``Energy savings'' and ``greener manufacturing'' were the buzzwords that surrounded almost every new technology at the International Plastics Fair in Tokyo.
The show, held every three years, is traditionally the venue where the Japanese industry unveils its latest developments in some of the markets where it has a commanding position, like electric injection molding presses, and presents equipment sometimes not exhibited at other major fairs.
This year's show, held Nov. 7-11, took place against a backdrop of economic uncertainty. The Association of Japan Plastics Machinery estimates the world economic crisis could reduce the yen value of sales of injection presses by 15 percent this year.
Not surprisingly, Japanese firms touted their electric machines as antidotes to high energy costs, calling the machines a contribution to the environment because they reduce electricity consumption and cut pollution.
Nearly every product and company had some sort of ``green'' angle, with pictures of trees or booths with miniature wind turbines. Some of the products labeled eco-friendly were simply cost and energy savers.
Companies rolled out a range of new technology. Atsushi Iida, executive director of Tokyo-based AJPM, said it is vital for the industry to avoid competing on price with lower-cost countries, and instead target innovation and develop new technologies.
Here's a breakdown of some of the introductions:
* Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Plastic Technology Co. Ltd. unveiled what it said is the world's first all-electric coinjection rotary press, with 3,000 tons of clamping force, for making automobile sunroofs from plastic and for other applications.
Replacing glass, Mitsubishi said, will save weight and cut fuel consumption in cars. Similar technology exists in hydraulics from European firms, but the electric press can save 60-70 percent of energy costs, said Kiyoshi Ikuta, general manager for export at Nagoya, Japan-based MHI.
* Japan Steel Works Ltd. introduced an injection press capable of welding two parts together in the mold. The DSI heat-welding system cuts the time needed to make parts such as automotive manifold intakes, and cuts contamination as the welding can be done inside the cleaner mold environment, the firm claims.
JSW also showed a system capable of making micrometer- to nanometer-scale patterns on the surface of plastic, which is useful in applications like Blu-ray discs and other data storage. The ``Micro-nano melt transcription molding process'' can make 100-micrometer-thin structures, and is also targeted at displays, medical and biotechnology applications.
* Toyo Machinery & Metal Co. Ltd. of Akashi, Japan, touted its Si-50IV press and system for making light-guide plates for mobile phones. The system performs precise molding, to a thickness of 0.3 millimeters, operating at 700mm per second. It also exhibited a fully electric rotary vertical injection machine, with a horizontal injection unit, which has the ease of operation of a horizontal unit but uses less space, similar to a vertical unit.
* Niigata Machine Techno Co. Ltd. introduced a new-generation line of several electrics, including the pre-release of two machines not commercially available: the MD100 S6000 for thick-walled cosmetic containers; and the MD50 S6000 for precision connectors. In addition, it introduced a new 75-ton vertical insert machine with wider tie-bar spacing, targeted at the automotive market.
The company, which has manufactured only electric machines since the mid-1990s, has found that the energy-savings marketing push is getting traction, said Peter Gardner, vice president of Niigata's U.S. subsidiary, in Wood Dale, Ill.
* Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd. unveiled an EC-SX series of electric presses that it said have new technology in the clamping, controller and injection system, including a more rigid platen that has less deflection.
The Tokyo company introduced models of 100, 180 and 230 tons of clamping force, with 50-, 75- and 350-ton models coming soon.
* Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd. of Sakaki-machi, Japan, took a different approach with its exhibit. In addition to showing hybrid and electric machine technology, it ventured into some nonplastic areas, displaying a press to mold paper pulp products. It portrayed that paper pulp molding system as an environmentally friendly alternative to petrochemical plastics.
Nissei also exhibited technology to manufacture carbon nanotubes with plastics. Its nanomaterials business, developed with Japanese partners, said the CNT material can be twice as strong as steel and have five times the electrical conductivity of copper.
* Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. introduced 11 new machines, with a focus on new ``zero molding'' software it developed to reduce defects, and a new screw assembly. The Tokyo company also showed its ML200 press, a machine in development targeted at molding Blu-ray lenses. It uses a linear electro-magnetic clamping unit for stability and is targeted for release next year.
* Press maker Fanuc Roboshot Ltd. of Oshino-Mura, Japan, unveiled an injection mechanism capable of speeds of 1,000mm per second, with twice the acceleration as earlier models. The equipment is designed for thin-wall molding.
* Matsui Mfg. Co. Ltd. in Tokyo unveiled several new dryers and controllers, each touting energy savings. General Manager Hiromichi Tsuda said the company was trying for more of a partnership approach, also touting related products from partner firms.
Those products included Frigel cooling towers and a machine from Japanese firm Blest Co. that turns waste plastic into grades of petroleum, reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared with incineration.
* Kawata Mfg. Co. in Tokyo introduced a nitrogen atmosphere dryer with redesigned hopper structure for easier removal, and its DV-30 dryer, with one-fourth the power consumption of hot-air heating dryers.