Mexico City — At Plastimagen, Engel de Mexico showcased an automotive valve cover made lighter in weight by using the MuCell process — appropriate since the booming automotive sector is Engel's largest market in Mexico.
Automotive accounts for 60 percent of Engel de Mexico's business, according to Walter Jungwirth, who heads the Mexican market for the Austria-based maker of injection molding machines. The remaining 40 percent comes from packaging, medical, electronics and technical molding.
He said Engel will sell about 400 injection molding machines in Mexico this year.
At Plastimagen, Engel's showcase machine was a duo press with 500 tons of clamping force, which molded valve covers from 30 percent glass-filled polypropylene. The MuCell foaming process means the parts use less resin and are lighter.
Big automakers continue to open assembly plants in Mexico, and Tier 1 molders follow. Jungwirth said molders in Mexico have made a "tremendous jump" in quality over the last three years. Mexico is now the sixth-largest auto producer, behind the United States, China, Germany, Japan and South Korea.
At Plastimagen, Engel also promoted Industry 4.0, or as the company calls it, Inject 4.0. It's a fully integrated world of manufacturing. Jungwirth said automotive molders are already well on the way to Industry 4.0.
"In the automotive industry, molders have the challenge to achieve very high uptimes. We are talking 97 percent real uptime, which is the global standard, Jungwirth said. "In order to achieve that, you need all the help you can get with your processes, to monitor and to control your processes."
Lower Mexican labor costs are a key to attracting investment. But for plastics, a high level of injection molding technology is the key factor, he said.
Other Plastimagen booth highlights for Engel included molding liquid silicone rubber coasters on a 200-ton tie bar-less victory machine. Visitors also saw Inject 4.0 logos molded on an 80-ton e-motion molding machine.
Jungwirth has strong feelings about the North American Free Trade Agreement. Negotiations for NAFTA resume on Nov. 17.
"Let's face the situation: Mexico is exporting 80 percent of their goods to the United States. So let's assume we build a wall, where Mexico is not exporting anymore. Who will provide those goods?" he said. "Aren't we much better off in working together?"
Is Jungwirth worried about NAFTA? Not necessarily. "I have to say it worries me the way the discussion is done," he said.
"Mexico and the U.S. belong together. We have to work together," Jungwirth said.