From being a mere mechanical pile of churning out molded plastic products, the injection molding machinery industry today has become a major contributor in the process of converting plastics to complex and complicated parts and assemblies. The shift in the Indian injection molding industry where plastic processors have gone from ‘quality is secondary’ to ‘quality is everything’ has been possible due to social, economic, regulatory and technological factors.
It is important to understand megatrends to match or predict technological trends in any industry. Economic factors such as disposable incomes, imports of products and technological factors like stringent standards, cost reduction and weight reduction requirements are playing an important role in the injection molding industry. For a country like India, the exposure to the western counterparts have made the customers more demanding in terms of safer niche plastics molded products.
An industry favourite
At this juncture, it would be safe to say that injection molded products in India have attained the omnipresent status. “Segments that use injection molding technology include fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), household products, engineering, automotive, electrical/electronic and many other sectors. In fact, it touches nearly all facets of life. For instance, from a toothbrush to a razor to all caps on all bottles and also nearly all housings on electronics, are injection molded. By and large all these sectors are growing in consumption and the trend is towards better quality and sustainability. Moreover, additional opportunities are abound in multi-colour and multi-component injection molding. This implies that a lot of opportunities are set to come to the injection molding machinery sector in the coming years,” says Vagish Dixit, Managing Director, ALPLA India Pvt Ltd, a leading global company in the business of plastic bottles and caps for the FMCG segment.
From a rigid packaging perspective, Dixit highlights trend in the arena of bi-injection caps with turn-table, core-back and cube platforms. He believes that Indian machine manufactures can support the first two as of now. But thin walled containers (with and without in-mold decoration) are also an area of opportunity for manufacturers, since currently the machines for this application come mostly from Europe.
For injection molding machinery manufacturers, right now is the golden era as optimistic images of growth are being painted by all. “Around 35% of all polymers are converted using injection molding. The injection molding industry is driven by speed, productivity, reliability, energy conservation and automation. The machines are expected to provide faster production with lesser rejections,” opines Shirish V Divgi, Managing Director, Ferromatik Milacron India Ltd, one of the leading manufacturers of plastics injection molding machines in the country.
Elaborating further on the trends in this industry, Anil George, Co-Founder & Director, AutoDynamic Engineering Pvt Ltd, says, “Injection molding along with extrusion has now captured the industry because of elimination of a complete step in manufacturing of a plastic part. The process involves an extrusion process which directly feeds the material to the injection molding machine for manufacturing the part. This is called the injection molding compounder.”
George, who in his 23 years of experience has conceived and developed, specialised and customised plastics products for the automotive sector, adds, “Another recent trend involves technologies that optimise material cost. This can be in terms of optimised product design using the latest Computer-Aided Design (CAD) technologies, material advancements like use of light-weighting fillers, processes like foaming, gas, etc to reduce the material consumption.”
Following the latest customer demands, Windsor Machines Ltd, another leading manufacturer and exporter of plastics processing machinery, has been able to incorporate cutting-edge technology so as to increase reliability and performance of its machines. “The company, after its acquisition of Italtech (a European pioneer in injection molding machinery), offers the 4th and 5th generation of two platen machines. The latest generation ‘KL series’ machines have patented technologies providing the most advanced two platen technology in the world. The tie bars are perfectly aligned, shorter in length and need no guiding in moving platen, eliminating need of lubrication. Thus, making the machine clean. With the innovative and patented jaw clamping system, the nut mechanism is synchronised, which eliminates banging of nuts on tie bars. This results in reduced maintenance cost. The machines will be offered in the VDP version and servo version. With latter system, the energy consumption can be reduced by 50% to 70% as compared to a conventional hydraulic system,” claims Nitin Chowdhary, Deputy CEO, Windsor Machines Ltd.
The gleaming outlook
In one of India’s biggest plastics exhibitions, Plastivision India 2013, organised by The All India Plastics Manufacturers’ Association (AIPMA) in December, it was observed that machinery manufacturers displayed many advancements in all-electric injection molding machines, thermal heating system for barrel heating in place of conventional heaters and further improvements in servo systems.
In the views of C P Bhartia, Managing Director, Jagdamba Polymer Pvt Ltd, which recently won the First National Award for Lean Manufacturing Techniques, by the Govt. of India, the outlook for injection molding industry is extremely positive. Sharing a processor’s perspective, he adds, “We are set to reach polymer processing of about 2 million tonne by 2020 from the present 1 million tonne. This is expected to make India the second largest processor after China in the world. So be it a machinery manufacturer or a plastics processor, now is the time we take technology very seriously so that we fire our engines and march ahead with full force.”