Strong growth and plenty of it for North American plastics machinery market in 2012


2012 was a capital year for North American plastics capital equipment, with orders for injection molding machines, blown-film lines, auxiliary equipment, thermoforming equipment, and hot runners all up compared to 2011. Even for single-screw extruders, where annual orders were down, albeit less than 2% (13 units), the full-year dollar value was up a gaudy 38% compared to 2011. The only market truly off in 2012 was the blowmolding segment. There, the total number of new of blowmolding machines ordered in 2012 was 67 units, down 18 from 2011, with the full-year dollar value off 34%.  All this data and more can be found in the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) Equipment Council's Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) Cross Sector Analysis for Fourth Quarter 2012.

SPI CES Statistics Q4 2012
Chart courtesy SPI Equipment Council

Injection molding shipments back over 3000
There were 3080 injection molding machines shipped in North America in 2012, with a value of  $846.9 million. Fourth quarter 2012 injection molding machines orders totaled 844 units, up 13% compared to the third quarter of 2012, and 15% higher than the fourth quarter of 2011. The annual total for the number of injection molding machines ordered in 2012 was up 16% when compared to 2011, and the value of those machines was up 20%.

The number of machines to be delivered in 2013 is forecast to grow 6%-8%, according to analysis by Mountaintop Economics & Research Inc.'s (MER) Bill Wood. If that prediction holds, a total of at least 3500 new injection molding machines will be ordered in 2013, with the dollar value of those machines forecast to expand by 6%-8%. Additional data points, comparing Q4 2012 to Q4 2011:

  • Electric machine orders rose 12%
  • Hydraulic machine orders up 17%
  • Horizontal machines up 17%
  • Vertical machines down 27%
  • Single material machines up 18%
  • Multimaterial machines down by 15 units

Single-screw extruders outpace twin-screw extruders
There was a total of 933 extrusion shipments in 2012, valued at $130.7 million. New orders for single-screw extruders totaled 251 units in the fourth quarter of 2012, up 27% compared to the
third quarter and 14% higher
compared with the fourth quarter of 2011.

Wood is forecasting the total number of single-screw extruders ordered in 2013 to rise 8%, putting the full year total at 960 units, with the value expected to grow 10%.

There were 25 twin-screw extruders ordered in the fourth quarter, down four from the third quarter but up two compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. For the full year, twin-screw units were down 29% compared to 2011, with the drop more acute in co-rotating machines (down 31%) than counter-rotating machines (down 25%). The annual twin-screw dollars total was down 26% compared to 2011.

Blowmolding market takes a hit
There were 91 blowmolding machines shipped in 2012, excluding large units, with a value of $82.8 million. The full year dollar value of blowmolding machine orders in 2012 was down 34% compared with 2011. The $10.7 million worth of blowmolding machines ordered in the fourth quarter was up 7% compared with the third quarter,
but it was down fully 63% compared with
the year-ago quarter. Around 75 to 80 blowmolding machines are forecast to be shipped in 2013, with a dollar value of $75 million.

Auxiliaries rise, led by robots
There was $315 million worth of net bookings for the auxiliary sector in 2012, second only to injection molding machines in terms of total dollar value, with more than 35,000 units shipped last year. The total number of auxiliary machines booked in the fourth quarter of 2012 was
9196 units, up 8% from the third quarter and 21%
higher than the fourth quarter
of last year. Units
ordered were up 17% for all of 2012  when compared with the annual total from 2011, with the total value for auxiliary bookings for all of 2012 up 15%. Wood's forecast predicts an overall gain of 6%-8% in both the units and dollar totals in 2013.

Auxiliary exports were 20% higher in 2012, with a gain of 8% in export orders in 2013 forecast, as weakness in Europe will be offset by gains from Latin America and Mexico. Stats by segment:

  • Robot orders spiked 69% from Q4 2012 to Q4 2011; up 23% in 2012
  • Granulator orders up 28% in 2012
  • Water and temperature control units rose 24% Q4 2012 to Q4 2011; up 22% in '12
  • Material handling units jumped 15% Q4 2012 to Q4 2011; up 12% in 2012

Blown-film market mixed
Orders for new blown-film lines and new extruders were both up by three units in 2012 over 2011, but the full-year orders of dies, air rings, and winders were all substantially below the respective totals from 2011, according to the report. Wood is forecasting steady-to-down market conditions for first half of 2013, with more positive numbers expected for the second half.

Thermoforming market taking shape
The 173 new orders for thermoforming equipment in 2012 was up 24% over 2011, with the value of those machines 26% higher. The report noted that this is only the second year data has been collected for the thermoforming segment, making it more difficult to discern market trends. For the fourth quarter, there were 47 units ordered, up 20 units from the third quarter and 22 units year over year. In terms of value, Q4 orders were up 90% compared to the third quarter and 61% year over year, indicating some strength.

U.S. plastics market "chugging steadily upward"
The value of plastics shipments increased by 2% in the fourth quarter and was up 4% in 2012 compared with 2011, according to Census Bureau data. Wood  believes the sector has some momentum. "The total volume of plastics products manufactured in the U.S. is chugging steadily upward," Wood stated in the report, "and at the current pace, total U.S. output will get back to the pre-recession levels in 2014." MER forecast that plastics volume will grow by 5%, and the capacity utilization rate will exceed 82% by the end of 2013.

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