Japanese injection press maker Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd. projects rapid expansion at its factory in China during the next three years to meet growth in that country. But meawhile, the company is stepping up research on new technologies to maintain global competitiveness, including develop- ing the world's first system for molding some grades of heat-resistant bioplastics.
Nagano-based Nissei said it expects to make 900 injection molding machines a year at its manufacturing site in Taicang, China, by 2013, up from about 300 a year now, even as the firm's Japanese plants have seen production levels fall sharply in the downturn.
In an interview at Chinaplas 2010 in Shanghai, Nissei President Hozumi Yoda said the firm remains focused on developing new technologies, including a version of its NEX series that it unveiled in mid-April in Japan and that it claims is the first in the world capable of consistent molding of heat-resistant, 100 percent polylactic acid bioresins.
At the Chinaplas show, held April 19-22, the equipment maker did not show that machine, but instead exhibited two other made-in-Japan higher-tech models a 110-ton machine for molding thin-wall products such as light guides, and a 40-ton vertical press for insert molding of microconnectors and light-emitting diode chips, all growing markets.
The company is trying to focus its offerings in China on small machines, under 50 tons, or machines for precision molding that it believes its Chinese competitors cannot provide, according to Yoda. In China, Nissei makes its standard range of all-electric models.
From now on, we think the small-size machines and the precision machines will be increasingly rapidly in China, he said.
Yoda said the growth of China's markets for automobiles, information technology, mobile phones, LED, medical and cosmetics provide a lot of chances for us.
Nissei saw production levels in Japan fall to about 1,040 injection presses last year, compared with about 3,200 annually before the economic crisis in 2008, Yoda said.
He said production levels in Japan are expected to rise to 2,100 machines in 2010, and the company is seeing a recovery in some markets, including in its main automotive business, where production is expected to increase in the second half of the year.
Still, he said production in Japan is unlikely to top pre-crisis levels any time soon, and he said that while sales are beginning to increase, profit margins remain tight.
So Nissei wants to put more resources on some higher-technology areas such as PLA molding, nanomaterials and metal and paper injection molding, he said.
The company expects about one-third of its revenues will come from those new markets within the next 10 years, compared with only a very small amount of its business now, Yoda said.
As part of that, Nissei recently unveiled in Japan an 80-ton version of the NEX series that can mold pure PLA at up to 248° F which is double the previous temperature limit of 136.4° F.
The machine is the first in the world capable of molding 100 percent PLA materials, without additives, at that higher temperature, according to Yoda.
The company said heat-resistant grades of PLA have been developed by several materials manufacturers, but sometimes have poor flow and are difficult to process, so they are not widely used in injection applications.
Nissei said its new molding system can continuously and consistently mold the heat-resistant materials, including in deep-container applications, which have been difficult, and it believes it is the first in the world to produce such equipment.
Nobody can do this, Yoda said. That kind of material is very difficult to control. We have not had success until now.
The new technology offers more manufacturing possibilities in markets such as computer casings, medical, bottles, caps and other containers, he said. The company unveiled the machine at Japan's Medtec show, held April 15-16 in Yokohoma.
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