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        IMA

Chinaplas 2016: China’s market presents opportunities

Also, download this story from the electronic issue here

China’s economy may have slowed down, and even though domestic demand for machines declined by 5%, according to the China Plastics Machinery Industry Association, companies interviewed at Chinaplas in Shanghai were bullish about the injection moulding machinery (IMM) sector. Since the country is no longer a “low cost” production workshop, higher quality is expected in the plastics processing sector. Thus, this requires high-end machinery and technology, which are plus points for machine makers.

Expansions in store

German machinery maker Arburg’s Managing Director of Sales, Gerhard Böhm, who took over from Helmut Heinson as he has retired, is positive of the Chinese market, adding that Arburg caters to high end applications and parts and thus, has not been affected by the slowdown in China. “First quarter sales for China were ahead, compared to 2015 first quarter, and though we are unable to predict sales for the rest of the year, we expect a stable level compared to last year’s intake,” he said.

Meanwhile, the company expects to ramp up its capabilities at its warehouse, which offers retrofitting and specification of adding parts to machines from Germany. In China, the company has 78 employees in total with 30 in service and 11 in application technology. “We have also further enhanced our capabilities with training of employees at our headquarters in Lossburg, Germany.”

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Austria’s Engel Machinery Shanghai is investing RMB60 million to expand its facility in Shanghai, said Gero Willmeroth, Sales and Service President. The last time the company expanded its facility was in 2012, when it doubled its capacity.

By 2017, it will add on another 1,600 sq m space for CNC processing for platen manufacturing and 450-sq m of office space. The workforce is expanding accordingly, with new functions being created and a special department for mould project management has been established. The Shanghai facility currently has 390 staff members; in total, Engel has 500 employees in China. Asia accounts for almost 25% of Engel’s EUR1.2 billion sales, with China its largest market.

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Willmeroth said there was a “new normal” in China with no more 10% growth rates. “Now it’s more in the range of 6% to 7%, which is healthy.” He also countered that the Chinese economy “is not shrinking, but growing at a slower pace.”

He added that the high technology sector is growing in China, with companies investing to improve productivity and technology. Also having founded its automation centre in Shanghai in 2015, Engel is seeing the need for more automation cells, and technical knowhow for robots in Asia. “We might consider building robots in China,” he added.

Meanwhile, German machine company KraussMaffei’s acquisition by China’s largest chemicals group, China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina), will allow it to enter new markets in China, said CEO Frank Stieler.

“The change of ownership provides opportunities that we did not previously have. ChemChina also operates in the rubber market (it purchased tyre maker Pirelli last year),” said Stieler, who was quick to stress that the new ownership will not have an impact on the way KraussMaffei operates. It has under its group also the KraussMaffei Berstorff and Netstal brands.

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Stieler expects the advanced manufacturing and lightweight component trends in the automotive industry will provide a huge development opportunity for highend machinery in China.

In addition to machine manufacturers, the robotics market has also become important. For more than 13 years, Keba has been selling its control solutions for machines and robots in China. Now, the Austrian company is expanding its presence with its fourth office in Jinan, halfway between Shanghai and Beijing. Keba also has branch offices in Ningbo, Guangzhou and Shanghai, with a total of 60 employees.

According to Gerhard Luftensteiner, CEO of Keba, “China is the market that will grow the most in the years to come, aside from the US, Germany and Japan.”

Chinese machinery companies expand markets

A good indicator of the industry’s disposition would be homegrown IMM maker Haitian International, said to be one of the largest in the world. In 2015, it delivered 26,000 machines globally and recorded a turnover of EUR1 billion, which represents a slight decrease of 3% compared to the previous year. Plus, its domestic sales in China dropped slightly by 4%.

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In the export markets, Helmar Franz, Board Member of Haitian, said it strengthened its sales network, with “impressive growth rates in Vietnam, South Korea, India, Europe and Mexico, and sales of EUR324 million, representing a mild drop of 1.6% compared to 2014.”

Another homegrown machinery company Guangdong Yizumi Machinery saw its orders jump early this year, according to Deputy Managing Director James Zhang. And while Turkey was Yizumi’s largest export market in 2014, orders declined last year, due to the increasing impact of terrorism in the region, it says. “But it has been replaced by Israel, which was the fastest growing market for Yizumi, with a growth of more than 30% last year,” explained Zhang.

The company has also been successful in Europe. “There are many reasons for Western Europe to accept plastics machines from China,” opined Zhang. “The overall technological level and quality level of Chinese plastic machinery are enhanced and their influence in the global market is also increasing. Now at large international trade shows, promotion of Chinese machines is even stronger than that of Japanese machines. So more European customers know and recognise Chinese brands.” Yizumi purchased the intellectual property of US-based machinery maker HPM Corporation in 2011, when it went bankrupt.

New machinery introduced

Arburg showcased the Freeformer for additive manufacturing, which was first premiered at the K2013 and launched last year. Böhm said Arburg is working with some materials and will introduce new applications later this year. A Freeformer was producing pill splitters for medical technology use from PC – not in large volumes, like the Allrounder, but in small unit volumes without a mould. “Arburg is the only company able to achieve this,” said Böhm.

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Once the supporting structures have been removed in a water bath, the two-piece articulated part can be used as a design prototype or for functional tests. This means that expensive aluminium moulds can be dispensed with and new products can reach series maturity much faster.

Using the Arburg Plastic Freeforming (APF) process, the Freeformer manufactures functional parts on the basis of 3D CAD data. It processes inexpensive, qualified plastic granulates and is equipped with two stationary discharge units as standard. This enables the Freeformer to process an additional component in order, for example, to manufacture a part in different colours, with special tactile qualities or as a hard/soft combination. Alternatively, it can be used to build structures from a water-soluble support material, enabling complex part geometries to be realised.

Arburg also demonstrated the production of pill splitters in an eight-cavity mould on an electric Allrounder. The cycle time is around 25 seconds and the part weigh is 18 g. The company says that thanks to its precision and speed, as well as its low emissions, the electric machine is ideally suited for the production of medical parts. A Multilift Select robotic system from Arburg is used for demoulding.

Wintec, a subsidiary of Engel that was established in 2014 with the aim of making standardised machinery, introduced its all-electric E-win. A 100-tonne E-win 1000- 170 was shown producing lamp shields, with a shot weight of 14 g per component. The series is also available in 180 tonnes. Wintec says that due to the success of its machines, it has started exporting to ASEAN countries, Turkey and Iran.

KraussMaffei premiered its two-platen GX series, which is now being manufactured in Haiyan together with the MX series. Available from 400-900 tonnes, the GX is said to be the fastest two-platen model, boasting a dry cycle time of 2.3 seconds. Features include the compact design, which allows for fast clamping movements, and the modularity that can be used to select the necessary plasticising unit. Furthermore, the GearX locking device and GuideX guide shoe ensure fast locking and part quality, with minimal energy consumption. A GX 450-3000 was shown moulding crates for the transport of seafood, with a shot weight of 240 g and a cycle time of 11 seconds.

US firm Nordson Corporation has developed a complete injection unit package for liquid silicone rubber (LSR)

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moulding that meets the special mixing and metering requirements of low-viscosity thermoset ingredients and is readily retrofitted on standard machines.

The Xaloy LSR Package includes a specially designed screw, barrel, seal, valve, and nozzle, along with other components where needed, such as a feedpipe adapter. Nordson recommends the package for manufacturers of seals, gaskets, cushioning pads, medical devices, infant feeding items, ruggedised electronic devices and kitchenware, such as baking pans and spatulas.

Foreign suppliers compete with locals

Though 2015 was a difficult year for machinery manufacturers in China, sales rose as Chinese processors preferred to buy locally-made machinery from Taiwanese, Japanese, American, European and South Korean companies operating facilities in the country, from the likes of Engel/Wintec, Demag, KraussMaffei, Milacron and Toshiba.

Christian Blatt, CEO of KraussMaffei China, said local manufacturing is an important prerequisite to be able to offer customers more attractive delivery times. “We have a strong footprint in China, with our own sales and facility in Haiyan. Since 2015, we have sold more than 100 machines of the MX series.”

Meanwhile, more foreign-owned facilities in China are exporting their machines. “Having seen the current fluctuations in the Chinese market, and with less domestic customers, the factory in Haiyan supplies to not one but at least two regions, allowing KraussMaffei to be cushioned in part to any changes in local market conditions,” said Blatt.

Haitian’s Franz expects homegrown machinery suppliers to become more competitive in the global market. “The top destinations for machines from China are Japan, Germany, Taiwan and South Korea.”

Despite the large number of domestic-based foreign machinery makers, “Made-in-Germany” still sets standards, says German machinery maker Dr Boy, which showed its XS 100-tonne model that has a footprint of 0.77 sq m.

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“The trend is for compact, easy-to-operate machines. Equally important for Chinese processors is good and always present local service,” said Wolfgang Schmidt, Export Manager. With two distributors at several locations throughout China, Schmidt says the company has gained a foothold in the Chinese market.

Chinese market an influence globally; brighter future

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In 2015, the global IMM market continued to grow at a modest rate of 1.8% in terms of volume and is expected to generate a total value of EUR9.8 billion in 2018, says Vienna-headquartered market research firm Interconnection Consulting, adding that in 2016, the market value is expected to surpass EUR10 billion.

According to Interconnection, the global IMM market is strongly influenced by the Chinese market, which represents 40% of the total market demand. In the last four years, the value of the Chinese market has grown mainly due to increasing prices, while the sales volume has stagnated. Over this period, the Chinese market share decreased by 4%.

To cope with the challenging market conditions globally, Haitian is pushing its all-electrics and large machinery. “We are converting small tonnage hydraulic machines to electric solutions and large tonnage machines to two-platen solutions,” said Franz. Thus, sales of the all-electric Zhafir Venus series increased by 30%, with more than 1,700 orders, last year, an increase of 46% compared to 2014. Sales of the large two-platen Haitian Jupiter series reached nearly 500 units and rose by 40%, compared to 2014.

Quoting Interconnection research, Franz says the large machinery sector will have an annual growth of 8.2%, while 30,000 all-electric units will be sold this year alone in the global market. He also states that the future of hybrid machines is questionable. “Two-platen and electric machines are the way forward,” Franz added.

Even with the lower sales in China, there has been a positive shift from quantity and high productivity towards high quality, intelligent machines with an emphasis on resource saving and sustainability, says Interconnection.

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Thus, machine makers can look forward to charging higher prices, and in conclusion, have brighter prospects ahead.

As usual the automotive sector stole the show, with a number of machinery makers and materials suppliers taking the opportunity to showcase vehicle parts, or actual vehicles in some cases, at their booths

(IMA)


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