The plastics machinery rebound is continuing this year, according to the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Committee on Equipment Statistics.
Also, Washington-based SPI is releasing statistics on thermoforming equipment for the first time, and more categories of extruders.
For injection molding machines, the largest sector, SPI's year-end report said 2011 ended with 2,849 injection orders, an increase of 13 percent over the order level of 2011. Economist Bill Wood, who provides an analysis for the SPI statistics, predicts a 10 percent increase for full-year 2012, or about 3,100 new orders.
Wood also thinks injection press shipments will gain 10 percent in 2012 — finishing this year at more than 2,900 units and approach the 3,000-press barrier. The low point came in the recession-hit 2009, when shipments sank to just 1,285.
For extrusion, SPI now is releasing numbers on more categories of equipment than before. Instead of one single number for all extruders, the Committee on Equipment Statistics now reports on single-screw extruders, and twin-screw extruders, both co-rotating and counter-rotating.
This year, Wood is predicting a modest increase in twin-screw extruders of 3-5 percent and a flat-to-modest increase for single-screw extruders. Wood runs Mountaintop Economics and Research in Greenfield, Mass.
SPI's 2011 numbers show an increase in unit orders of just 1 percent from 2010. The annual dollar value was down by 10 percent.
In the twin-screw segment, SPI reports 150 new extruders were ordered in 2011, an 11 percent decline from 2010. The dollar value was 12 percent higher, although that number weakened toward the end of 2011, according to the report.
SPI said demand for counter-rotating twin-screw extruders “exhibited significantly more strength” than co-rotating machines. Orders of counter-rotating extruders slipped by only one machine in 2011 from 2010 — from 57 machines to 56 — but brought in a dollar value 28 percent greater.
Orders for co-rotating machines declined by 16 percent, from 112 units to 94, but managed a 5 percent dollar-value increase.
Most manufacturers of extruders are expecting business to hold steady or improve, fueled by expansions, new technology and an emphasis on energy efficiency.
Turning to blow molding, SPI said 2011 new orders for blow molding machines reached 85 units, a 16 percent increase from 2010. The dollar value for new orders jumped 19 percent.
Wood thinks blow molding machines will experience moderate growth this year, to about 90-100 blow molding machines.
SPI reported that the total number of auxiliary equipment units booked was 13 percent higher in 2011 from the year before. Exports declined modestly. A significant change in the number of companies reporting the data means that SPI officials are not comparing the numbers to 2010.
A similar issue comes in the components sector, which examines screws and barrels. Changes in the number of reporting companies makes it impossible to do year-over-year analysis on data for screws or barrels.
For the full year, a total of 7,970 components were shipped by reporting companies in 2011, as business conditions gradually improved.
In the new category of thermoforming machinery, SPI reported that new orders in 2011 declined by 28 percent in terms of units and 25 percent in dollar value, from 2010 levels. But the shipment picture was brighter: shipments increased to 164 units, up 7 units from 2010, and the shipment dollar amount increased by 4 percent, according to SPI.
“The long-term incentives for equipment investment remain intact,” Wood wrote.