A 7-year-old company from China says it has made the world's largest rotational molding machine for a customer in Canada.
The gigantic machine — measuring 6.5 meters in diameter, 27 meters in length, 17 meters in width, and 8 meters in height — traveled across the globe and now is used to rotomold storage products. It had a price tag of 1.8 million yuan ($281,000).
The equipment maker, Wenling Rising Sun Rotational Moulding Technology Co. Ltd., said the machine was not extraordinarily expensive to ship via ocean freight. In fact, “it was less than how much it'd cost to ship it to West China [from the company's factory on the east coast],” general manager Zhu Guocai told Plastics News in a phone interview, “That's probably one of the reasons the customer chose to purchase from us.”
Rising Sun produces about 100 rotomolders every year, including big and small machines. Zhu said half of them are sold to Chinese customers and the other half are exported —— to almost every continent including Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
He said the biggest different between domestic and export sales is the customers' focus.
“Overseas customers focus on quality, functionality, energy-efficiency and eco-friendliness, whereas domestic customers mainly focus on price points,” Zhu said.
Rising Sun said its machines' main differentiating factor is energy efficiency, “on average saving 40 percent of energy compared to the average Chinese machine.”
A rather small niche industry, the rotomolding machinery field in China has about 10 players, Zhu said, including three or four bigger firms. “As far as I know, we are the only one with R&D capabilities.”
He added that the company owns 15 patents, with more on the way. It also recently launched China's first rotomolding new product R&D center.
Earlier this month, the company announced that its co-developed technology — for rotomolding large, irregularly shaped plastics products — received approval from a group of experts from industry associations and universities as “original” and “internationally leading.” The other two partners in the research project are Ningbo Green Mobil New Material Technology Co. Ltd. and the Beijing University of Chemical Technology.
The technology is said to employ a multi-stage and multi-method heating model, which prevents uneven heating inside the oven and therefore saves energy. It also divides large, irregular molds into cells, and uses array combination and numeric-control, point-pressure asymptotic molding, which reduces production costs. Finally, a wireless mold temperature control system helps increase product quality, even for three-layer complex structures.
Compared to the most cutting-edge technologies in Europe and North America, Zhu said, the Chinese rotomolding industry is about five years behind.
“We aim to catch up with the leaders. For example, we are mainly using polyethylene as material, whereas some of our global counterparts use a variety of resins including nylon, polypropylene, polycarbonate and ABS.
“We also see gaps in terms of machinery functions, performance, process and details — especially details, and details are key.”
The biggest roadblock, however, comes down to the “human factor,” Zhu said. Part of it is the general mindset, he explained, urging companies to aim higher and transform from low-end to high-end manufacturing. The other part is the lack of talent. He said it's challenging to find rotomolding researchers and engineers. Rising Sun works with a few leading universities in China to train its own talent.
Zhu said he's very optimistic about the future of the rotomolding industry. He expects the Chinese government to roll out more favorable policies to boost the industry's growth in the 13th five-year plan.
China has more than 1,500 rotomolding companies, he said. His company has just started molding finished products too, mainly focused on boats.
A privately owned company, Rising Sun runs a facility of more than 10,000 square meters and employs 120.