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The 'new' imports: where they fit.

A growing list of relatively unfamiliar injection machine suppliers, mainly from Pacific Rim countries, are seeking a niche in the U.S. market. Here's a get-acquainted guide to the machine builders, their U.S. agents, and the machines themselves.

You may have encountered them at recent trade shows, or read about them in the pages of plastics magazines: In the last couple of years or so, a slew of unfamiliar brands of imported injection machines have turned up on our shores, mostly from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea. Many of these brands have just recently made their first foray into the U.S. market. Some of them have been here for a while but still are much less well known than machines from Japan or Europe.

These newer imports have experienced varying degrees of success in gaining a foothold here. For example, Excel Machinery Corp., formerly in Schaumburg, Ill., which distributed Fong Kee and FCS injection molding machines from Taiwan, closed its doors in January. Still others have succeeded in establishing a customer base and are expanding their presence.

This article presents a brief introduction to these suppliers and their products. It is not meant to recommend one product over another, nor can it replace a detailed engineering analysis of machines, which should be a part of any buying decision.

COMMITMENT TO THE MARKET

Suppliers of these Asian imports report that one key question on the minds of potential customers is whether or not a company is here to stay. According to Gary Eddington, v.p. of Welltec U.S.A., Inc., which has been marketing its Cosmo line of Hong Kong injection machines here since 1986, a typical molder "is hoping that there will be spare parts, service, and a company that he can go back to in five years when he needs something."

As Eddington points out, costs of shipping, troubleshooting, service, and spare parts make injection machine sales a capital-intensive business. In gauging the potential longevity of a company in this market, it's helpful to look at both the home office as well as the U.S. sales and service network. Historically, many of these new nameplates have begun through distributorships, which then open branch offices as business grows. A few suppliers have taken a different approach by opening direct U.S. subsidiaries.

Welltec, which has been building injection molding machines in Hong Kong since the late 1970s, introduced its first machines here through a distributorship and opened a U.S. office in 1990, a fact that Eddington says underscores its commitment to the U.S. market. It has tech centers in Miami, Baltimore, and San Francisco, staffed with service people capable of installing and troubleshooting machines. It also sells parts-removal robots and sprue pickers, which it markets primarily with its own machines.

Other overseas suppliers that have set up U.S. direct-sales offices include Lucky-Goldstar of Korea. A subsidiary of Goldstar Electronics Corp., Lucky-Goldstar signed a technology transfer agreement with Toshiba and began manufacturing injection machines in 1969. It has been marketing its injection molding machines here since 1987. Last year, the company sold 70 of its machines in the U.S. Other suppliers that reportedly also set up U.S. offices recently include TMC of America and Nan Rong Machinery, both of Taiwan.

Among the companies that have established distributorships here, Dong Shin of Korea was established in 1967 and began manufacturing injection molding machines two years later. In 1985 it signed a technical cooperation agreement with Japan Steel Works. The company, which opened a second manufacturing plant in 1990, claims to have over 7000 injection molding machines in the Korean market and has exported over 3000 machines worldwide.

Jon Wai Machinery Works of Taiwan produces around 500 injection machines per year out of a 100,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility employing 120 people. The largest unit it has produced was a 2000-tonner in 1986.

Hong Kong-based Tat Ming Engineering Works, which manufactures a 22-ton machine sold here by EMI Corp., started manufacturing injection presses in 1950. It began exporting machines 10 years later and sells over 500 machines per year.

ADAPTING TO LOCAL NEEDS

One obvious question is whether these imported machines meet the expectations of North American molders. Several of the Asian suppliers and their U.S. reps admit to encountering early problems in this regard, and have taken different approaches in bridging the gap between conditions here and those in the manufacturer's domestic market.

For example, Welltec's B series machine, first introduced here in 1986, had a smaller tiebar distance than comparable U.S. machines, says Gary Eddington. Two years later the company decided to do a complete re-design of its machines. Its C series and latest E series machines are claimed to be "ruggedized" for the U.S. market, with wider tiebar spacing and sturdier components.

Other manufacturers have gone to varying lengths in making their machines palatable to U.S. molders. B&B Machinery Inc., which sells the Dong Shin line in this country under the Promax name, equips them with Barber-Colman MACO 4000 controls for closed-loop operation and SPC requirements. B&B has contracted 13 outside service people, says Dan Beard. Lucky-Goldstar's controls come from its parent, Goldstar Electronics, which, although based in Korea, is well established in the U.S.

YCI Inc., which represents Taiwan-based Jon Wai Machinery Works, offers square tiebar spacing and increased platen size for the U.S. market, according to national sales manager David Baldwin. Daylight is also said to be comparable to U.S. machines of the same tonnage. Jon Wai will supply customer-requested optional features, although this can extend the delivery time in many cases. In the future, Baldwin expects YCI to supply such "value-added" features after the machines arrive in the U.S., helping to reduce costs of customizing machines to the U.S. market. And in an effort to improve documentation, YCI requests Jon Wai to supply its manuals in English, which are then edited by the distributor.

One machine that is said to be designed and built from scratch for the U.S. market is the MC 22, distributed by EMI Corp. The 22-ton hydraulic machine was designed and built by Tat Ming according to specs supplied by Cincinnati Milacron. The basic, no-frills machine is equipped with open-loop controls and relatively few options, although at $23,200, it's priced to be competitive in this market. Control functions are easy to set and read, and components are claimed to be selected for durability as well as local replacement.

One interesting feature on the MC 22 is a reportedly unique hydraulic clamp cylinder design that helps prevent oil leakage from cylinder seal wear. Oversized twin clamp cylinders incorporate a static rod and piston arrangement that does not move during mold opening and closing. Instead, two-way oil flow and pressure within the cylinder is used to move the platen.

Another example, that of Taiwan-based TABULAR DATA OMITTED Chuan Li Fa (CLF), serves as an interesting contrast to this approach of adapting the machine design to suit the U.S. market. Machinery Systems International, which began importing CLF machines in 1988, decided against requesting CLF to change its machine for export to the U.S. Rather than risk selling a machine that was changed without the proper engineering backup, MSI decided to work within the machine's limitations, says director of marketing Mike Santa. "We sold the machine at an appropriate price so there was a distinct advantage, and tried to manage the expectations of the customer so that he knew what he was buying."

Between 1988 and 1990, MSI inventoried up to $6 million in spare parts, kept 15-20 machines in stock, hired and trained its own service technicians, and held maintenance seminars. The effort paid off: In those two years, MSI sold 125 CLF machines. (A change in market conditions has since caused MSI to "de-emphasize" the CLF line, although it still sells and supports the machines in the Midwest. Since then, CLF has contracted with Advanced Injection Machinery (A.I.M.) of Memphis, Tenn., to represent the line elsewhere in the U.S.)

Early CLF machines experienced tiebar breakages and wear on components such as pins and bushings, says Santa. "These machines typically do not have the uptime that 'world-class' manufacturers have." In his view, most of the problems may have originated in steel procurement and heat treating. He adds that CLF has made continuous improvements in this area.
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Title Annotation:injection molding machines
Author:De Gaspari, John
Publication:Plastics Technology
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Words:1406
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