JSW Plastics Machinery Inc. has opened a 6,000-square-foot technical center in Lake Zurich, as the Japanese injection press supplier moved from Elk Grove Village, Ill.
JSW moved into the Lake Zurich building in October. About 100 customers, prospects and suppliers attended an open house Jan. 13.
The new facility is smaller than the former JSW tech center in Elk Grove Village, which measured 16,000 square feet. Bob Columbus, sales manager, said JSW signed a 10-year lease in Elk Grove Village back in 1999 when the U.S. injection press market was at its peak.
The market is less than half that size now, so when the lease expired in 2009, JSW officials looked for a smaller building in the Chicago area. They also closed a regional office in Marietta, Ga., while retaining JSW's U.S. headquarters in Corona, Calif., and a regional office in Novi, Mich., to serve the Detroit area.
Fumio Hirayama, president of JSW Plastics Machinery, said the company survived 2009 because of a strategic diversification launched about a decade ago. Before 2000, about 40-45 percent of JSW's U.S. sales came from automotive molding.
But now, after 9-11, the automobile business went down and the U.S. market shrank, and our automobile business became about 20-25 percent of our total business, Hirayama said during an interview at the open house. But we are seeking medical and packaging business more than auto. Those areas are expanding. That was a big help for us last year, and we survived.
Despite the sector's well-publicized troubles, automotive is stirring, according to Hirayama, who said JSW is getting several inquiries in the early weeks of 2010.
Eight people four service technicians and four sales people work out of the Lake Zurich operation.
At the one-day open house, JSW ran two molding demonstrations:
* An all-electric press molded parts from liquid silicone rubber. The J85AD press, with a clamping force of 85 metric tons, was fed with LSR by a metering and mixing system from Fluid Automation Inc. A Star robot pulled the parts from a Limtech mold. Shin-Etsu Silicones of America Inc. supplied the LSR.
* A 140-tonne J140AD molded medical polypropylene pipette tips on a 64-cavity Cavaform mold. A Sigmax camera system monitored the molding area.
Several other companies had small exhibits at the JSW event, including screw and barrel maker Westland Corp. and Agentis Energy, which equipped one of the JSW machines with sensors that measure energy usage.
The Midwest is an important region for JSW, Hirayama said. Even so, in 2002, JSW closed the Elk Grove Village technical center as the market weakened. The firm reopened the Chicago-area operation less than a year later.
Hirayama explained that back then, executives from parent company Japan Steel Works Ltd. made the decision, saying the Chicago and Detroit facilities were close to each other, geographically. But after a year later, we had much more opportunity to pick up business in the Chicago area. So that is why we just reopened the Chicago office immediately, he said.
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