I attended a demonstration recently that Stiles Machinery held for the new Homag laserTec edge processing technology. The demonstration was done at Stiles headquarters in Kentwood, Mich., and the manufacturers in attendance paid close attention.

Edgebanding is applied using a laser that activates a glue layer that is already part of the edgeband itself. The finished edge reportedly provides superior bond strength, appearance, and increased heat and moisture resistance.

The technology was introduced in Europe and is being used in some 50 customer installations around the world.

Stiles used a Homag KAL 330 profiLine edgebander and new Ligmatech ZHR 200 Boomerang return conveyor for the demonstration. Representatives were on hand from Stiles, Rehau and Doellken.

IMA has also demonstrated a similar technology in Europe on its edgebanding equipment. See a more detailed description of the technology. To learn more about applications in Europe, see www.cabinetmakerfdm.com/8590.html . See a video of the Stiles demonstration.

One of the biggest advantages is the cost and effort of maintaining glue pots, handling adhesives and dealing with glue lines in finished pieces are all taken out of the equation. Ikea is also reportedly using the technology, and expects it to cut costs in the long run because they can get rid of the glue pot.

At the presentation in Michigan, several people commented that another advantage was in sales and marketing. Having a product with a new, improved edge could prove to be a great selling point.

In the presentation itself, Gene Newburg and Doug Maat of Stiles both remarked that they had not seen this kind of completely new technology in a number of years. Maat said that four out of seven companies on the recent Stiles technical tour that saw this technology in Europe are already planning to use it in their operation.

A presentation by Michael Jungblut, a Stiles product specialist, outlined the important points of the technology. He explained how the diode laser is especially useful in plastic welding applications such as edgebanding. He said that Homag holds a patent for the use of diode lasers for this purpose.

The laser itself is deflected by an oscillating mirror over the whole width of the edgeband, which can be ABS, polypropylene, PVC, melamine, or veneer. The laser creates heat that melts the material.

The laserTec system can produce a product with no visual joint and more durable and water-resistant characteristics.

Jungblut said the current cost of the system is $295,000. That’s in addition to the cost of the edgebander itself. He said that the technology is suitable for mid-level edgebanding machines and above.
A 3000-watt laser can run at about 90 feet per minute. The demo at Stiles was at about 60 feet per minute.

Rehau’s David Stanton described some of the functional and design features of the edgebanding. He said that Rehau is producing LaserEdge edgebanding in Europe and plans to produce it at a plant in Baie d’Ufe, Quebec, for the North American market.

The actual machine demonstration was done by Steve Konyndyk of Stiles. He described each step in the process and then sample pieces were fed through the edgebander.

Gary Wernlund of Stiles wound up the presentation with a question-and-answer session. He commented that this was one of the largest “leaps” in technology this big that he has seen in a few years. He believes that the first applications in North America will be in office furniture, and that health care will also be a good fit.

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