A robust fourth quarter helped push North American shipments of plastics machinery to their sixth straight year of growth.

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2015 marked six straight years of sales growth for plastics machinery suppliers, according to SPI's Committee on Equipment Statistics.

SPI: the Plastics Industry Trade Association’s Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) reported that shipments of primary plastics equipment, including injection molding, extrusion, and blow molding equipment for reporting companies totaled $390.6 million in the fourth quarter, 29% higher than the previous quarter ($302.0 million) and 13% higher than year-prior quarter ($346.1 million).

For the year, reporting companies shipped a total value of primary equipment shipments of $1.29 billion; up 4.8% when compared with 2014.

Numbers breakdown by segment:

Injection molding machinery: Shipments value rose 18.2% in the fourth quarter of 2015 compared to year-prior figures. For the full year, shipments were up 6.4% over 2014.

Extruders: The value of single-screw extruder shipments jumped 16.9% in the final quarter of 2015 compared to year-prior figures. For the year, shipments were 10.1% above 2014.Twin-screw extruders shipment values rose 13.2% year over year. For 2015, twin-screw extruder shipments decreased 5.3%.

Blow molding machines: The shipments value was down 52.9%, year over year. For 2015 as a whole, shipments were off 27.5%.  

Auxiliary equipment: New bookings totaled $126.7 million dollars in the final quarter of 2015, jumping 22.4% over year-prior figures. For all of 2015, auxiliary equipment bookings were up 13.2%.  

Continued Growth Forecast in 2016
U.S. plastics processors will spend $3.4 billion on new primary plastics processing and auxiliary equipment in 2016, according to Plastics Technology’s 2016 Capital Spending Forecast (read more here). That would reflect an increase of 1.5% over 2015, and extend to seven the streak of consecutive years of growth for the sector.

That projection is based on two separate research projects by Gardner Business Media, parent of Plastics Technology: an exclusive capital-equipment spending survey and an analysis of the latest trends in plastics-processing capital-equipment production, imports/exports, and their leading indicators.

Of the major equipment sectors, Plastics Technology’s survey only pointed to a decrease in spending on injection molding machines (down 3.1%), with increases forecast for auxiliary equipment (5.0%), extrusion (5.7%), blow molding (1.7%), and thermoforming (8.6%).

The Germany Plastics and Rubber Machinery Association (VDMA) reported a 5% increase in sales in 2015 and forecast continued growth in 2016, with the expectation that sales would top 7 billion euro for the first time ever.

Machinery Suppliers Optimistic
Overall expectations have slipped for 2016, according to a quarterly survey of plastics machinery suppliers conducted by the CES, but suppliers remain mostly optimistic about the market demand for their products in the coming months.

Fully 83% of respondents expect market conditions to hold steady or get better during the next 12 months, according to the fourth quarter survey. The machinery suppliers felt North America and Mexico would be the regions where the most promising market conditions could be expected in the coming year. Expectations for Latin America and Asia had slipped in recent quarters, while the outlook for Europe was mostly unchanged throughout 2015.

As for the major end-markets, survey respondents expected appliances and medical to experience the strongest growth demand for plastics products and equipment this year. Expectations for all other end-markets call for steady-to-better demand to prevail in 2016.