Taiwanese machine makers step up efforts in China

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Notwithstanding the fact that Taiwanese machinery companies have had a head start in the Chinese market (with some over 20 years), compared to European, US and Japanese compatriots, China’s rising costs of production are affecting their operations. Meanwhile, highlights from Chinaplas 2014 in April are multi-material and IML (in-mould label) moulding machines; rubber moulding and footwear injection machinery.

Cost factor for FCS, Multiplas; Victor Taichung takes it in its stride

One of the first companies to enter the Chinese market, injection moulding machine maker Fu Chun Shin Machinery Manufacture (FCS) set up its first facility in Dongguan in 1994 followed by Ningbo in 2004. FCS Dongguan makes machinery with clamping forces from 60-1,000 tonnes, while FCS Ningbo produces large-sized machines of up to 3,500 tonnes.

FCS counts China as one of its top export markets, selling 30% of its output to the country, said Export Manager Scott Lin. “Since we entered the Chinese market quite early, our machinery is quite popular,” he added, explaining further that FCS is one of the largest exporters of plastics machinery in Taiwan.

It produces 1,200 machines/year in Tainan, Taiwan, and has a combined total of 2,160 machines/year output from its Chinese plants.

Against the backdrop of higher costs in China, Lin said FCS was considering expanding its operations to Brazil. “We are evaluating a location and will first assemble machines before deciding on full production,” he added.

Another machinery maker lamenting the higher costs in China is injection machine maker Multiplas that has a factory in Kunshan (with a capacity of 100 units/month). “Labour costs are increasing in China. This is one of the reasons why we are expanding our Taiwanese factory in Taoyuan where labour rates are more competitive,” according to General Manager David Wu.

It has acquired a 30,000 sq m site, with the first stage of the 3,000 sq m factory to be commissioned by May 2015, said Wu. “We will build the factory step-by-step. The first stage will consist of a machine shop and pre-assembling. We will do the final assembly at our main facility (also in Taoyuan),” he added. Wu was coy about the targeted capacity. “We are conservative about the output,” he said.

But not all machine makers are bailing out of China, especially those that have considerable business potential in the country.

One such example is Victor Taichung. Having sold 5,600 machines over a 20-year period to its largest customer in its stable, Taiwanese multinational electronics contract manufacturing company Foxconn, it has its roots firmly planted in China, said Martin Li, Manager, Overseas Marketing Division. Foxconn operates a number of facilities in China as does Delta Electronics to whom Victor Taichung has sold 1,000 machines prompting Li to comment that there is “good potential in the future.”

Victor Taichung operates three factories each in Guangzhou (injection machinery), Tianjin (component parts) and Shanghai (machine tooling centres). “All the output produced in Guangzhou is for the domestic market,” said Li.

The firm also has four factories in Taiwan that employ 900 workers. “Our main markets are China and Taiwan (60%) with the rest of Asia and Europe accounting for 40%,” said Li, adding that the group turnover for the conglomerate, which also makes CNC lathes and machining centres, averages NT12 billion (with injection moulding machinery accounting for 30% of the business).

Multi-material and IML moulding

Taiwanese machinery makers are also upping the ante technology-wise.

FCS was showing its A-Pack IML turnkey system; FB-SV two-component moulding machine and LN-SV two-platen hydraulic machine. The A-Pack solution, consisting of AF-200 hybrid closed-loop machine, hot runner mould, Wetec product stacking and label inserting system and Shini material handling, can be applied to a wide range of beverage, dairy or food containers. “A highlight is that the whole system is CE-certified and has a new appearance that completely suits the European market requirements,” explained Scott Lin.

He also claimed that FCS was the only firm at Chinaplas showing a double-sided labelling feature in the system. “We try to launch a new concept every year.”

Other attributes are that the solution is designed to increase the production efficiency. “For example, to produce a 200 cc yoghurt container using two cavities, the cycle time could be under 5 seconds,” said Lin.

Meanwhile, in multi-material moulding, FCS claims it has been leading in developing the direction of the industry. “The FB-SV series employs a single-cylinder injection structure and assures stability of the machine.

It has a patented locking system to assure the rotary table turning to accurate position. “This series is suitable for producing all kinds of two component goods and its maximum clamping force can reach 1,900 tonnes,” explained Lin. The FB-SV model is suitable for producing mobile-phone parts, tool handles, pens and automotive lamp covers. The model shown at Chinaplas was made at the Ningbo facility.

Finally, the two-platen LNV series is touted as having a smaller footprint. “It has a shorter clamping unit, allowing for 30% savings in factory space, and the mould adjustment only takes 5-10 seconds,” said Lin of the attributes.

To cater to the needs of specialised requirements of Chinese customers, Multiplas was exhibiting an integrated multi-material cell (complete with machinery, robotics and CCD camera inspection) for the production of two-colour screwdrivers. The system consists of two vertical injection machines with rotary and sliding tables that make the core of the screwdriver in two colours. A third horizontal machine with a hydraulic clamp insert moulds the packaging for the screwdriver.

The process system first made its debut at the Taipeiplas 2012 show. “Since then the cycle time has been improved,” said David Wu, adding that the system is promoted for producing electronic components for smartphones and for automotive parts.

Tung Yu improves aesthetics of rubber machine

Tung Yu, a manufacturer of vacuum hydraulic, compression, transfer moulding, rubber injection moulding and vulcanising processing machinery, is seeing growing acceptance of its machinery in China. From its facility in Ningbo it is able to produce customised machines, said Lynn Chang, Vice General Manager.

She explained of the range, “Our machinery is designed for processes involved with temperature and pressure; rubber and silicone-based applications are the majority but there are some metal processes as well. Our customers are in the sectors of automotive, 3C, aerospace, military, medical equipment, transportation, tyre-retread, solid tyre, rubber blocks and conveyor belts. Clamping forces range up to 10,000 tonnes.”

She added, “In fact, our Ningbo facility has sold three 13,000-tonne conveyor belt vulcanising machines for Chinese customers producing conveyor belts with a width of 2.8 m and length of 12.6 m.”

At Chinaplas, Tung Yu was exhibiting an improved version of the TIP-2000 vertical injection machine. “The exterior of the machine has been improved to feature a more aesthetic design,” Chang explained. Applying the FILO system, the TIP utilises variable pumps, allowing for energy savings of up to 30%; plus the improved model has a new colour touchscreen and 20% faster cycle time, said Chang.

A new sector to the company is the tyre curing process. “Previously, we were only catering to the retreading sector. Now, we have launched our new presses that are different from traditional designs since our machines use FEA (Finite Elements Analysis) to enhance mechanical strength.” Other advantages of the TPS series include the ability to accept thicker tyre moulds; stainless steel centre mechanism cylinder and heating platen with radial circuit design for better temperature uniformity and heat transfer efficiency.

Tien Kang on a stronger footing

The global footwear market is expected to reach a value of US$195 billion by 2015, with volume sales exceeding 13 billion pairs, according to research from Global Industry Analysts. In terms of geographical make-up, the global footwear industry is famously footloose having migrated from Taiwan and South Korea in the 1980s to Southern China in the 1990s.

And now, despite its rising costs, China still offers advantages that shoe manufacturers are reluctant to abandon – such as the skilled workforce. Based on this, footwear and rubber machinery maker Tien Kang Plastic Machinery is starting up a 75,000 sq m-facility in Fujian at the end of the year.

The location was selected due to the “growing footwear activity in Fujian and the company’s need to be close to its customers”, according to Charlene Su, Sales Director. It also operates a 65,000 sq m-facility in Suzhou, which was set up in 2008.

Tien Kang, which was es tabl i shed in 1982 in Taiwan, produces 300-400 machines a year for the industry. “We are the only manufacturer able to provide a large range of machinery for processing a variety of materials for footwear,” claimed Su.

In 1999, it established an alliance with Italian footwear machine maker Wintech. From this collaboration, the company has produced CE-certified EVA and TR/TPU injection moulding machinery as well as PVC/TPR two-colour machinery for producing rain boots.

“For multi-coloured soles, TR or TPU can be injection moulded or extruded. Our machines have a unique rotating head mechanism for fast mould positioning,” explained Su.

Meanwhile, rotary-type injection moulding machines are used to produce shoe soles/uppers/ outsoles as well as anti-vibration plates and brushes.

Tien Kang also credits itself for being the first company to develop the two-colour EVA machine for the mass production of sports shoes. “It has a unique design as two moulds of different thicknesses can be used on a single machine, allowing for higher volumes,” explained Su, adding that this bodes well for the industry that is faced with competitive prices.

She also said that in line with Tien Kang’s pioneering spirit, it is working with other European companies to develop rubber and PU machinery. These are targeted at the footwear market for producing outsoles and straps as well as the automotive industry for producing O-rings and seals.

Footwear aside, Tien Kang is also developing EVA machines for other items. “A growing market is saddles for bicycles.”

While its current sales are centred on Southeast Asia, Africa, India and Latin America, Su says the company is noticing a new trend. “More US footwear manufacturers are moving back home (from developing countries),” she said, adding that Tien Kang expects to target its sales to the US as well.

(IMA)

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