China's disc storage manufacturers persist in product development even if the line's mature technology has limited efforts to external design and capacity improvements.
Suppliers are optimistic that intense R&D will help the industry regain its drive and spur exports in coming months.
A number of companies have introduced novelty designs as an alternative to current models with traditional or standard configurations.
Ningbo Chenxi Industrial Co. Ltd, for instance, has released a diceshaped CD storage box that holds up to 60 discs. A drawer slides out when the front panel is touched. The PP product features nonskid pads. The company offers other fancy designs, including beer cans, animals, food items and toy cars. Products with Chinese patterns and emblems are also popular overseas.
As regards storage, cases and boxes that hold up to 80 discs are on offer. Racks and carry cases for more than 100 discs are available as well, although there are makers that have models with customizable designs and capacity.
Suppliers expect these trends to continue in coming months. In addition to new designs and bigger storage, manufacturers are improving portability and using more environment-friendly materials in their products.
PVC, PP, PS, ABS, cotton and other types of fabric, neoprene, PU leather and metal, however, are still commonly used. Makers said they can source nontraditional and ecologically safe materials for customized models on request.
China's selection consists of cases, wallets, bags, boxes, cabinets, racks and carry cases, most of which can hold more than two discs. The first four segments make up 70 percent of total output in the line. They also belong to the low-end and midrange categories.
Models in the former use PVC, ABS, PP, PS and neoprene for the exterior, and PP, PS and fabric for the interior. Traditionally designed items hold three to 14 discs and are clear or colored.
Midrange versions come in higherquality neoprene, PP, PS and PU leather for the outside, and PP, PS and cotton and other types of fabric for the inside. These hold 16 to 250 discs and provide protection from vibration, scratches and static.
Suitable mostly for cinemas, cabinets, racks and carry cases have anti-vibration, -scratch and -static functions. With a capacity of more than 100 discs, products have wood, aluminum or iron exteriors and interiors in high-quality PP, PS and fabric, including cotton.
Suppliers also utilize ecologically safe materials such as recyclable TPE and TPU, and fancy designs.
In addition to R&D limitations, China's disc storage industry faced many challenges in the past year, including low demand and intense competition.
Already reeling from the effects of the 2008 economic crisis, several companies had to downsize their workforce and streamline production. Some shifted to other lines.
Further, prices are foreseen to go up by 5 percent within the next six months due to the rising costs of crude oil and raw materials, including PP and PS.
Moreover, outbound shipments are expected to slide by 5 to 10 percent in the same period. This comes as intense competition stemming from the influx of new entrants attracted by the line's low technology barrier is reducing each maker's share of exports.
Despite these difficulties, makers continue to develop products that highlight their design and manufacturing capability, releasing at least three new models per year.
These companies are also expanding domestically and to South America, the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia.
New destinations take up 5 to 20 percent of outbound shipments and absorb mostly low-end and midrange models.
A number of makers participate in trade shows and e-business networks to expand their operations further. These suppliers include Guangdong Yuedong Magnetoelectric Co. Ltd, Liao Sheng Trading Co. and Shantou SEZ Wo Hing Radio & Video Co. Ltd.
There are about 300 disc storage manufacturers in China that belong to the A/V products, magnetoelectric, plastics, gifts, stationery and CD-R/DVD-Rs industries.
More than 80 percent are small private enterprises with up to 400 workers. Their factories measure roughly 15,000sqm and can roll out 50,000 to 300,000 pieces monthly.
Midsize companies have about 25,000sqm of production space and employ as many as 600 people. They can manufacture 500,000 to 1 million pieces each month.
Large enterprises have a monthly output of up to 2 million disc storage products. Two thousand workers or more handle processes in 50,000sqm plants. There are some suppliers, however, that operate on an even bigger scale. Shantou QD Co. Ltd, for example, can release 20 million pieces per month.
Guangdong province, the main hub for the line in China, hosts 50 percent of makers. The city of Shantou, in particular, is home to 100 suppliers that also engage in CD-R and DVD-R manufacture.
Most of the makers there have at least 10 years of experience in disc storage and related items. They have complete production lines and conduct almost all processes in-house, including film blowing and casting, plastic injection, assembly and package labeling.
Some companies comply with RoHS, MSDS and EN 71. Such suppliers provide customization services as well.This article "Disc storage: Design, capacity enhancements lead R&D" is originally posted in Global Sources.
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