ATLANTA - Wood manufacturers are descending on the International Woodworking Fair in good spirit, and most are on a mission.
 
Buoyed by accelerating business growth, they must seize the moment to size up technologies and materials and invest - to keep the momentum going. The expanding home building market, accounting for as much as 75 percent of wood manufacturer - including cabinetry, floors, doors, wood trim, windows, and the furniture to fill those new rooms - has moved steadily upward since the last IWF (though still 40 percent below its peak 10 years ago).
 
The home remodeling market is doing even better, with figures from the Harvard Joint Center on Housing forecasting $300 billion in expenditures - outpacing the previous record set in 2007.
 
New expectations for quality, service, and design among wood products buyers, whether professional designers or end consumers, are changing the game, and propelling new technology adoption by woodworkers. Among trending themes at IWF:
  • Batch one production
  • Robotics & materials handling
  • Automated sanding and finishing
  • Market-driven design
Buyers are seeking customized work, delivered fast. Low-cost, mass produced cabinetry, or custom work with long lead times, no longer fills the bill. Manufacturing platforms must allow for one-off projects. And to be profitable, woodworking businesses must be able to  produce these customized projects methodically, and in sequence, to some extent taking orders as they arrive rather than making clients wait for runs of like products to be ganged. This is a key driver of new technology adoption.
 
IWF 2016 will showcase a range of new approaches, much of it previewed at Ligna 2015 in Germany, but now ready for delivery. Technologies range from configurators that allow customers to parametrically scale items to fits their spaces, to ERPs with plant tracking systems that keep tabs on where job components are, to robots that stage work, doing everything from heavy lifting to fine sanding.
 
Buyers also expect consistently uniform quality, and zero joint edgebanding is a perfect example to be viewed at IWF 2016.
 
Holz-Her Lumina edgebander's motorized edge and trim adjustment
 
In fact, edgebanding is a good example is of technology that has been radically adapted to deliver Batch One production of zero joint edges. Holz-Her (to cite just one example), is showing its Lumina edgebander, incorporating Ltronic near-infrared energy for affixing the seamless zero joint edgeband material. The system is also able to adjust to varying thicknesses of board and edgeband material, one workpiece at a time, even varying energy levels as dictated by the color and thickness of edge material being used.
Rehau laser edgeband for zero-joint identifies energy required for activating adhesive
Such high tech edgeband solutions for Batch One production that were previewed at Ligna 2015 just 15 months ago are now on the IWF 2016 show floor operating at Biesse, SCM Group, IMA Schelling, Stiles Machinery (Homag) and SCM, and perhaps others, as well.
Move-in at IWF 2016
For the International Woodworking Fair show managers, the 2015 edition is showing all the hallmarks of a huge success. The Machinery Building (Hall B) and the Supply Building (Hall A) have both completely sold out - with a waiting list up to the last moment. Net square feet reflects double digit growth, and likewise for the number of exhibitors, with more than 240 (of 1,200) showing at IWF for the first time.
 
Educational conferences, which includes a series of day-long symposiums on finishing , veneering, countertops, closets, and other subjects, are experiencing record registration. Woodworking Network, which is presenting the Finishing Symposium today, saw more than 91 preregistrants for its  session today, exceeding the highest previous number of 80 set in 2008. All the seminar programs during the show will have record numbers for tickets sold for the sessions.
 
IWF also lists a number of new features this year, including a Flooring Symposium, a  Wood Component Symposium, a Cabinet and Closets Storage Pavilion, and a Flooring Pavilion.
 
IWF is also broadcasting daily news on its own IWF TV, piped into hotel rooms and on shuttle buses, and sent through IWFatlanta.com and WoodworkingNetwork.com.
 

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