Besides releasing upscale varieties, electronic industry mold-making service providers are improving performance and extending product life span.
China providers of mold-making services are bolstering the development of high-grade products to parallel the rapid expansion of the industry. Many are looking to roll out large-scale, modular, multifunction composite, fast-speed multiposition progressive and progressive compound high-precision molds.
Quality upgrades also emphasize performance enhancements and longer life span. Latest releases include versions with single set weights of up to 120 tons, units with 0.3 to 0.5μm machining precision, and those capable of 300 to 400 million shots. Precision stamping molds that match fast-speed punch press with 2,500rpm, and multifunction and compound variants that can achieve multimaterial and -step forming have likewise been developed. Complex types adopting intelligent control technology are also offered.
Under efforts to shift to high-grade molds, makers are tapping new technology and gearing up to close the gap with major foreign players. More suppliers are adopting CAD/CAM, hot runner and multiposition progressive die to enhance selections. Some utilize digital applications such as CAE, CAPP, PLM and ERP, while others conduct fast-speed machining, concurrent and reverse engineering, virtual manufacturing and output standardization. Many enterprises are also complying with international standards to boost competitiveness. The majority, however, admits in-house capability still lags behind global leaders, particularly those in Japan, the US and Germany.
At present, midrange molds dominate the line in China. Premium types take up less than 40 percent of the overall yield, unlike in other countries where the variant has a 60 percent share. China’s self-sufficiency for such category is currently only 60 percent.
Apart from increasing output of high-grade products, makers will embark on standardization in an effort to improve quality, shorten the manufacturing cycle and cut outlay. The country has a standardization grade of less than 30 percent, significantly lower than the 70 to 80 percent ratings of advanced countries. The manufacturing time among local players is currently 30 to 50 percent longer than overseas counterparts. With the use of uniform mold parts, the process could be reduced by 25 to 40 percent.
Riding on increasing adoption in vehicles, communication and military equipment, and household appliances, China mold makers logged a 15 percent rise in total sales volume in 1H10 compared with the same period in 2009. Exports jumped 13 percent to $994 million. Imports, on the other hand, slid 3 percent to $999 million. The overall trade volume rose 4 percent to about $2 billion.
Emerging applications in aerospace, new energy and construction, and computer and networking technologies are expected to fuel the line further, with growth forecast to reach 15 percent in coming years. The China Die & Mould Industry Association predicts domestic sales will reach $26.7 billion. In 2015, the export value will hit $4 billion amid a surge in orders.
China currently represents 10 percent of global mold capacity. The manufacturing pool comprises 30,000 suppliers, with overall manpower reaching nearly 1 million. The main hubs are the Pearl and Yangtze River Delta regions, which combined account for more than two-thirds of the country’s aggregate output value.
Production is carried out in Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, and Shanghai. Factories are also found in Tianjin, Beijing, Chongqing municipality and the provinces of Shandong, Sichuan, Fujian, Hubei, Hebei and Hunan. Guangdong is the largest sourcing base, representing 40 percent of total yield. Makers in Zhejiang concentrate on plastic molds, while those in Shanghai emphasize automotive and IT types.
There are at present 15 mold zones established or being set up in China. Buyers will find precision die mold production bases in Kunshan and Wuxi in Jiangsu, and automotive mold hubs in Botou in Hebei and Wuhu in Anhui province. Large-scale precision mold centers are located in Ningbo and Huangyan of Zhejiang, and in Shenzhen and Dongguan in Guangdong.
Enterprises are gradually shifting production inland, with new facilities emerging in Changchun in Jilin province, Dalian in Liaoning province, Chengdu in Sichuan province, Wuhan in Hubei, and Anhui.
Suppliers offer plastic, stamping, casting, forging, rubber, glass and powder metallurgy molds, with the first two leading the selection. Plastic versions account for 45 percent of total sales, while stamping variants take up 37 percent.
Zhuhai Weichuang Technology Co. Ltd provides plastic, stamping and casting molds. The first represents about 60 percent of turnout. The main applications are automotive, home appliances and electronics. The units boast 1x1 to 1x24 cavities and 200,000 to 1 million shots life span. They conform to LKM, DME, Hasco or Misumi standards.
The materials are NSK80, S136, 718, 738, P20, 718H, 738H, S136H and 5280. The lead time is 30 to 45 days.
Fujian Henglong Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd’s products target vehicles, home, electrical and pharmaceutical appliances, bathroom accessories, plastic building parts, toys and crafts. Its models have a tooling life of 500,000 to 1 million shots. The base complies with LKM and Hasco, while the mold meets DME and Hasco guidelines. The mold runners include hot and cold types.
The selection from Seasky Tooling Industrial Ltd comprises plastic and stamping molds. The first takes up 70 percent of yield. The maker’s model SKT-ST-002 progressive die for automotive device terminals adopts tungsten steel DC53 and D2 material, and features 1 million shots life span. The tooling size is 400x300x250mm, and the net weight 275kg.
Most suppliers provide one-stop service, offering plastic and metal parts associated with mold production to enable clients to save costs.
Zhuhai Weichuang manufactures plastic and hardware molding parts with its own casts. Seasky conducts rapid prototyping, stamping parts, assembly and package.
Mold steel is the chief component in this line. Based on servicing condition, it can be classified into three kinds, namely cold- and hot-working die, and plastic molding. The last includes S50C, S45C, 3Cr2Mo (P20), 3Cr2NiMnMo (718) and 10Ni3MnCuAl.
Hot-working die steel covers 4Cr5MoSiV1 (H13), 3Cr2W8V, 5CrNiMo and 5CrMnMo, while cold-working varieties consist of Cr12 (D3), Cr2WMn (01), Cr12MoV and Cr12Mo1V1 (D2).
Inputs for low-end and midrange molds are sourced from domestic suppliers Baosteel, Fushun Special, Changcheng and Daye. Despite elevated costs, imported mold steel is adopted in upscale types for their high purity and homogenization, ultrafine structure, prolonged stability and life span, and precise measurements. The main providers are from Japan, Sweden and Germany, including Daido, Hitachi, ASSAB and Saarstahl. Seasky utilizes components from Japan’s Daido and ASSAB of Sweden.
Currently, the demand for mold steel exceeds 1 million tons. Values increased more than 20 percent in 2010 on the back of a recovering worldeconomy and elevated ironstone rates.
For equipment such as CNC systems and lathes, and electric discharge, milling, grinding, drilling and wire-cutting machines, companies source from Japan, Europe and the US.
Mold prices range from $700 to $30,000 or even higher. Quotes depend on the materials used, product specifications and life span, and machining complexity.
Input outlay takes up 15 to 30 percent of total expenses, while the processing cost accounts for 30 to 50 percent.
China companies expect an upward rate adjustment of 5 to 10 percent in the months ahead due to rising raw material and labor spending and a strengthening yuan.
Hong Kong EMS companies are adopting various techniques to carry out mold design and making services. These complement parts production, assembly techniques and secondary processes such as painting, printing and stamping under a one-stop-shop scheme. The molds are employed in plastic injection or die-casting, and small- and large-volume manufacture depending on buyers’ requirements. Standard parts are occasionally kept in stock.
Enterprises in the territory conduct rapid prototyping and mold analysis to prevent casting problems, including warpage and premature failure.
Plastic injection mold and die making, metal stamping, product design and mold flow analysis comprise the process in Tontec International Ltd. The company, which turns out more than 1,200 molds annually, likewise renders assembly, spray painting, silk-screening and pad printing.
Suppliers rely on various tools and equipment. Chee Yuen Industrial Co. Ltd operates wire EDM and other high-precision mold processing machines. Its products are used in printers, photocopiers, car parts, ATMs and sanitaryware.
Art Precision Technology Development Ltd manufactures plastic injection dies with 40 to 1,300 tonnage. It carries out custom injection, insert, hardened, gas-assisted and injection tooling with hot runner systems.
The company likewise offers stamped metal, plastic injection and precision-machined parts.
Hong Kong has at least 20 EMS providers, most of which focus on complex, low-volume transactions instead of large-scale, high-investment orders. They target small and midsize OEM customers in North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Japan and India. The client base includes enterprises from the security, automotive, medical, telecom and industrial sectors.
Most factories are located in Dongguan, Huizhou and Shenzhen in mainland China’s Guangdong province. Some suppliers also manage sales branches overseas.
A number of companies, including can-packaging manufacturers and silicone specialists, also have mold-making capability, although the process is often limited to in-house requirements.
Fujian Henglong Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd
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All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.
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