T-Plas 2015: Expansions form the basis of Thai show

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Thailand may be facing tough times, but it is still forging ahead. The recently concluded T-Plas show, held from 26-29 August in Bangkok, co-located with Pack Print International, welcomed around 500 exhibitors from more than 20 countries, including national pavilions and country groups from Austria, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. T-Plas, rebranded from Tiprex that was previously held in 2013, boasted about 20% more international exhibitors, according to Gernot Ringling, Managing Director, Messe Düsseldorf Asia, the organiser.

Automotive up the curve

The world’s seventh largest car producer, Thailand witnessed a slowdown in its automotive industry due to the slackening economy. In May, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) reported that vehicle production dropped 8.75% compared to the same period a year ago. In the first five months of the year, total production shrunk by 1.1%, compared to last year.

The decline presents various scenarios for the industry, including the probability of not reaching the target of producing 3 million cars/year by 2017. Other Asian countries like India, Indonesia and the Philippines are predicted to outpace Thailand in this segment, if the decline is unabated.

“There is no doubt that Thailand’s car industry is going down,” observed Robert Bodingbauer, President of Austria-headquartered injection moulding machine manufacturer Engel Korea, speaking at the recently held T-Plas show in Thailand.

The decline is not isolated though. “China’s car industry has grown in the last 20 years but in the last two months, it has gone down. The plastics machinery industry depends a lot on the car industry. So if the automotive sector is up then we are up, and vice-versa,” opined Bodingbauer.

Automotive makers, such as Mitsubishi and Nissan, are reportedly branching out from Thailand. South Korean car maker Hyundai is already looking to the Indian market and reported a 13.5% jump in sales in August. US car maker Ford‘s investment in India has also been on the upswing. It has, thus, expanded its Chennai plant, where it is building engines and vehicles, and dished out fresh investments for the Tamil Nadu state.

But not all vehicle makers have given up hope on Thailand. Toyota Motors recently opened a test drive centre near Bangkok, the 35,000 sq m Toyota Driving Experience Park, which reportedly cost close to US$3 million for the set-up alone.

And even with the current state of Thailand’s car industry, Engel remains rooted in the market. “We have an office in Thailand and we have projects here. The country is undoubtedly a key automotive pillar in the region on a long-term,” said Bodingbauer.

In Thailand, Engel has had its own sales office in Bangkok since 2010 and opened a subsidiary here in 2013. The privately owned company is the only European injection moulding machine manufacturer with three production plants in Asia: two in China and one in South Korea. “This guarantees short delivery times, flexible adaptation of products and turnkey solutions to meet local requirements, and fast service on-site,” added Bodingbauer. Engel achieved a global turnover of EUR1 billion in the 2014/2015 financial year.

Still rooting for Thailand

Another company that is still rooting for Thailand is Austrian auxiliary equipment and injection moulding machine maker, Wittmann Group. It has had a presence in Thailand for more than a decade, since 2004.

“Thailand is a good market for our machines and for the robots, too. We have installed quite a number of material handling systems,” Company President Werner Wittmann who was at T-Plas told PRA, further adding that the time has come for the company to “localise”.

Wittmann said that the Thai office had now moved to a newer level, with the appointment of a country manager, effective 1 September. “We see the potential growth of the Asian market for our business. It is now time for us to expand further,” he said, adding that he attended the show specially to appoint the manager, though he did not name the person.

“Thailand will now be exclusively managed with a local person and report directly to the headquarters in Austria rather than through our Singapore office.”

The owner/founder also added that the Singapore office would be focusing on moving ahead in the Indonesian market, which was also growing.

Meanwhile, its subsidiary Wittmann Battenfeld has extended its PowerSeries. Following the successful market launch of the all-electric EcoPower, the large machine model MacroPower and the MicroPower specially designed for moulding of micro and nano parts, the new SmartPower was introduced to the market.

Besides energy savings, the machine is said to be “unlimited” in terms of precision, efficiency, compact dimensions and userfriendliness.

Available in clamping force sizes from 25 to 120 tonnes, a 120/525 SmartPower was shown manufacturing a PETG blood tube with a 16-cavity mould supplied by Omni Mold, Singapore. A W818 servo traverse robot from Wittmann was shown removing the parts.

“The micromoulding machine for medical applications is quite interesting for the local market. This is one of the biggest markets here in Thailand, otherwise we would not have expanded and invested here,” Wittmann said, noting that one of the company’s key medical customers has a subsidiary in Thailand.

Arburg showcases latest technology

German injection moulding machine specialist Arburg has had a Thailand subsidiary, which expanded from a representative office, since 2001. It is, thus, pretty well ensconced in the Thai market.

At T-Plas, it presented two new offerings: its Allrounder 570H technology and the Freeformer (AKF) for additive manufacturing.

Arburg has been all agog since its Freeformer additive manufacturing machine made its debut at the K show in 2013. Since then the company has shown the machine at Chinaplas in Guangzhou and in Thailand for the first time at the T-Plas for the Southeast Asian market. Already a Freeformer has been sold to Singapore-based moulder Tempco Manufacturing that will be using it for prototyping.

“Tempco has 99 Arburg machines and has now ordered the 100th machine that will be arriving sometime in October. The first Freeformer for the Asian market was delivered to Tempco in late June,” said David Chan, Managing Director, Arburg Singapore, and also responsible for the entire ASEAN region.

Using the Arburg Plastic Freeforming process, the system additively manufactures design and functional samples from standard plastics based on 3D CAD data, without the need for a mould.

At T-Plas, the Freeformer combined a standard ABS granulate with a special support material. The supporting structures used during the additive manufacturing of the gear cards and spray heads for cosmetics containers can be subsequently removed in a water bath.

The Freeformer shown at T-Plas will make its way to Indonesia, for another exhibition at the year end, said David.

Tempco utilises its injection/compression machines to produce parts for the electric/ electronics market, including companies like GE, Schneider and Hager. Besides the traditional moulding, it undertakes thermoset compression/ injection moulding, insert/SMC moulding and TPE overmoulding.

Meanwhile, Arburg’s Allrounder 570H is the second-generation version of the hybrid Hidrive packaging machine that is meant for “very fast cycle rates”.

The so-called “Packaging” version is specially designed for the high demands of the packaging industry.

“The machine demonstrated on the floor ran about 260 kg of materials in 8 hours. In fact, an estimated 500 kg of materials can run per day.”

The high-speed hybrid Allrounder demonstrated the cost-effective production of drinks bottle closures, said David, adding, “This efficient high-speed machine produces 24 water bottle closures, with a weight of 1.25 g, in only 3 seconds.”

Besides the high productivity, it also offers reduced energy requirements for applications in the beverage industry. The exhibit featured a clamping force of 180 tonnes and a size 800 injection unit, and operated with a 24-cavity mould from Z-moulds.


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