Laser Banding Opens New Opportunities for Cabinet Door Firm
By Karen Koenig | Posted: 05/09/2013 4:50PM
Schenk Architectural Imports Ltd. made news recently when it became the first North American manufacturer to incorporate an IMA Novimat laser edgebander into its production process. Installed in December, the laser edgebander is being used in the manufacture of the Calgary, AB-based company’s Stijle branded contemporary cabinet doors and panels.
Owner Karl Schenk said the laser technology improves the aesthetics in design by providing a jointless, “invisible” transition between the edging and the panel. The decision by the company to invest in the technology was made after a trip to Europe.
“During one such visit we came across the best looking high gloss doors that we had ever seen. The surface of the panel had a flawless mirror finish and there were no visible seams. It appeared to be a solid panel of the highest visual quality. It was a combination of the most advanced techniques in UV lacquering together with seamless laser edge technology that produced such a visually stunning result.
“We learned that these panels were also much more scratch resistant than foils or acrylics and more impact resistant on the corners and edges. They offered the best in appearance, durability and overall value. At that point, we knew this was the future of contemporary furniture and cabinet components. We decided there and then that we wanted to be on the leading edge of bringing this technology to North America.”
In the short time since its installation, the IMA Novimat laser edgebander has expanded the scope of its Stijle edge door offerings to include: Soho high-gloss UV lacquered panels, Soma high-gloss 3mm polycarbonate panels, Como TSS textured woodgrain panels, Plateau super matte PET foil panels, Mesa melamine panels in solid colors and woodgrains, as well as the Kitsilano range of deep-textured veneered panels with wood laser edgebanding.
“We are currently working on developing a range of pre-finished real wood veneer panels and a range of very authentic woodgrained melamines with the grain indexed to the pattern in the paper — beautiful stuff! We are also exploring production of Shaker style doors to tap into the transitional market.”
Bringing innovative products and technology to the North American market is nothing new to Schenk Architectural. A distributor of hardware and components since 1967, Schenk says the company was the first in Western Canada to offer concealed European hinges. “My father [Gernot Schenk] was a leader in bringing European innovation to our market and I’m working hard to follow in his footsteps,” he adds.
Manufacturing Fast Track
Schenk Architectural’s move into manufacturing began in 2010 with the Brooklyn line of aluminum framed doors with specialty Italian glass inserts. “It was our success with this range that became the impetus for manufacturing contemporary doors and panels with laser edgebanding technology,” Schenk says.
“Our manufacturing philosophy is to produce high-quality products at reasonable costs with the fewest steps and lowest environmental impact to our employees and customers as possible. As a result, our manufacturing process is relatively streamlined,” he continues.
Stijle architectural panels are machined on a customized Thermwood CNC router with nested-based capabilities to maximize the material usage. “It has an oversized bed to accommodate European panel sizes and a built-in, auto-labeling unit to eliminate human error and to barcode our panels for further processing,” Schenk says.
Jobs that require grain matching are sent to the Cantek sliding saw for further machining. “We then send the panels to our IMA Novimat laser edgebander to finish the edges. It has the ability to read the barcoding on our labels and call up the correct program for the job. Almost every edge tape and panel requires a different program. Because the finishing needs to be absolutely precise, we operate at 1/100th of a millimeter increment.”
Edgebanding tape from Rehau, along with Whispercut tooling from Leitz, are used in conjunction with the IMA Novimat.
Schenk notes there are multiple benefits derived when using a laser edgebander. “Laser edgebanding provides a seamless edge creating the best visual appearance. Because there is no glue line, dirt, bacteria and moisture cannot penetrate the panel. Your panel is easier to maintain, will last longer and stay cleaner than with conventional edgebanding.”
The laser technology also ensures that the edgebanding is more resistant to steam and heat than conventional systems. Delamination also is not an issue because the banding is fused permanently to the panel, he adds.
“There are additional benefits in the manufacturing process. Because there is no glue, you have virtually no set-up time. You don’t have to deal with changing your glue color, cleaning out your glue pot, adjusting and tweaking your glue line or temperature settings. You have no glue residue on the panel to cause smearing and nothing to gum up your edgebander.”
The benefits, Schenk says, also give a competitive edge to the company’s Stijle line of contemporary cabinet doors. “Whenever we show a side-by-side comparison to our customers, the choice is obvious. Because we are at the leading edge of this technology in North America we have a distinct advantage in our knowledge base, as well as our supply chain.”
He adds, “We invest in technologies and processes that position us as leaders in the marketplace. We strive to be on the cutting edge of manufacturing and in design trends in the woodworking industry. We are leaders in contemporary styling and our focus is to maintain that position within our niche by identifying emerging trends and technologies and adapting them to our business.”
About the Company: Product Innovations
Founded in 1967 by Gernot Schenk, Calgary, AB-based Schenk Architectural Imports Ltd. got its start as an importer of European tools and hardware. According to President Karl Schenk, the company was the first distributor of concealed European hinges to the woodworking market in Western Canada.
In response to customer demand, in 2007 Schenk Architectural expanded its product line to include contemporary cabinet doors and components. “It seemed a good fit for our existing customer base. Over the last five years, it has developed into the largest segment of our business,” Schenk says.
Significant growth was made in 2010, when Schenk Architectural launched a line of aluminum-framed doors with specialty Italian glass inserts. The Brooklyn range of doors, Schenk says, was “our first real foray into manufacturing...It has developed very nicely for the company and it was our success with this range that became the impetus for manufacturing contemporary doors and panels with laser edgebanding technology.”
In addition to metal-framed panels, the Stijle line of products includes wood and textured panels, matte to high gloss panels, and metal-framed panels. The company sells its products through direct sales and independent sales representatives throughout Canada and the United States.
About the Author
Karen M. KoenigKaren M. Koenig has more than 25 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As Editor-in-Chief of Woodworking Network magazine (formerly Wood & Wood Products), Karen’s primary responsibilities include spearheading the writing, editing and coordinating of the editorial content of the publication, along with the Red Book resource guide and the Red Book online source and supply directory (RedBookOnline.com). She is also a frequent contributor to other Woodworking Network online and print media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Google+.