With NPE2018 looming May 7-11, mold makers are bracing for higher costs from President Donald Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and waiting for a decision on whether tariffs will extend to key high-end steel countries of Germany and France.
The tariffs — 25 percent for steel and 10 percent for aluminum — will result in higher prices for molds, industry officials said.
How much higher depends on the type of mold and the type of steel used. But the tariffs, announced by Trump March 8 to meet a campaign promise to help save jobs at U.S. steel mills, will result in higher prices for steel, economists say.
The Washington-based Plastics Industry Association quickly opposed the tariffs, saying they could be "devastating" to the industry by increasing costs for mold builders and machinery companies. The trade group, which sponsors NPE, says the tariffs could cost plastics industry jobs and blunt the economic boost it sees coming from the Trump administration's tax cut package.
The American Chemistry Council also opposes the tariffs, saying the higher costs for steel and aluminum could negatively impact some of the planned investments in new U.S. chemical plants.
Steel prices have not gone up yet, mold makers said in late April, but some of them have seen higher prices for aluminum. Toolmakers are keeping close contact with steel suppliers, and some are putting special language in job quotes.
After announcing the tariffs, the Trump administration exempted several countries, including Canada, Mexico and South Korea. Trump also gave an extension for European Union countries, holding off a decision on whether to impose tariffs on key U.S. allies, and important mold steel producers such as Germany and France, until May 1, the Tuesday before NPE2018.
How much do steel prices impact tooling? Sources quoted a wide range of estimates. Some said steel accounts for about 20-30 percent of a mold price. But some cited numbers as high as 50 percent, or as low as just a few percentage points of the total cost.
MSI Mold Builders Inc. uses steel and aluminum to make large molds for injection, structural foam, reaction injection molding, blow molding and other processes.