Compounding extruder suppliers report U.S. business was flat or down in 2019, reflecting a weaker automotive business and some general delays in capital investments — but recycling lines and turnkey systems are holding up.
Meanwhile, big extrusion lines for manufacturing polyolefins have been a bright spot.
Even though several compounding equipment makers say the market is more difficult, they don't see a return to the big cyclical swings that the sector experienced before the Great Recession of 2008-09.
Spending on compounding machinery is not falling off a cliff, but it's not robust either, said Charlie Martin, president and general manager of Leistritz Extrusion in Somerville, N.J.
"If I had to describe the compounding extruder market in one word, it would be 'interesting,'" he said. "The market was on the rise for a few years since the recession. But this year it's down."
For Leistritz, sales to small- to medium-sized compounders have been pretty good, "but the larger companies have tended to put projects on hold, and I think it's due to uncertainty from a global perspective; they don't know where to make the investments."
"So we've seen a lot of big companies putting investment on the back burner," he said.
Martin has tracked the history of U.S. sales of twin-screw compounding extruders in a presidential election year, which comes up again next year.
"It doesn't really matter who wins, it seems the business comes back. But for the year before the election, people hold back," he said.
Martin said a good area of growth for Leistritz is extruders for value-added recycling, in-line compounding, medical devices and packaging. The company is also a player in direct extrusion for pharmaceuticals.
"It's not a big business, but it's a good business," he said.