Yizumi sees German R&D base bringing 'affordable' high-tech to China

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Photo by Yizumi Precision Machinery Ltd. Visitors at a Yizumi Connect Day event earlier in November.

Chinese plastics equipment maker Yizumi Precision Machinery Ltd. is setting up a research centre in Germany, in a push to adapt manufacturing technology from high-cost spots like Europe to mass-market factories in places like China.

CEO Richard Yan outlined the company's thinking behind a series of R&D investments, including a new research and training facility in China, at a mid-November technical conference at its headquarters in Shunde.

Earlier this year, Yizumi announced it would open a technical research centre in Germany, at RWTH Aachen University, which is well known for work in plastics.

"We just registered the research centre in Europe [and] now it's under recruiting," Yan told journalists at a Nov. 15 news conference during the event, which drew 750 people to hear from European and Chinese technology experts. "And we hope the team can be ready in March next year."

The research centre will "make better application of those ready achievements of very advanced research in Germany. We orient affordable advanced plastics injection moulding and processing solutions for mass users in China and worldwide," he said.

"In the long run, I trust our operation in Europe will provide more and better opportunity for domestic [Chinese] engineers' development," he said. "Connecting directly with advanced European technology in this area. This is a just beginning."

Yizumi, which is one of China's largest makers of injection moulding machines, has been targeting global markets.

In 2011, it bought the intellectual property of bankrupt US injection press maker HPM. In October it opened a new headquarters facility for its US subsidiary.

The machinery maker also is building an innovation and testing centre at its existing manufacturing plant in Wusha, near its Shunde headquarters, with 140,000 square feet for research, training and offices.

Yan hopes to have that R&D centre operating in the next 15 months.

"Industry upgrading is very tough, involving huge investment on equipment and people," he said. "Our mission is to popularize the advanced technology, to make it less expensive and easy to be used. And I hope this transformation is done by our training in this centre."

One area of focus will be plastics foaming technologies and moulding with both plastic and fibres. Having a stronger European research base will also "make sure our machines are suitable for various tough environments," he said.

As part of its technical development, last year the company hired Hans Wobbe, the former Engel chief technology officer, as its chief strategy officer. Wobbe also worked at the Institute for Plastics Processing at RWTH University.

Yan said China's domestic market is part of what is driving the upgrade, as what is broadly defined as the middle class in China grows from 200 million people to 500 million.

"The potential yearning for better products is unavoidable," he said. "This new market trend for better products will definitely drive the upgrading in product designs, manufacturing enhancement, and processing optimization. I have a very optimistic view on the general plastic machinery market in China."

He said China's plastics equipment industry in the past focused its product development on making improvements in how machines performed, but now needs to broaden to have a much deeper understanding of processing research, including how the end plastic product is used and their customers' needs.

"Now we spend more effort on understanding the new materials and new processes involved within the newly established testing centre, although our core business is still press making," he said.

Yan said European engineers put more focus on talking with customers about their needs, a "total solution," rather than simply focusing on machine developments like making the equipment more accurate.

It's a direction Yizumi's Chinese engineers need to go in, he said.

"In this regard, we're just primary students, but [European engineers] are university students already," Yan said.

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