Technology Drives Innovation in Wood Industry Materials
Hettich’s InnoTech Atira
Hettich’s InnoTech Atira

Design driven materials in wood products manufacturing, supplies — adhesives, hardware, veneer, laminates, edgeband —  took on leading roles during 2015. The sweet-spot where technology meets material has set in motion new vistas of design possibilities in cabinetry and furnishings. 

In fact, technology has enabled production of super high-gloss cabinetry, seamless, zero-joint edgebanding, and textured laminates with grain or other patterns embossed in register with the decor paper images.

Hardware has moved in concert with the interior planning trends that include open plan living, aging in place and urban chic. That calls for functional hardware like barn-door rollers, hide-a-beds, and powered flap doors that lift up and out of the way.

Drawers, meanwhile, are getting deeper, so beefier slides must support longer extensions and greater weights. Since the sides of drawers may be visible in the living/dining/family rooms, dressier drawer slide sides are catching on.

Hardware Flexes Its Muscle

Soft-close hardware, designer drawer sides, cabinet and drawer organization, and 3D printing were top trends from the more than 1,561 exhibitors at interzum 2015, held May 5-8 in Cologne, Germany. Narrow reveals, new organization systems and functional designs distinguished many of the offerings. Shown is Hettich’s InnoTech Atira drawer system with sharp contours, using a concept based on a single drawer side profile.

Flexibility and modularity continue to be popular and new products on the market are catering to the concept. An example at interzum was Hafele’s Smuso fluid damper/soft-closing system for 35-70 kg weight classes. Low opening resistance of the fluid dampers lets doors be moved easily.

Finishing Boards With Flames

Shou-sugi ban — also known as Yakisugi — is a traditional Japanese technique for treating siding. It has gained some cache with designers, making its way to interior wall treatments., Austin, TX, calls the technique “the wood version of weathering steel (the oxidization of steel to provide a protective barrier)” and offers lumber treated with an industrial version of shou-sugi-ban that passes lumber through a Weinig planer and under a flame. “Burning cedar or some other wood gives it a charcoal barrier that is rot and fire resistant ... and very distinctive looking,” the company says. It offers many finishes and degrees of burn in a variety of wood species.

What Comes After Gloss?

What trend will follow high gloss cabinetry? REHAU is queuing up a matte surfaced material made by Italy’s Arpa Industrial: FENIX. 

This self-healing soft matte nanotech material for cabinetry and furniture in vertical and horizontal applications is part of its REHAU surface solutions (that includes Rauvisio Crystal Glass and Brilliant High-Gloss). The advanced material was developed using acrylic resins and electron beam technology to achieve a soft-to-the-touch, light-absorbing, “super-matte” texture. It “heals” scratches through thermal scratch regeneration, resists fingerprints, heat, mold, acid, solvents and cleaners. Anti-bacterial properties make it a surface for healthcare, hospitality, offices, kitchens and bathrooms.

Lumber: How To Buy It

Joshua Farnsworth teaches fundamentals of selecting wood, and “how not to sound like an idiot at the lumberyard.

Panel Talk

A channel sponsored and written by Timber Products Co., it is filled with technical advice and design trends on veneer panel and plywood. Readers learn about book match, slip match and other veneer patterns, and wood species trends.

Bathtubs Made from Wood Veneer

Alenga takes carefully selected wood veneers, saturates them with resin, then compresses then together under high pressure. The Swiss firm makes the tubs in wenge, walnut, pear, oak, iroko, and mahogany.

Wunderwoods Wonderful Elm Slab

Scott Wunder had an orphan elm slab for which he struggled to find a home, until a request for a kitchen peninsula top came in. It finished to a gorgeous gloss.

Why I Never Stain Cherry

In this immensely popular video, woodworker Jon Peters explains the natural oxidation of cherry wood that brings color over time, without stain.

Oak Shortage Hits Barrel Makers

For Jack Daniels, white oak is a key ingredient in making whiskey. A shortage could mean operations are slowed at one of the most technologically advanced barrel makers in the world.

How Reconstituted Veneer is Made

The process for making reconstituted veneer, sliced from a thick stack of veneer sheets to create a plentiful and uniform product, is recounted in a video from Alpi  Lignum.

Reclaimed Lumber Sales Story Goes National

Leveraging the backstory on boards and timbers it hauls from 19th century farms,StoriedBoards charges $499 for a mantelpiece. But each pine, oak,hickory or other board and plank includes a 12-page booklet detailing the history of the family that once owned the structures from which it was reclaimed.

5 Trends from KBIS: It Was a Hardware Show

KBIS 2015 was a hotbed of finishes, color, and design trends. It also reflected changing lifestyles, and creative possibilities of functional hardware and LED technologies released in the past two years, when applied to cabinetry and home design.

Dual-side Textured Panel

Uniboard launched WoodPrint Duo Technology, a two-sided textured laminate panel that matches front and back. The announcement was made at the 2015 Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference and Expo.

Transparent Veneer Is a Web of Glowing Fibers

A transparent wood veneer, Alpilignum Radiant, has been developed by Italian firm Alpi, which says Radiant is a composite veneer that incorporates transparent plastic resin lines, allowing light to shine through and to disperse throughout.

Wood Layering Gives Optical Effect

3form, a design-driven architectural millwork materials solutions company, launched a new veneer layering technique at NeoCon 2015 that captures the warmth of wood, while adding visual and tactile dimension to its Varia Ecoresin plastic substrate. It’s wood veneer laid up to a  plastic backing, and can be backlit, or cut in laser patterns.

Valchromat Colored Engineered Wood Captures Light

An engineered wood that combines the natural features of wood with the brightness of colors, it is a product of Investwood, SA a Portuguese company. The board has color throughout; so knicks and scratches do not scrape away the color. The wood fiberboard production is done at two plants, IFM, SA and Valbopan, SA — the latter producing MDF Valbopan and Valchromat, from pine.    

Closet Clients Opt for Textured Panel

Closets customers are opting for textured melamine over wood, and over other non-textured synthetic materials. This sleek modern look is a must-have.

Tallest Timber Tower Yet: 18 Stories

One of the tallest wood buildings in the world will soon be constructed at UBC, providing housing for hundreds of students. When completed, the $51.5-million residence building will stand 53 meters tall -about 174 feet. It uses super strong cross laminated timber.

Fastener for Quick RTA Assembly

A tool-free fastening and assembly system, Lockdowel can be used for the construction of cabinets, casegoods, furniture, fixtures, closets and components such as drawer boxes. It creates an invisible joint that can withstand mechanical and vibratory stress without loosening. Machinery for automated use of it has debuted.

Zero-joint Laser and Hot Air Edgeband

Edge processing technologies that can help improve not only the production, but the aesthetic appeal of the wood parts produced include tooling developments for the edgebander, work unit technology and new gluing technology.

Bamboo Furniture Made Like Origami

Tables made from bamboo folded like origami paper, and chairs with unusual and complex designs: Bamboo is strong and doesn’t break easily. But it does also tend to warp, and that’s why it hasn’t been used for larger furniture, but this technique could change that.

Vanity Sales Hit by Formaldehyde

The global bathroom vanities market is expected to reach $8.40 billion by 2020, but health concerns due over urea formaldehyde in resin used to bind MDF panel fibers are expected to hamper growth.

Extending Hardware Applications

Hardware continues to be more versatile. At interzum companies showed shelf runners for pull-out shelves, with fixing on the bottom for display stands or furniture. Soft-closing also continues to be popular.


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About the author
Bill Esler | ConfSenior Editor

Bill wrote for, FDMC and Closets & Organized Storage magazines. 

Bill's background includes more than 10 years in print manufacturing management, followed by more than 30 years in business reporting on industrial manufacturing in the forest products industries, including printing and packaging at American Printer (Features Editor) and Graphic Arts Monthly (Editor in Chief) magazines; and in secondary wood manufacturing for

Bill was deeply involved with the launches of the Woodworking Network Leadership Forum, and the 40 Under 40 Awards programs. He currently reports on technology and business trends and develops conference programs.

In addition to his work as a journalist, Bill supports efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities in the manufacturing sectors, including 10 years on the Print & Graphics Scholarship Foundation; six years with the U.S. WoodLinks; and currently on the Woodwork Career Alliance Education Committee. He is also supports the Greater West Town Training Partnership Woodworking Program, which has trained more than 950 adults for industrial wood manufacturing careers. 

Bill volunteers for Foinse Research Station, a biological field station staddling the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, one of more than 200 members of the Organization of Biological Field Stations.