations at DJK-Global Group, based in Itasca, Ill.
The U.S. injection press market has shrunk dramatically since the late 1990s, when it hit peaks of 5,000 and 6,000 a year. Last year, U.S. shipments probably slumped to around 3,000 machines. But all-electrics are closing in on 50 percent of the market, measured by units.
``We're in a growing part of a shrinking market, with the electric machines,'' Gardner said. ``We're expanding our market share and the electric machine is a growing part of the shrunken market.''
Niigata is well-suited to ride the all-electric trend in the United States. The Japanese company introduced its first all-electric molding machines in 1984. Niigata phased out hydraulic presses in 1996, to make only all-electrics.
Gardner declined to say how many Niigatas the Itasca operation sold last year. ``We're doing OK. We're profitable here in the U.S. and that's the most important thing,'' he said. ``Because of our smaller size, we're able to react more quickly and keep our business in order. We're also able to have a closer relationship with our customers.''
Niigata's total clamping force range runs from 35 tons to 3,300 tons. Under a 10-year-old joint manufacturing agreement, another Japanese press builder, Ube Industries Ltd., builds Niigata-brand all-electrics in the largest sizes, from 1,500 tons and larger.
Gardner said the expansion will allow Niigata to make all-electrics up to 1,100 tons, in-house. Right now, the company can make up to 950-ton presses in Niigata City.