Tariffs, trade wars, tax break top the year in machinery news

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Photo by Michael A. Marcotte Visitors check out exhibits at NPE2018 in Orlando, Fla.

For the US plastics machinery industry — as well as the entire plastics industry — 2018 was highlighted by the tough task of trying to figure out international trade wars, myriad tariffs and the rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

As always, President Donald Trump was in the news, for the trade skirmishes as well as for a sweeping tax reform that kicked off 2018 and sparked investment in machinery. The immediate 100% write-off for capital machinery purchases was the big incentive. Now, officials in the machinery sector will be watching how long its impact lasts.

Add in the lowest US unemployment rate in 50 years and 2018 shaped up to be a strong year, but one facing challenges of future growth.

There were a few major deals. Platinum Equity bought Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. for nearly $3.85bn (€3.38bn) from Berkshire Partners LLC and the private equity arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.

Davis-Standard LLC bought Brampton Engineering Inc. The deal, coming three years after DS acquired Gloucester Engineering Co., cemented the company's place as a major force in blow film equipment.

Two Japanese injection moulding machinery companies made big investments in US manufacturing in 2018. Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd. dedicated its first US injection press assembly plant in Texas. And Ube Machinery Inc. announced an expansion of its headquarters factory in Michigan.

May was the busiest month, mainly because of NPE2018 in Orlando, Florida.

Here are major events of 2018, from the pages of Plastics News:

December 2017

German injection press maker KraussMaffei Group launched a machinery leasing program at the 2017 Fakuma show, covering KM and Nestal presses with clamping forces up to 300 tonnes.

January

Global investment firm Platinum Equity, founded by billionaire and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores, signed a deal to buy Husky for nearly $3.85bn (€3.38bn) from Berkshire Partners LLC and the private equity arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.

Industry officials were predicting banner machinery sales gains from President Donald Trump's tax reform package that slashed corporate tax rates and give an immediate 100% depreciation write-off for capital investments.

Plastics officials watched nervously as negotiations opened over the North American Free Trade Agreement opened in Montreal, at the prospects that the Trump administration might walk away from NAFTA. But by the fall, they breathed a sigh of relief with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was announced.

Thermoforming machinery maker Brown Machinery Group bought thermoform toolmaker Freeman Co.

February

Ube Machinery announced it was planning a 21,5009-square-foot expansion of its headquarters factory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to double the annual capacity for assembling large injection moulding machines, with clamping forces from 720-3,000 tonnes.

March

Siebolt Hettinga, a leading advocate for low-pressure injection moulding and a pioneer in computer-based control of machinery, died 27 March, at age 90. He founded Hettinga Technologies Inc. to make injection moulding machines.

April

The trade war between the United States and China heated up and hit the plastics industry, as the US targeted machinery and moulds for tariffs and China announced higher levies against US plastics materials.

May

NPE2018 drew 56,034 people to Orlando, Florida, 7-11 May.

Officials of Engel Holding GmbH, the Austria-based injection press maker, said at NPE2018 the company would resume US assembly at Engel Machinery Inc. in York, Pennsylvania. Later, at the Fakuma show in Germany, they said the plan is to build the first machine there in the first quarter of 2019.

The Monday after NPE, leaders of Nissei formally opened its 114,232-square-foot US factory in Brooks City-Base, Texas, south of downtown San Antonio.

Executives of Yizumi-HPM Corp. announced plans to add 15,000 square feet of manufacturing space and expand its North American technical centre in Iberia, Ohio.

NPE2018 was the official kickoff of CH-America in Torrington, Conn., the US operation of Hong Kong-based injection press builder Chen Hsong Holdings Ltd.

Just after NPE2018, Davis-Standard bought Canadian blown film equipment maker Brampton Engineering.

Jamie Pace got promoted to president and CEO of blow moulding machinery supplier Nissei ASB Co. in Smyrna, Ga. He is a 25-year veteran of the Japan-based Nissei ASB Machine Co. Ltd.

Toshiba Machine Co. America was opening a 60,000-square-foot warehouse near its headquarters in Elk Grove Village, Ohio, in a move to centralise warehouse space in the Chicago area.

Negri Bossi North America changed is plans for a new headquarters in Michigan. Instead of building a facility in Plymouth Township, Mich., the unit of Italian injection press maker Negri Bossi SpA, announced it was moving into a leased 31,783-square-foot building in nearby Canton, Mich., west of Detroit. Another Italian company, blow moulding press supplier Magic MP SpA will sublease space.

India-based compounding extruder manufacturer Steer Engineering Pvt. Ltd at NPE2018 announced plans to invest $4m (€3.5m) to upgrade its US application development centre at Steer America Inc. in Uniontown, Ohio.

Photo by Caroline Seidel From left, Ethan Stiefel and Brandon Birchmeier of Imflux at the Milacron Holdings Corp. booth at Fakuma 2018 in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Fakuma was the first time an injection moulding press maker exhibited a machine with Imflux technology.

July

President Trump added more Chinese goods to the tariff list, sparking the potential for increased prices for Chinese-made injection moulding machines.

September

Wittmann Group, the manufacturer of injection presses, robots and auxiliary equipment, bought ICE-flex, a supplier of manufacturing executive systems, or MES.

October

Farrel Pomini, which makes compounding extruders and mixers, was inducted into the American Manufacturing Hall of Fame. Almon Farrel and his son, Franklin, founded the company during the Industrial Revolution in 1848 as a foundry and equipment manufacturer.

Fakuma 2018 marked the first time an injection moulding press maker exhibited a machine with Procter & Gamble Co.'s Imflux technology as Milacron Holdings Corp. demonstrated the low-pressure moulding process on an all-electric Elektron EVO press.

Universal Dynamics Inc., part of global auxiliary equipment company Piovan SpA, completed its move into a new headquarters in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Italy-based Piovan held an initial public offering 19 Oct.

Canadian injection moulding machinery maker Athena Automation Ltd. announced it was renamed Niigon Machines Ltd.

Cannon SpA, the Italian polyurethane equipment maker, held a 40th anniversary celebration and open house at its US operation in suburban Pittsburgh. Cannon USA built a 26,000-square-foot addition to its headquarters in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania.

After buying an Italian maker of end-of-arm tooling, Barnes Group Inc. executives signalled the company wants to build an automation group.

November

Pet All Manufacturing Inc. opened a showroom to display its technology for gigantic blow moulding machines. The company will use 10,000 square feet of space at custom extruder Nelson Plastics Inc. in Paynesville, Minnesota.

Blow moulding and packaging machinery builder Krones AG bought MHT Holding AG, a maker of PET preform injection moulds.

Germany-based Hahn Automation Group, which owns Waldorf Technik, Wemo and GeKu, plans to begin US manufacturing by the end of 2019, in Windsor, Conn. The company also bought the technology from collaborative robot pioneer Rethink Robotics Inc., which closed in October.

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