The Association of Rotational Molders' addition of ``International'' to its name may be paying off.
The group's annual meeting and Rotoplas '08, held concurrently Oct. 21-23 in Rosemont, drew attendees from more than 20 countries an increase over previous years, according to Rick Church, ARM executive director.
Foreign visitors came in search of the most up-to-date technologies, know-how and market intelligence.
``I'm here to see the technical updates and what's going on with other rotomolders,'' said Jorge Fajardo, assistant manager with Boiro, Spain-based Rotogal, or Rotomoldeados de Galicia.
Professor Roy Crawford with the University of Waikato, New Zealand, said the eight-hour-long ``Master Seminar in Rotational Molding'' presentation he gave Oct. 21 drew more than 50 molders, designers and suppliers. Crawford is ARM's technical service director.
``They are hungry for technical information that they can use to make higher-value-added products,'' Crawford said. ``That's the sensible thing to do during a downtime.''
Rotomolding has moved beyond making large storage containers, he said.
``You can make very complicated technical parts in an economical way.'' He noted that different regions have focused on different products: water tanks in Australia and New Zealand, technical parts in Europe and multilayer fuel tanks in the U.S.
Crawford said the growing use of polyethylene foam in the U.S. is a good trend. The use of foaming in rotomolding generates a good stiffness-to-weight ratio. U.S. molders are now using PE foam to replace more expensive polyurethane foam which also requires a second shot and doesn't stick as well as PE foam to the outside layer, he said.
Lin Baoshu, general manager of machinery maker Fangda Rotational Molding Co. Ltd. of Yantai, China, said he has attended ARM meetings for a few years. This year, for the first time, he shared a booth and displayed literature.
``I didn't hope to sell anything, given the current economic climate in the U.S.,'' he said. But by the end of the show, he had a handful of interested buyers.
The U.S. machinery market is hard to crack, according to a representative of Fixopan Machines Pvt. Ltd. of New Delhi. The export-oriented firm has been trying to make inroads to America for past few years.
So far, it has delivered units to Canada and South American countries including Ecuador and Chili. ``It's even harder now, with the economy down,'' said marketing director Dinesh Joshi.
Aguascalientes, Mexico-based molder Miraplastek SA de CV is concerned with the impact of the U.S. financial crisis spreading to the rest of the world.
``About 20 percent of our business is in the U.S.,'' said Mark Docter, who handles imports and exports for Miraplastek. ``It takes longer for the impact to develop for the rotomolding industry, while injection molded consumer items are immediately affected by the economy.'' However, ``delayed impact doesn't necessarily mean less of an impact.''
Docter said he has not seen any orders canceled. But he said, ``We should start working right away, doubling our sales effort, because the late effect will eventually come.''
For Foam Ltd. of KÃ³pavogur, Iceland, a supplier of PE foam pellets, the economic crisis is more of a reality in its home market. ``The credit is tight,'' said Haukur Alfredsson, director of business development. ``People are worried, postponing [purchasing] decisions.''