Almost 53,000 attended Interzum, the Cologne,
Germany, wood materials and hardware show in
May 2011.

Technology, supplies and hardware were the focus for a pair of back-to-back woodworking industry tradeshows in Germany: Ligna in Hannover in early June, and Interzum in Cologne, at the end of May.

The two shows differ in emphasis: Ligna, which targets machinery, drew 90,000 visitors and 1,765 exhibitors; Interzum, covering wood materials and hardware, drew 52,400 visitors with 1,434 exhibitors. Attendance at both was about 13 percent ahead of 2009 when they were last held, one indicator of wood industry recovery. As a global indicator, attendance from outside Germany was sizeable, 40 percent or more for the shows, up 26 percent in the case of Ligna.

A huge array of promising innovations filled the 13 halls of Ligna and seven halls of Interzum, with innovation clearly a driving force behind both shows. “Many businesses sync their innovation cycles with Ligna,” said Stephan Kühne of show operator Deutsche Messe, with “breakthroughs unveiled here.” To provide a focus for custom woodworking shops, Ligna has a showcase section called “Handwerk, Holz & mehr” (“woodcraft, wood and more”) for joiners, carpenters and cabinetmakers. It held 500 exhibitors in 100,000 aquare feet.
Ligna show managers say manufacturers of woodworking equipment and machinery have responded to current concerns such as environment issues, cost of raw materials and the 2009 downturn with innovations that deliver efficiencies and cost savings.

“This new focus is as much a boon to small carpentry, cabinetmaking and joinery firms as it is to big industrial users,” say Ligna managers. “Now even small and medium-sized firms have access to state-of-the-art equipment that offers maximum throughput and space savings.” In its rundown of Ligna, the show organization highlighted items in the next eight paragraphs:

In terms of sawing equipment, the current trend is toward highly automated machines that can import and independently work to cutting optimization layouts. Even very small panel sizing saws now come with integrated cutting optimization software. Details such as camera-assisted scoring saw positioning can simplify horizontal panel saw operation and improve results.

CNC machining systems are now much more affordable, and are also easy to use, even for beginners, thanks mainly to highly user-friendly software interfaces. There’s a whole new generation of mini machining centers to choose from, as well as compact window machining centers that have a footprint of less than 100 square feet. Now 5-axis CNC technology, which had been until very recently a total high-end product, is available even in very small machines, allowing very sophisticated machining projects. A growing number of multifunction machines are coming onto the market, some that can machine multiple work pieces at once.

Lasers are making woodworking life easier in many areas, marking planks and panels in cut optimization planning as well as assisting the actual cutting process. There are now four-sided planing machines that use lasers to project the spindle positions onto the workpiece for easy optimization, providing improved yield. The real revolution is in the area of panel edge banding (see below), where the best solution for seamless joints and elimination of glue lines is a tight race between laser technology and glueless plasma technology.
New machines that can prepare conventional edgebanding material for laser edgebanders may appeal to small woodworking firms, though the investment for this technology remains sizeable. Conventional edgebanding has seen a new technology appearance with a coating process that uses hot-melt glue.







 
Blum brought its U.S. dealers to Interzum in Germany
for an inside view of hardware introductions,
technology demonstrations, and offerings unique to
the U.S. market that will debut at AWFS Fair this
month.

On the surface finishing front, oblique sanding systems are now sized for small woodworking firms. Cabinetmakers and joiners are also finding new halogen drying units that dramatically shorten curing times and can even be used on mobile equipment.

But for cabinetmakers, joiners and carpenters, efficient production is not just about machines and materials. Computer-aided design, planning and logistics solutions are just as important. For instance, significant efficiency gains can be achieved by integrating warehouse and production computer systems.

Another area of growing interest is bioenergy from wood, as woodworkers discover potential profit in selling woodwaste to use in fuel pellet production, or even install their own systems. It was a hot topic at Ligna. “Bioenergy has become an attractive component in the energy mix, and is a high-profile and critical issue,” said Arno Urbanek, applications and sales engineer at Untha Shredding Technology. (It operates in Hampton, NH in the U.S.)

Laser and even plasma-fired edgebanding, one of the bigger stories for Ligna machinery, saw continued development on the materials side at Interzum, with Rehau and Doellken showing the specially extruded polymer edgeband that allows the banders to run without gluepots. The technology produces near-seamless contours and panel edges using edgebanding co-extruded with an adhesive layer activated by powerful lasers in new edgebanding machines.

Trends in lasers edgebanding
Lasers edgebanding technology, though pricey, could have significant impact if, as manufacturers expect, it sets a new standard of performance and expectation on edgebanding among cabinetry and furnishing consumers. At Ligna, Homag and IMA displayed their latest laser edgebanding technology, while Biesse introduced its laser edgebander, further evidence that the concept is gaining a strong foothold in Europe, as it begins to make inroads in the U.S.







 
Movento, Blum’s new concealed runner system for
wooden drawers and pull-outs, features a synchronized
glide, and can be integrated to Blum’s Blumotion, Tip-On
or Servo-Drive.

Homag showed its latest laserTec edgebander. Since then, Homag claims to have sold several dozen in Europe. Its exclusive U.S. distributor Stiles Machinery will exhibit a laserTec edgebander at the at the AWFS Fair in Las Vegas, July 20-23, before it heads to Fred Smith Store Fixtures, DePauw, IN. Along with Hon’s Allsteel division, it is among the first companies in North America to use laser edgebanders.

Doellken-Woodtape will show in Las Vegas its compatible FusionEdge laser edgebanding material, which parent Doellken displayed at Interzum. At Interzum, Rehau said it would soon open a plant in Montreal to produce its edgebanding material.

IMA, which takes credit for introducing the first laser edgebander, displayed a couple of new concepts at Ligna. IMA’s houses the laser separately instead of inside the edgebander, delivering it through fiber optic cables to the fusing point. Peter Tuenker, president of IMA-Schelling America, said this keeps the lasers away from dust and grit created during the edgebanding process, eliminating mirrors IMA used in the past.

Tuenker showed IMA’s new plasma system for seamless edge bonding, in which the physical properties of the edgebanding material is altered and “welded” on to the substrate. He sees it as a cost-effective alternative to the laser technology.

Biesse showed its new EcoLaser, integrated to Biesse’s top of the line Stream edgebander. Federico Broccoli, president and CEO of Biesse America and Canada, said he believes laser edgebanding is about five years from becoming more mainstream, contingent on laser manufacturers developing more affordable products that can get the job done. SCM has previously unveiled the Stefani Laser Line edgebander, but the company opted to put greater emphasis on its new “One Touch” edgebander at Ligna. A touchscreen control lets operators change the edge, glue and tool radius without having to lift up the hood of the edgebander cabinet.

While laser edgebanding is relatively new, lasers in woodworking are not. For more than 20 years they have been employed as guides for lumber optimization or to cut parts out of thin material. In this latter capacity, laser’s image has been somewhat tarnished by the tendency to char edges of parts being cut out.

At Ligna, Giben, best known for panel saws, showed LaserNest, a compact system that can cut extremely intricate parts at speeds up to 140 meters per minute. Mark Craig, Giben North America GM, said he looks forward to seeing further development in this new laser cutting technology, suggesting the possibility of a laser nesting system in which full sheets of MDF or particleboard would be machined much as they are today on a CNC router.

At Interzum, functional hardware was a big part of the story. Blum showed a compact Blumotion hinge for the U.S. market, as well as the Movento hidden runner system for wood drawers.

Häfele emphasized “Space meets Lifestyle” with powered hardware for opening cabinetry built into a James Bond-style demonstration center at Interzum.
Italian fittings manufacturer, Arturo Salice, introduced its extended functional hardware product families, including its damped systems line, as well as innovations in the Salice hinge and flap systems.

Vauth-Sagel introduced a new range of baskets and the Recorner Maxx, a corner cupboard fitting, is now available as a production-ready solution without the obtrusive centre tube.
Hettich showed something that was an Interzum trend in functional hardware: glides that could hold a hefty 80 kilograms (176 lbs.) so drawers can go very wide, or deep, and hold a lot. The honey-combed panel material being advanced in Europe by environmentalists for its lightweight strength (less fuel to ship, reduced materials useage, etc.), allows the possibility of running low-voltage power through the hollow panels. Panel-to-panel conductivity is established through metal connectors. Haettich showed a panel wall unit that had embedded LED lighting and iPod entertainment center powered via panel connectors.

Japanese producer of fittings, Sugatsune has long considered interzum as more than just a platform for the furniture industry. “In our opinion, this trade show has already crossed the threshold between furniture and architecture. After all, interior designers and architects make up an increasing share of the interzum visitors,” said Thomas Bourdaire, Sugatsune export manager for Europe. Sugatsune also presented gently closing fittings, and highlighted LDD, a new damping system for swing doors.

Other unique notes: Schorn & Groh showed its EASiWOOD wood veneer (shown) with special fleece backing. Because it is flexed, more pliable and can be cut with scissors or a craft knife and glued securely to all dry substrate. It curves even up to 360°, says Schorn & Groh.

CO2-Bank, which promotes wood products environmental benefits, pulled up to Ligna in a Nios electric car built mostly of wood. It has a 300-mile range, and top speed of 50 mph.

The Ligna “Tree of the Year” planting June 2 honored the hardwood deciduous Wild Service Tree (also known as the checker tree) in the Sorbus species. Planted on the Ligna grounds, it was promptly “watered” with a mug of Pilsner beer.

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