Inc. plans to add two new aluminum extrusion presses to its
Alfiniti Precision Tube subsidiary in Winston, N.C., over the
next five years as it looks to continue to expand into the
automotive sector, as well as the heating, ventilation and air
conditioning (HVAC) markets, a company executive said.
The Chicoutimi, Quebec-based
custom aluminum extrusion and tubing producer in February
installed a new, 2,700-tonne, 9-inch extrusion press, along
with related equipment, at its Winston site, Alfiniti Precision
Tube president Richard Steve James said in an
interview with AMM.
The total cost of the
expansionwhich included the press, billet heater and
handling systems, all made in Chinawas slightly more than
$3 million, James said. Alfiniti also acquired coilers from a
U.S. company, but declined to disclose a figure for that
The future expansions will be
roughly the same as the most recent one, James said.
The new press was ordered in
February 2012 from Chinas Mingsheng Machinery
Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and was delivered in late November, with
installation continuing until the company pushed its first
billet Feb. 1, James said. Coiling capability will be added in
April, he noted.
Roughly 50 percent of the
capacity from the new press will be consumed internally for the
companys bench drawn tubes, which are produced for the
general industrial market, James said. Flag poles and
weed-whacker handles, those kinds of things, he said.
At the same time, Alfiniti is
looking to expand its presence in the HVAC market, given
opportunities for aluminum to replace copper because of the red
metals higher price, James said.
The company should also benefit
from increased automotive demand thanks to both higher build
rates and increased aluminum usage in the sector, he added.
We think there are
significant growth opportunities, James said, forecasting
growth of as much as 30 percent over the next two years at the
North Carolina facility. The operations sales currently
stand at some $20 million per year, he said.
Many presses in North America
date from the 1950s to the early 1970s and tend to be repaired
rather than replaced, James said. There is nothing wrong
with reconditioning those and keeping them in good
shapeand theyll continue to run for a long
timebut there have been some technological
advances, he said.
But Alfiniti wouldnt have
been able to afford to expand if it had turned to more
conventional equipment suppliers in Germany, Japan or North
America rather than an equipment producer in China, James
Sure, you can find cheap
pieces of junk equipment (in China), but you can also find some
things that are truly world-class, he said. What
that does is it lets us bring manufacturing back to
Whats remarkable about the
Chinese equipment market is that the country didnt
have an extrusion industry to speak of as recently as the
1990s, James said. But Chinas rapid expansion since then
means its equipment makers have advantages that come from both
economies of scale and feedback from customers who are ordering
several new presses every year. And while Chinese equipment
manufacturers might not have been behind many advances in
extrusion equipment technology, they have used newer equipment
as their template, he added.
Still, while Chinese equipment
costs only a fraction of machinery made by more established
players, buying and installing it is not for the faint of
heart, James said, noting such challenges as language
difficulties and repeated trips to and from China, as well as a
gnashing of teeth with banks over financing a deal
for equipment from China.
But even if acquiring and
installing the equipment was a zoo, it has
nonetheless been absolutely superb since, James