Based on evidence from the K 2010 trade show in Germany, things might be looking up for the injection molidng machine industry.

According to figures released during the show by the Washington, D.C.-based Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), U.S. orders for injection molding machines – which constitute the industry’s largest machinery segment – is approximately 900 units ahead of the number of placed this time last year.  

It’s a tale of probable growth echoed by the press suppliers themselves. For the Vienna, Austria-based Wittmann Group, for example, order entries in 2010 will reach the pre-recession level of 2008. “We are now experiencing a sharp upturn after a sharp downturn,” said company founder Dr. Werner Wittmann at the company’s K show press conference. “We’ve seen strong bookings particularly during the summer months. June was a record month for order entries in our history.”

Revenue is forecast at 200M euros ($284 million) for 2010. About 40 per cent of this will be from its injection molding machines business unit Wittmann Battenfeld, and 60 per cent from its robots and auxiliary equipment business Wittmann Kunststoffgerate.

North America and Brazil are good markets for Wittmann this year, as is Europe, where the biggest increase in sales has come from Germany. China has been very strong. Wittmann has doubled its sales of robots in China this year.

Wittmann’s sales of injection molding machines have increased, and Dr. Wittmann said his company has gained considerable market share in this area. The company’s EcoPower design has been well received, he notes.

Total Wittmann Group revenue for 2011 is forecast at 250M euros ($355 million).

And with a 60 per cent growth in sales this financial year (Apr 1, 2010 to Mar 31, 2011) injection molding machine manufacturer Engel-Group, Schwertberg, Austria, expects to almost match the record level of the boom year 2008/2009.

For a deeper look at the Canadian and U.S. part of Engel’s business, Canadian Plastics sat down during the K event with Mark Sankovitch, president of Engel Machinery, Inc. in York, Pa., and Marie-France Sosa, Engel’s sales representative in Quebec. “We experienced a 50 per cent drop in sales in the U.S. and Canada in 2009,” said Sankovitch, “But we’ve turned the corner in calendar year 2010.” A large percentage of Engel’s business is geared to automotive, and this sector was hit hard during the 2009 recession.

“We saw a bit of resurgence of the automotive industry in the U.S., and with that, orders increased by the end of the first quarter this year,” said Sankovitch. “This has continued at a rapid pace, with a big uptick in orders in the past two or three months.”

“Canada is just picking up now, and the momentum is building. We’ve just secured a couple of big auto-related orders.”

Going forward, Sankovitch sees the largest opportunity in Canada in automotive and packaging. He sees a shift in the packaging arena to more energy-efficient injection molding machines, and more interest in Engel’s all-electric high-speed injection molding machines for caps and closures.

Although its Guelph, Ont. plant is closed and the building up for sale, Sankovitch stresses Engel’s continued commitment to the Canadian market. The company employs three service technicians in Ontario and two in Quebec. Its spare parts depot has been centralized to the York facility to serve all of North America.

Marie-France Sosa added that Engel’s decision to close the Guelph facility ensured the company’s financial health, and thus its ability to continue to invest in new technology.

Finally, managing partner Michael Hehl predicted at I/M machine supplier Arburg’s press conference at the K show that his company’s turnover level for 2010 will even exceed that of 2008. This corresponds to consolidated revenue of over 340M euros ($483 million) and an anticipated growth of over 50 per cent compared with 2009. Arburg KmbH + Co KG is headquartered in Lossburg, Germany.

“Looking back, we can say that Arburg has emerged stronger from the recession,” Hehl told the press conference. “One reason for this is the fact that we contunued to develop our products in a consistent and future-oriented manner. Another is the fact that we came through that difficult period with no staff cuts and, more importantly, continued to invest in our employees.” Arburg employs a staff of over 2,000 worldwide, of whom around 1,700 are based in Germany.


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