An Overview & Future Development Trend of the Chinese Plastic Injection Molding Industry

The production of plastic products starts with the design and development of plastic molds, which are a basic tool for manufacturing of plastic products. As a result, the mold precision has a direct influence on the structural integrity and dimensional accuracy of the end plastic products. The production of all plastic products has to go through the several steps that include design & making of plastic molds, injection molding and surface finishing, among which the precision mold features a complex structure and therefore imposes high requirements for surface quality and technical standards. Since it is a technology-intensive as well as capital-intensive product, many technologies need to be involved in its production process, including high-speed machining, super-finishing, rapid prototyping, automatic control, processing and applications of polymeric materials, etc., covering the areas of machinery, metal materials, polymeric materials, electronics & electrics and automatic control, imposing high comprehensive requirements on technologies.

 

1.Overview of the Plastic Industry

Plastics are malleable (seldom non-malleable) materials that are consisting of synthetic or natural high molecular compounds. They are produced under certain temperature and pressure conditions, assisted with additives of plasticizer, filler, lubricant, injection agent and more. Plastics are widely used in modern society thanks to its light weight, high plasticity, low production cost and diversified functions. Currently, as one of the four basic materials that support the development of modern society (the other three are steel, wood and cement), the high molecular compound material has become a new material that is indispensable to human life. Its application covers the many areas of information, energy, industry, agriculture and transportation, etc. In recent years, the plastic manufacturing industry of China has witnessed a rapid development with an ever-increasing scale – it is now one of the essential parts of the Chinese economy.

 

In 2013, production of chinese plastic products totaled 61.886,6 million tons, representing a year-on-year increase of 8.02%; as of December 2014, the number of above-scale plastic manufacturing enterprises reached 14,062; prime operating revenue hit 2,039.239 billion CNY, representing a year-on-year increase of 8.92%; total profit reached 118.286 billion CNY, a year-on-year increase of 4.24%; export delivery value reached 226.066 billion CNY, a year-on-year increase of 2.82%. Therefore, it is obvious that the production scale of the Chinese plastic manufacturing industry is being continuously expanded and production is increasing year by year, though year-on-year increase rate slows down a little bit over the past two years.

 

If viewed from the different segments of the plastic manufacturing industry, the most widely used plastic products are plastic pipes & fittings, plastic wires and plastic weaving products, followed by plastic films and plastic packaging containers, while household plastic products and plastic parts rank third. Among them, the prime operating revenue and export delivery value of plastic parts have reflected a rising trend over the past five years. The increase rate was particularly high during the 2010-2011 period, with prime operating revenue increasing from 237.282 billion CNY to 709.559 billion CNY, representing an increase of nearly 200%, while export delivery value increased from 63.579 billion CNY to 191.426 billion CNY; from 2012 to 2014, though increase rate slowed down slightly, the prime operating revenue was still on the rise, which hit 939.413 billion CNY as of 2014.

 

2. Overview of Mold Manufacturing Industry

As an intermediate product used for the production of end product, molds are basic processing equipment that are machined by using a wide range of materials, such as plastic, rubber, metal, powder, glass and FRP, etc. Mold processing is one of the most important ways of material molding. Compared with machining, its benefits include less process steps, higher material utilization ratio, less energy consumption, ease of production, higher profitability and more. Thus, it is widely used in the manufacturing of automobile, energy, machinery, electronics, information, aviation, as well as household commodities. According to statistics, 75% parts of the rough processing industry and 50% parts of the precision processing industry are molded, while 80% parts of the home appliance industry and over 70% parts of the ME industry are also mold-processed. As the mold industry is helpful for driving the development of other related industries, it is often dubbed the profit amplifier.

 

Though the mold industry of China had an early start, it was kept as an affiliate of downstream production-oriented enterprises, which restricted the development of molding enterprises, and molds were not listed in the ME product catalogue until the year of 1987. At that time, there were approx. 6,000 mold factories in China, which yielded a total production value of 3 billion CNY. After more than two decades of development, the Chinese mold industry has made a remarkable progress. As of 2013, the number of mold companies had reached 30,000, with a total output value of approx. 220 billion CNY and an annual export value of nearly 5 billion CNY. Currently, the largest markets of Chinese molding lie in the following industries of automobile, IT, home appliance & office equipment, machinery and building materials. Along with the rapid growth of national economy and improvement of people’s income level, there is a growing demand for automobiles, consumer electronics and home appliances, allowing these industries to embrace a speedy development phase in recent years. This constitutes one of the most important reasons for the rapid development of China’s mold industry. The following diagram shows the 2007 – 2013 mold production value of China. We can see that the production value of China’s mold industry has witnessed a rapid growth in recent years, increasing from 87 billion CNY in 2007 to 210.6 billion CNY in 2013, with an increase rate much higher than the overall level of the world mold industry.

 

3. Development Trend of the Mold & Plastic Industry

Along with the gradual industrial transformation and upgrade, as well as the increasing proportion of high-end products and continuous improvement of basic supporting services, there’s still much value in plastic production. Though it is witnessing a slower increase rate of production, the output value is still increasing at a relatively fast pace. We can tell that the plastic processing industry still shows a sign of rise. As one of the indicators to measure the development level of a country’s plastic industry, the ratio between plastic and metal is only 30:70 in China, falling far behind the world average (50:50) and the developed countries like Germany (63:37) and America (70:30). Hence, with technological advancement and consumption upgrade, the plastic industry of China will maintain a steady development pace.

 

The mold industry which forms a basic industry in national economy, is specifically involved in machinery, automobile, optical industry, electronics, chemistry, metallurgy, building materials and more industries, representing a very wide and comprehensive scope of application. China’s industry is developing rapidly, among which, the development of automotive manufacturing, IT and medical device offers a great development opportunity for the entire mold industry.

 

Currently, China is experiencing an industrial restructuring, with national objectives for emerging industries planned as: by the year of 2020, the increased value of strategic emerging industries is aimed to account for about 15% of GDP. To achieve this 15% target, among all the seven strategic emerging industries, as the pillar of national economy, the high-end equipment manufacturing industry will be vigorously developed, so the mold industry which is dubbed “the mother of modern industry”, will definitely benefit from the development of high-end equipment manufacturing.

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International Mold Supply Chain Further Leans Towards China Mold Companies

When compared to the past, the technological level of the Chinese mold industry has been greatly improved, but the proportions of high, medium and low-end molds produced by Chinese manufacturers are extremely imbalanced, which severely hampers the development of the Chinese mold industry. Over the past few years, tremendous changes have taken place in the industrial structure as well as the system of the Chinese mold industry, which are mainly represented by: medium- & high-level molds, large sizes, precision, complexity and long lifecycle, but the self-sufficiency rate of medium- & high-end molds falls below 60%, due to the fact that China has an enormous demand for medium- and low-level molds. It is easy to see the irrationality lying in this situation.

The industry has pointed out that the proportions of high, medium and low-level molds produced by Chinese manufacturers are extremely imbalanced, which severely hampers the development of the Chinese mold industry. The pace of restructuring needs to be quickened urgently with emphasis on development of the high-end market segment, so as to keep pace with the international market.

How to keep pace with the international market? The mold industry in China needs to speed up restructuring, while at the same time making efforts to improve technological level.

It is mainly reflected in the following aspects: i. Restraints, such as mold steel; ii. The level of standardization needs further improvement; iii. Top-level mold talents need to be cultivated desperately; iv. Quicken the pace of mold product restructuring; v. Increase investment to enhance innovation capability; vi. Promote consolidation and restructuring among mold enterprises; vii. Further deepen the exploration of overseas market.

The downstream suppliers, especially the automotive industry, have a high degree of dependence on importation when the key and core molds are concerned. As a result, a host of key and core injection molded parts that OEM products need are also supplied by these world-renowned mold enterprises.

In recent years, Chinese mold companies have continuously improved mold technologies and products. Therefore, some plastic molds and injection molded parts start to be distributed internationally, have successfully made it to the supply chain system of some high-end industries and even replaced some imported products, dependence on importation is thus eliminated. However, it is undeniable that, the companies that have got into international high-end market are few in number.

In the Chinese mold industry, along with the improvement of technological level and gradual increase of product lines, some international OEM industries are now further leaning towards Chinese companies, which presents not only an opportunity, but also a challenge. It is believed that by 2015, the mold self-sufficiency rate in the Chinese market will reach 85%, among which the self-sufficiency rate of high-end molds will witness a remarkable increase.

According to experts, in addition to continuous improvement of productivity, the Chinese mold industry needs to pay more attention to internal restructuring, as well as technological advancement. The focus is mainly on realization of a more specialized enterprise structure; a product structure that is oriented towards higher end molds; improvement towards the import & export structure; molding analysis & structural improvement of medium- & high-end automotive panels; application of multifunctional composite mold, combined machining technology and laser technology in design and manufacturing of molds; as well as the development orientation towards high-speed cutting, ultra-precision processing, polishing technology and informationization, etc.

With the thorough transformation of the machine tool industry, the Chinese mold industry is experiencing technological innovation and product upgrade, while also proactively exploring the international market. In the competition with international competitors, the Chinese mold industry is making the most of its strengths, in an attempt to secure a place in international market. So, what advantages does Chinese mold industry have over the international mold industry?

Advantage 1: Strong national policy support should not be ignored;

Advantage 2: Gradual improvement of infrastructure creates possibilities for the ever increasing market demand;

Advantage 3: Transfer of world mold industry center to China, as well as the wide application of e-commerce will create extraordinary business opportunities for the Chinese mold industry;

Advantage 4: Compared with European and American countries, the low labor and material costs will make China the center of attention under the current circumstances that there’s an urgent need to bring down cost in the international market.

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More Plating Tips for Plastic Injection Molded Parts

There are many, many plating tips and secrets of the trade that one learns throughout the years.  You may have heard some of these, but following are a few key pointers to keep in mind.  They could save you a lot of time and aggravation down the road.

Avoid using chrome when molding with polyvinylchloride (PVC).  Chloride is a component used to strip chrome off of steel; therefore the chrome will slowly dissolve due to the gases emitted from the chloride in the PVC.  There is an old school of thought that chrome is better than nickel.  Don’t believe it in this case.

Polytetrofluoroethylene, or PTFE, breaks down at 550xF.  If you are using a molding application requiring mold temperatures that exceed this level, avoid PTFE and go with nickel or chrome.  The PTFE, though useful for release, will break down and shut you down. It is not a bad idea to occasionally use different combinations of plating.  Depending on what kind of performance you require from your mold, consider having more than one plating material for optimum efficiency.  For example, if you require abrasion and corrosion protection, a base layer of electroless nickel (for corrosion) and a top layer of hard chrome (for abrasion) are recommended.  The two work together very well.

Technology now allows us to skillfully and effectively mask off even the most remote areas of a mold so that very localized plating can be applied.  Selective plating with electroless nickel, for example, is a great way to correct size on threaded cores or slides for ring necks threads.  This application is good for corrections under .004 inch per side. Need just abrasion protection?  Go for hard chrome with a heavy flash of between .0004 and .0006 inch – especially if you are using glass-filled materials.

If corrosion protection is needed, an electroless nickel .0002 to .0004 inch deposit is an excellent choice.  If corrosion protection and release is needed, a co-deposit of electroless nickel and PTFE – 25 percent by volume – is a proven combination.

When selecting electroless nickel for rubber molding, we have seen sulfur-cured materials still unwilling to release, so a heavy topcoat of PTFE is usually required.

An effective use for chrome is shimming or correcting for size on inserts, cavities and cores.  You can mask and selectively plate the parts up to a .020 inch deposit, finishing it with either grinding or EDM.

As always, when choosing plating you need to know what type of steel grade and what plastic material will be molded.  Communicate these details to your experienced plating house and, based on your molding requirements, you will have the ultimate finish on your molding surfaces, saving you time and money and producing the high quality parts your customer expects.

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A Competitive Mold Maker

A Competitive Mold Maker

In recent years, the Chinese mold industry has witnessed rapid growth. Along with the development of experience, introduction of cutting-edge technologies, as well as the hiring of well-trained specialists from all around the world, both the design and manufacturing of injection molds in China have been improving substantially. Nevertheless, as with any other industries, the Chinese mold industry is faced with great challenges in its development course. As affected by the past recession, Chinese economy is experiencing many problems and issues, including not only the automotive industry, but also many other industries, among which, the mold industry is one of the most affected, though everything is getting better as the economy is recovering.

In addition to that, the labor cost in China is also keeping rising in recent years – another factor that affects the healthy growth of the mold industry. According to the latest statistics, the cost of molds produced in some developed countries like America and Japan is not much higher than the ones made in China. This presents another challenge to all Chinese mold manufacturers.

And though the overall competition has been as tough as always, today’s competition from both within and outside China is exceptionally fierce. These are just some examples of the many huge challenges mold makers in China have to face. Most of them are trying to figure out what to do until things change for the better. But who knows what the future holds for them? So, what do they need to do to respond to the challenges and thrive?

Keep in mind that times have changed, and what was working in the past may not be working for now. This is an opportunity for you, because you can make use of the changes to provide the creative tension that keeps you moving ahead. New ways of doing business may be explored during the relatively tough times. Undoubtedly, each mold maker may have its own unique problems and issues, but here’s what you may want to do now to help drive healthy business development:

Take Full Advantage of Market Competition

Speedy execution is the key to taking advantage of new markets.  Businesses in the mold-making sector that make timely efforts to respond to the emerging situations will be the most competitive ones. It will be particularly true if business growth speeds up and a company finds it hard to meet demands with the current capacity. Far-sighted mold makers will be moving forward aggressively with regards to emerging markets, new development sectors and product opportunities through strategic collaboration on a global basis.

Most of all, we must be open to searching for innovative new products and technologies that will considerably strengthen our existing product lines and promote business growth.  Try hard to find out what kind of new products and new technologies are available that can help your business grow. It is suggested that you find products from overseas markets, to supplement your existing products or expand your product portfolio. The key is to extensively explore the alternatives. There are mold makers that have already found critical new products and technologies from both within and outside China. If we are not open enough to accept new technologies and products from the outside, we may soon find ourselves in a surviving mode.

Vigorously Develop New Technologies

New technologies are able to help reduce your operational cost, enhance product quality and improve customer experience. New advanced technologies are being created every day. Why not make use of this as the driver and the enabler for your business growth. Place particular focus on customer relationship management irrespective of your company size and scale.

Get the Most Out of Your Business Strategy

Take the changes in market as a good opportunity to re-consider your core business values. This initiative will help you get input from the employees through engaging them on a daily basis. If you can ask them for their extra efforts, you will get the chance to cross-train your team members in various positions. Be sure to let them know that they are playing a critical role in building brand reputation and creating customer loyalty. As time goes, you will gain a competitive edge because the cultural shift allows your team members to be more supportive and look at the big picture with a better understanding.

Sustainment and development of a strong business relationship is a very good starting point to work hard on. Frequently interact with your customers to learn about their business development trend and then find out how you can help them sell more of their products and services. The importance of customer service should never be underestimated, but it always necessitates fortification. As long as you wish to create customer loyalty and sustain a competitive edge, your service level must stand out from the competition by differentiating your approach to sales and marketing. Put innovation at the heart of your strategy, and be willing to take risks. By offering what the customer really needs and wants, you will build a beneficial customer relationship that brings enduring profitability.

Take another look at your overall business strategy, embrace changes, seek for opportunities to expand your services and try to penetrate new markets. This way, you will stand out as a leading Chinese mold manufacturer who is able to determine its own future and potential.

In recent years, the Chinese mold industry has witnessed rapid growth. Along with the development of experience, introduction of cutting-edge technologies, as well as the hiring of well-trained specialists from all around the world, both the design and manufacturing of injection molds in China have been improving substantially. Nevertheless, as with any other industries, the Chinese mold industry is faced with great challenges in its development course. As affected by the past recession, Chinese economy is experiencing many problems and issues, including not only the automotive industry, but also many other industries, among which, the mold industry is one of the most affected, though everything is getting better as the economy is recovering.

In addition to that, the labor cost in China is also keeping rising in recent years – another factor that affects the healthy growth of the mold industry. According to the latest statistics, the cost of molds produced in some developed countries like America and Japan is not much higher than the ones made in China. This presents another challenge to all Chinese mold manufacturers.

And though the overall competition has been as tough as always, today’s competition from both within and outside China is exceptionally fierce. These are just some examples of the many huge challenges mold makers in China have to face. Most of them are trying to figure out what to do until things change for the better. But who knows what the future holds for them? So, what do they need to do to respond to the challenges and thrive?

Keep in mind that times have changed, and what was working in the past may not be working for now. This is an opportunity for you, because you can make use of the changes to provide the creative tension that keeps you moving ahead. New ways of doing business may be explored during the relatively tough times. Undoubtedly, each mold maker may have its own unique problems and issues, but here’s what you may want to do now to help drive healthy business development:

Take Full Advantage of Market Competition

Speedy execution is the key to taking advantage of new markets.  Businesses in the mold-making sector that make timely efforts to respond to the emerging situations will be the most competitive ones. It will be particularly true if business growth speeds up and a company finds it hard to meet demands with the current capacity. Far-sighted mold makers will be moving forward aggressively with regards to emerging markets, new development sectors and product opportunities through strategic collaboration on a global basis.

Most of all, we must be open to searching for innovative new products and technologies that will considerably strengthen our existing product lines and promote business growth.  Try hard to find out what kind of new products and new technologies are available that can help your business grow. It is suggested that you find products from overseas markets, to supplement your existing products or expand your product portfolio. The key is to extensively explore the alternatives. There are mold makers that have already found critical new products and technologies from both within and outside China. If we are not open enough to accept new technologies and products from the outside, we may soon find ourselves in a surviving mode.

Vigorously Develop New Technologies

New technologies are able to help reduce your operational cost, enhance product quality and improve customer experience. New advanced technologies are being created every day. Why not make use of this as the driver and the enabler for your business growth. Place particular focus on customer relationship management irrespective of your company size and scale.

Get the Most Out of Your Business Strategy

Take the changes in market as a good opportunity to re-consider your core business values. This initiative will help you get input from the employees through engaging them on a daily basis. If you can ask them for their extra efforts, you will get the chance to cross-train your team members in various positions. Be sure to let them know that they are playing a critical role in building brand reputation and creating customer loyalty. As time goes, you will gain a competitive edge because the cultural shift allows your team members to be more supportive and look at the big picture with a better understanding.

Sustainment and development of a strong business relationship is a very good starting point to work hard on. Frequently interact with your customers to learn about their business development trend and then find out how you can help them sell more of their products and services. The importance of customer service should never be underestimated, but it always necessitates fortification. As long as you wish to create customer loyalty and sustain a competitive edge, your service level must stand out from the competition by differentiating your approach to sales and marketing. Put innovation at the heart of your strategy, and be willing to take risks. By offering what the customer really needs and wants, you will build a beneficial customer relationship that brings enduring profitability.

Take another look at your overall business strategy, embrace changes, seek for opportunities to expand your services and try to penetrate new markets. This way, you will stand out as a leading Chinese mold manufacturer who is able to determine its own future and potential.