Driven by increasingly energy-conscious customers and a robust domestic machine market, a growing number of plastics machinery companies are looking to manufacture all-electric machines on Chinese soil. In doing so, they are hoping to tap a market that has long been dominated by Japanese manufacturers.
“The trend is going toward all-electric,” said Toni Bernards, general manager of Milacron Plastics Machinery (Jiangyin) Co. Ltd. “The machines are environmentally friendly, energy-saving, clean-room convenient and high-precision,” Bernards said at the Milacron booth at the Asian-Pacific International Plastics and Rubber Exhibition (Applas), held Sept. 6-9 in Shanghai.
Milacron first started manufacturing its Elektron series in China in 2009 at its Jiangyin, China, plant. The company now is expanding the range of machines, from 50 to 350 tons of clamping force.
“The all-electric machine is of German design but assembled and made in Jiangyin,” he said.
The market for all-electric machines is around 6,000-7,000 machines per year. “We're hoping to get a big share of that,” Bernards said.
As the company increases the number of machines, Bernards said he expects that the Jiangyin plant will need to expand next year.
“We're already increasing our number of sales staff,” he said.
For years, the market for all-electric machines has been dominated by Japanese manufacturers. Machine sales in China as a whole, however, are increasingly dominated by domestic-manufactured machines.
According to the China Plastic Machinery Industry Organization, made-in-China machines grabbed 70 percent of the market in 2010. With that kind of numbers, companies are seeing opportunities to compete in the all-electric market.
Demag Plastics Machinery (Ningbo) Co. Ltd., for example, is developing a line of fully electric machines at its Ningbo, China, plant. It is working on the project even though parent company Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery GmbH of Schwaig, Germany, already has a line of all-electrics.
“We've done some analysis and found that the overlap with Sumitomo's all-electric line is not that great,” said Richard Chen, sales director at Demag in Ningbo. “More and more customers are focused on energy savings in China and there's a big market for machines like this.”
Although Chen has seen the market slow somewhat from 2010, Demag's growth in China has stayed at around 25-30 percent.
“The market is more and more focused on improved technology,” and fully electric machines fit the description, he said.
The Ningbo plant will start manufacturing the machines next year, Chen said. “We'll start out producing a small number and hope to expand from there,” he said.
International machine makers are not the only ones jumping at the opportunity. At the Applas show, Cosmos Machinery Ltd. of Hong Kong also discussed plans to start manufacturing a line of all-electric machines.
“Next year, we plan to introduce the fully electric machines,” said Jason Chan, the manager of Cosmos Machinery's marketing department. “We aim to continually improve the quality of our machines and the technology we're using.”