Laser edgebanding saw its first live U.S. demonstration as Stiles Machinery and Rehau hosted a presentation of the Homag laserTec at Stiles’ Grand Rapids, MI, headquarters. During two days of demos in late October more than 200 people viewed the Homag laserTec edgebander, which can eliminate the glue pot and mechanical glue application, providing a seamless “zero join” edgeband.


 
Seamless welds (top) with laser edgebanding, shown
entering the laserTec on a Homag KAL 330.

Instead of hot glue applicators, a 3,000-watt Class 4 diode laser system directs light beams via oscillating mirrors to melt a glue layer on specially coated edgebands. Homag announced a patent for the system in February, and at the Stiles presentation Rehau’s LaserEdge edgeband, also patented, was used. Doellken-Woodtape offers a compatible laser-activated edgeband, called Fusion Edge.

The Homag laserTec machine welds the two-layer Rehau LaserEdge edgebanding material by activating a color-matched polymer layer on the reverse side of the edgeband and welding it to the carrier board. The wafer-thin glue layer allows laserTec to process a variety of edge material including ABS, PP and PMMA. At the Stiles demonstration, the laserTec unit, which costs more than $200,000, was mounted on a Homag KAL 330 profiLine edgebander. The 330 also has a functional glue pot for conventional edgebanding. An option to convert existing inventories of edgebands is Kleiberit Adhesives LaserMelt, a laser-activated, pre-coating system that can be applied to conventional edgebands.

The Homag laserTec has been embraced in Europe, said Doug Maat, product manager for the Homag product line of Stiles. More than 50 systems have been sold worldwide, with the first laserTec in the U.S. destined for a yet-to-be-named office furniture plant.

Seamless Welds
Elimination of glue pots and improved seams are among the advantages of the laser edgebanding. “The result is a finished edge with superior bond strength and aesthetics, as well as increased heat and moisture resistance,” said Stephan Waltman, vp sales and marketing for Stiles. “Imagine not having to worry about obvious glue lines on your workpieces. Consider the bottom line after eliminating the cost of maintaining and replacing glue pots.” The laserTec was in testing for five years before its initial rollout in Europe.

“Laser-welded edgebanding technology has generated a tremendous amount of interest among furniture manufacturers who recognize that its adhesive-free process not only provides a higher-quality finish, but also significantly reduces production steps,” said Dr. Thomas Troeger, North American manager for Rehau’s furniture business unit. Currently LaserEdge, in PP, ABS and PMMA formulations, is sourced from Rehau plants in Germany, but North American production will begin by mid 2011.

Other entrants in the laser edgebanding field include Stefani, which has installed the Laser Line in Europe; IMA, which showed its laser edgebanding system at Ligna in 2009; and Biesse, which has also developed a laser edgebanding system.

Managing Editor Michaelle Bradford contributed to this article.

See video of systems running and read background stories about laser edgebanding in online reports from Ligna, and Xylexpo at woodworkingnetwork.com

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