High-def digital staining on plywood simulates fine bookmatch anigre veneer
January 10, 2017 | 11:43 am CST
North-American-Plywood-Digital Stain-Finishing.jpg

North American Plywood has launched DesignPly, a new panel offering based on a first of its kind digital staining technology.

The highly-automated production incorporates a high-speed wide-array inkjet press engine paired with robotic materials handling for on-load and off-load of materials in process.

Don Kuser details DesignPly and digital staining technology at NAPLY July 18. Learn more and register>>

Printing direct to substrate, North American Plywood has adapted an Inca Onset high-definition inkjet press into its panel processing system, employing a carefully calibrated digital staining and finishing process.

Employing instantaneous UV curing, the DesignPly system can replicate a variety of wood grain and other patterns to achieve the effect of top-grain veneer species in bookmatch or other patterns, on particleboard, MDF, metal and melamine panel.  


The DesignPly system can convert plywood into the look of veneer, beaded board, or laminated lumber surfaces, accepting panel sizes up to 63” x 123” and thicknesses up to 2”.


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Developed and built in the U.K. and sold by Fuji, the Inca Onset multi-array inkjet press uses three sets of high-speed heads to print on surfaces at the rate of 10,000 square feet per hour – roughly 200 5x10-foot sheets per hour. Originally adopted for point-of-purchase prints and store displays, the Inca Onset is being adapted to plywood panel for the first time by North American Plywood.

Inca Onset inline at North American Plywood

Much of the development lies in high-resolution scanning of desired wood patterns, optimizing those patterns through color adjustment, then stitching the patterns together at a computer console to achieve realistic veneer patterns and aesthetically pleasing repeat patterns. The DesignPly offering can replace conventional décor paper patterns and achieve flawless “stitching” of digitally generated veneer sheets.

“We do a lot of CNC here, so we have a lot of tech knowledge,” says Donald Kuser, general manager at North American Plywood. The company's staff has learned to scan, color correct and optimize wood grain images that allow the simulation of a variety of wood species on engineered panel.

 “We have the ability to do figured wood in cherry, oak or ash; to create tie-dyed patterns. Or children’s furniture with cartoon images,” Kuser says. A recent development is logo printing for the furniture industry, for the hospitality markets. “Clients may want their branding on furniture,” he says. “We can blend it into an African ribbon mahogany pattern.” 

North American Plywood says it is also looking at digitally printed ready-to-assemble furniture.

Finishing panels sourced domestically or from Russia, Finland and Latvia, North American Plywood has a five-foot-wide UV roll coating line, the largest line in North America. It has been outfitted with auto load and unload for panel coating, with an 8-roll coater system that applies filler on plywood, as well as opaque coats and clear coats.

“When we built the line we left a space for digital printing," says Kuser. “We had 90 percent of the equation in preparing panels when we roll-coat white opaque fillers,” Kuser says. “With DesignPly we now have the final 10 percent of the equation for printing patterns directly on plywood.”

North American Plywood is still in start-up, testing the systems’ capabilities and steadily developing new applications, such as Dry Erase coatings for whiteboard production.

Because the digital staining is computer controlled the DesignPly panels achieve a perfect match in color and look every time. The system allows cost-effective production of one-off sheets, or up to thousands of sheets.

North American Plywood can incorporate into projects all the other capabilities it offers in panel processing, including in-house custom cutting, routing, finishing, and laminating. Sheets can by printed 5x10 or two-up 5x5.

North American Plywood Corporation was founded in 1948, offering panels with special coatings, finishes, cores and sizes as a specialty, even supplying panels up to 7'x20' with a thickness up to 4 inches. Custom panel sizing and CNC machining is all done in house with new state of the art equipment.  

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About the author
Bill Esler | ConfSenior Editor

Bill wrote for WoodworkingNetwork.com, 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 WoodworkingNetwork.com.

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.