New technology in edgebanding is allowing panel processors to get rid of the glue pot. Developments from several companies use a laser to melt edgeband material directly to the substrate. Doellken and Rehau have developed separate glueless edgebanding products, while Homag and IMA have developed a laser melting devices for edgebanders.

Markus Raves, director of marketing and customer service for Doellken-Woodtape in North America, says that Fusion Edge is a relatively new technology, but it is being used by kitchen, bathroom partitions and panel component manufacturers in Europe.

“The technology is used mainly in Germany and Italy,” Raves told CabinetMakerFDM. “Lasertec machines have been installed primarily in large volume users such as high quality kitchens, office, or panel processors.”

LaserEdge edgeband from Rehau consists of a two-layer proprietary polymer formulation. It is available in PP, ABS and PMMA and can be used with all machine technologies presently available in the market.

“Presently the technology is being used by kitchen and bathroom cabinetry and office furniture manufacturers,” says Dr. Thomas Troeger, North American business team manager for Rehau’s business unit. “The field of applications will additionally widen once contour laser technology/contour edgebanding machinery enter the North American marketplace in the first half of 2011.

LaserEdge is applied with a laser that melts a color-matched functional layer on the reverse side of the edgebanding. It eliminates several steps in the manufacturing process, such as adhesive color matching, processing setup and other cleaning and maintenance requirements.

In Europe, Troeger says that about 15 laser-equipped edgebanders have been sold to date. The majority are being used in high-end kitchen applications. He says that Homag and IMA have both shown working laser-fitted edgebanders, and Biesse and SCM Group have announced models for 2011.

Raves says that Doellken has worked with several equipment manufacturers, including Homag, IMA, SCM Group, and Biesse.
He says Fusion Edge can currently be used on straightline application only. All edgebanding materials can be used, and PP and 3D are available. Other materials, including veneer, are possible.

Equipment innovation 

In February, Homag was granted a patent for its laserTec process. Homag has tested the process for five years, and it has reportedly withstood the whole range of glue joint testing processes covering heat and moisture resistance. Pilot users have been using the process for more than a year. The LaserTec system from Homag (melting device) is compatible with the Doellken’s Fusion Edge edgebanding, for example.

Homag focused on diode lasers early in its development process because of their lower energy and space requirements compared to carbon dioxide equivalents. A carbon dioxide laser requires about five times the electrical energy of a diode laser, according to Homag. Gluing with a diode laser also allows deactivation in the gaps between workpieces, which also saves energy.

Homag showed laserTec at Ligna last May. In the year since, Homag reports that more than 30 laserTec systems have been sold, to nearly every segment of the furniture industry in Germany. Homag also demonstrated laserTec at Holz-Handwerk in Nuremburg.

IMA and Rehau held an edgebanding symposium in Germany in February showing laser technology for furniture edges. IMA reports that the large number of visitors to their demonstration indicated the high level of interest from small and industrial customers in this technology. The laser process was demonstrated on an IMA BIMA 500 machining center to weld edgebanding to free-form parts.

IMA showed both carbon dioxide and diode laser processes, and will offer the option of a laser system and conventional gluing unit on the same machine. The carbon dioxide system can be used with no additives needed in the functional layer of the co-extruded edge, so color or material choices are not limited. The IMA process also is designed to use a precision tape guide that minimizes tape overhang, and a repeatable fabrication process through the use of stored parameters.

Edgeband challenges 

For the edgeband manufacturers, the challenge has been in development of the softer laser-activated material. “This material must bond with the top coat as well as activate by a laser to ensure the laser welding process at the right temperature,” Rehau’s Troeger says. “Further, while traditional edgeband requires only one color match, LaserEdge consists of two materials (the binding material and the edgeband itself) and thus requires a second color match.”

Rehau has experimented and achieved production-ready products in ABS, PP and PMMA. All three materials are considered environmentally friendly and allow a wide spectrum of application for the market.

Raves says that the Fusion Edge edgebanding comes with a pre-applied thin PUR polymer glue layer that is activated with a laser. When the layer is melted with the laser, the edgebanding is bonded to the panel. The PUR then hardens with ambient moisture and this helps build the structural bond.

Raves says one of the motivations is the environmental issue. The laser technology does away with the need for glue pots and related maintenance issues, and it can be used with a standard edgebander. The edgebanding is shipped in coils to customers with the glue already applied.

“If a company is interested in this technology, they should consult Doellken-Woodtape to assess the specific edgebanding application,” Raves says. Then the wood products manufacturer and Doellken-Woodtape can work with the equipment manufacturer to determine the specific machinery required.

The best way to get started is by reaching out directly to the edgebander machine manufacturers such as IMA, Homag, Biesse and SCM Group, Troeger says. As a second step, a company will want to work with an established, edgeband manufacturer that provides this latest laser-applied edgebanding technology to develop a detailed product quote.“As the technology becomes more widely accepted, pricing will become more economical for mainstream applications,” he says. “Both the machine industry and the edgebanding manufacturers see edgebanding application via a laser as the technology of the future.”

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