HOMAG Group: 10 questions on the subject of lightweight construction

1) What is current state of play in the field of lightweight construction from the HOMAG viewpoint?

Lightweight construction panels are among the most significant material innovations to impact on the furniture and structural element industry over recent years. We – the HOMAG Group – are continuously at work to drive forward the issue of lightweight construction, which we see as a development which not only makes ecological sense but is technically challenging and also offers a vision for the future. It makes ecological sense because raw materials are precious, and ensuring their sparing use should be a matter of course. Lightweight construction allows the same product properties to be achieved with a reduced input of resources. At the same time, it helps reduce carbon emissions, for instance due to lower weight for transportation. We have been driving forward this issue right from the start, and developed solutions for the manufacture and processing of lightweight panels in every conceivable form – both for woodworking shops, medium-sized producers and also industry. Lightweight construction is a focal issue – and consequently for us as a machine manufacturer it is an investment in the future which is already paying dividends today.

2) The HOMAG Group lightweight construction portfolio

By covering all the steps involved within the complete process chain, we are able to implement all the production stages involved in lightweight construction (including door production). Using machines and plants from our company, our customers are able to cover every area from panel production (with and without rails), panel dividing, panel coating and panel edging using for instance the doubleEdge process for both throughfeed and CNC production, right through to hardware mounting and assembly.

The innovative doubleEdge technique stands for extreme convenience, economy and simple processing. In a gluing unit, the support edge is glued to the decor edge and banded to the narrow surface of the panel in the same work step. Working with processing centers, this permits time savings of around 80%, as the two stages previously carried out separately – banding on the support edge and decor edge – now take place in a single step. HOMAG also supplies large-scale plants complete with the doubleEdge process for edging flat packed furniture up to a workpiece thickness of 60 mm.

3) Is there some skepticism on the part of furniture producers? If so, is this justified? (Background: During the Lightweight Construction Congress 2012, there was justified criticism of the bonding dowels of the kind supplied by Hettich und Häfele)

Yes, in some cases there are some lingering doubts, due primarily to inadequate knowledge of the subject.

As regards criticism of bonding dowels: Producers frequently revert to the manufacture of panels with rails for this reason in order to solve the fixing problem. Homag developed the automatic insertion of dowels predominantly in order to generate reproducible quality.

4) From HOMAG’s point of view, what is the potential offered by lightweight construction and which companies from the furniture production and furniture supply industry would find this a topic of interest?

The main potential offered by this technology is its design scope, alongside an extended material mix and more cost-effective logistics operations. Lightweight construction offers enormous possibilities for creativity, and our customers benefit from the broad spread of available applications and materials. Lightweight panels already play a key role today in kitchen construction and furniture production, but also in the trade fair construction, automotive and interior fittings sectors – and their importance is set to increase in the future. Manufacture is possible in practically any optional thickness and format.

The low material weight means reduced transport costs. The improved use of available loading volumes and the reduced weight help to drive down freight expenses. Customer-friendly pack weights and simpler assembly and dismantling round off the logistical benefits.

5) From which sectors do you receive most enquiries about the subject of lightweight construction?

Most enquiries reach us through large-scale furniture suppliers, flat pack furniture manufacturers, door producers and also from the caravan industry. This is an area which has already made practically a complete switch from conventional to lightweight construction methods.

6) Is lightweight construction primarily something that concerns industrial manufacturers, or is this an area in which woodworking shops can also make their mark? Which machines from the HOMAG Group are of particular interest in this regard for small-scale producers?

Lightweight construction is not reserved to industrial operations at all, it is something producers across every sector should be looking at. This is why developments are being driven forward not just by industrial users but primarily also supply companies, who typically invest in specialized plant and equipment. Because nowadays shopfitters, door manufacturers, project furniture manufacturers and woodworking shops are all having to come to terms with the diverse range of different materials demanded by customers, they have long since ceased to be just “woodworking firms” in the traditional sense. As a result, all the essential machines aimed at this customer group are capable of further processing lightweight materials, from the cutting stage right through to packaging.

7) How important is it for HOMAG to be involved in a pilot plant such as the Egger project? What experience have you been able to gain?

Cooperation with a partner like Egger has a special importance for us. Right from the early days, we drove forward the issue of lightweight construction as a joint effort, and we still continue to exchange ideas regularly today. The enduring goal we work towards is to further optimize processing with a view to achieving continuous improvement in quality and performance. Just as important for us is to pursue and further develop the various different process approaches. For instance, Egger constructed a machine for the manufacture of single components on the basis of a large-scale panel. We have also implemented projects working together with other companies which were concerned with the manufacture of fixed formats (with frame). One such example is the 6-sided line for Swedwood, which we showcased at the HOMAG Treff 2012.

Another example is the idea for fully automatic production of honeycomb panels for the furniture industry which was developed and implemented jointly by HOMAG and Egger. HOMAG supplied the plant which allowed tensioning rails to be subsequently inserted into cut rail-less honeycomb panels. Support is also provided for furniture manufacturers when using and further processing honeycomb panels. The use of Egger chipboard panel supporting edges off the coil for honeycomb panels was optimized by HOMAG for other users, and will be on show at this year’s LIGNA.

8) Where has the use of rail-less panels become established, and who uses panels with rails?

For standardized products and elements featuring hardware, panels with rail have become the established option, while rail-less panels are favored for other products. Large-scale customers in particular who use series manufacturing methods tend to use rail-less panels.

9) How important is it to design machines so that they are able to process both conventional materials and also lightweight panels? (This seems to be the case, for instance, with the FKW 100)

This is a particularly interesting facility for small companies who wish to round off their spectrum with lightweight panels, but are prevented from doing so by financial constraints.

10) What is HOMAG hoping for from the Ligna in the field of lightweight construction, particularly against the backdrop of the special presentation area?

Innovations and new techniques have to be given time to become established in the marketplace. We know this from experience we have gathered in other areas – for example the early days of CNC technology or presentation of the laserTec method. The lightweight construction platform at the LIGNA will provide an excellent opportunity for companies working in this sector to bring this issue to the public attention and to familiarize visitors with the benefits of lightweight technology. After all, there will be machine manufacturers and users from around the world present at the woodworking industry’s lead trade fair – so this offers a unique opportunity to get the whole of the industry talking about lightweight construction.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.